FEATURED LESSON PLAN
Congressional Hearing on Global Warming and Climate Change
- Understand the issues surrounding global warming and the difficulty of finding a political solution
- Examine different views from a wide range of interest groups on how best to address the issue of global warming
- Research, develop, and evaluate a U.S. policy statement from a private-interest perspective
- Internet access
- Copy of the FRONTLINE documentary Hot Politics
- Hot Politics Lesson Guide and student handouts
- Introductory questions -- 10 minutes
- Timeline on global warming and climate change -- 20 minutes
- Venn diagram of views on global warming -- 20 minutes
- Congressional Hearing on global warming and climate change -- two class periods
Step 1: Opening the Lesson - Introductory Questions
Write the following questions on the board or overhead projector. Pair students up to discuss each of the following questions and record the main points, and then have several student groups report to the class.
- What is global warming?
- When was the first time you heard of global warming and climate change?
- Do you believe the condition of global warming is caused by human activity or natural forces, or both? Explain your answer.
- Regardless of who is responsible, do you think people and governments should do something about global warming? State your reasons why or why not.
If needed, teachers might want to refer students to the EPA animated primer on global warming at http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming/kids/global_warming_version2.html or a handout for kids on greenhouse gases found at http://epa.gov/climatechange/kids/greenhouse.html.
Step 2: Global Warming Timeline and Graphic Organizer
While students are still in pairs, distribute the Student Handout "Timeline on Global Warming" and have them complete the graphic organizer. When they are finished, review their responses in a class discussion.
Step 3: Hot Politics Perspectives on Global Warming.
Before beginning this activity, review with students the last question in Step 1 and have them restate their answers and reasons. Then distribute copies of or have students access the CNN article entitled "A Truly Global Problem" at http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/04/08/earth.policy/index.html. Next, distribute the Venn diagram and statement sheet. Students may work in their original pairs or new groups. Review the directions, asking students to identify the number of the statement that goes in the appropriate section of the Venn diagram. The diagram asks the question, "Should the United States government be more aggressive in addressing the issue of global warming?" The Venn diagram features three positions:
- Statements that support of more aggressive government action
- Statements that do not support more aggressive government action
- Statements where both sides agree
After students have completed the Venn diagram, ask them if anything in the activity had caused them to change the position they stated in the last question of Step 1 and the reasons why or why not.
Step 4: Congressional Hearing on Global Warming and Climate Change
- Divide students into seven small groups, outlined below. Six of the groups will represent a constituency concerned about global warming and climate change, and the seventh will represent a Congressional committee on the environment and public works.
- Environmentalist who feels the physical evidence of climate change warrants immediate action http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/warming/debate/schneider.html
- Climatologist who feels the data is quite clear and immediate action is needed http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/warming/debate/wigley.html
- Atmospheric scientist opposing immediate action http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/warming/debate/singer.html
- Economist and global industry advocate http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/warming/debate/palmer.html
- Advocate for taking more action at the state and local level http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/press-release/4111
- Private business and environmental organizations coalition http://www.us-cap.org/media/release.pdf
- Congressional Committee on the Environment
- Provide copies of the research information from the links above respective to the constituency group and the congressional committee. Then, distribute the "Constituent Presentation Guidelines" to each of the six constituent groups and the "Congressional Committee on the Environment Hearing Guidelines" to the congressional committee members. As students work through their research, have them complete the questions on the handouts.
- The congressional committee has instructions for conducting the hearing on their handout. The committee hearing will consist of each constituent group making an opening statement and providing three reasons with supporting evidence for its position. In the interest of time, each constituent group will have a maximum of five minutes to present their position and evidence. Then the Congressional Committee will ask its questions to the members of each constituency.
- Conclude this activity by asking students to write a newspaper editorial or letter to the editor evaluating the policy statement of their constituent group. (The Congressional Committee can choose any constituent group.) They can choose to agree or disagree with the group's statement. The editorial should take a position on the issue, provide reasons and specific supporting evidence, identify the points of the opposing position, and state reasons to reject this position. A short closing should restate their position and summarizes the reasons for supporting it.
- Assess student involvement in the discussion questions and opening activity.
- Evaluate the students' coverage of the timeline graphic organizer and the Venn diagram.
- Evaluate students' participation in their constituent group's (or Congressional Committee's) preparation and presentation of their policy statement.
- Evaluate the editorial on students' accuracy in following the guidelines above, the extent of their evidence and quality of their arguments, as well as the organization and persuasiveness of their writing.