Bundle 6: Climate

Welcome to Bundle 6- Climate


This is the final and culminating unit to the 8th grade year. Our team of educators, science education researchers, and scientists has assembled a climate change unit for 8th grade students.  It’s unique aspects include:

  • focus on student-centered and active learning

  • alignment to Iowa Science Standards

  • focus on climate change impacts most relevant to Iowa

  • use of local Iowa and Midwestern data for student investigation

You won’t find this combination anywhere else!  So we hope you find these resources useful as you facilitate authentic student investigation about the climate system in Iowa and beyond.  As with all of our bundles, we want to hear your stories from the classroom, and incorporate your suggestions into future versions.

This bundle progresses through four stages or sections. The first is our Tier 1 activity — designed to build student engagement by student interviews with family members on the subjects of climate and weather. These interviews are to help students get beyond the abstract phenomena of climate and weather — and establish personal and localized connections on these topics. We believe this will increase student engagement and interest in the subsequent material.

While students are working on their interview assignment out of class, we recommend in-class introductory investigations of climate and weather using some of our provided lesson outlines.  One key take-away for Tier 1 of the climate bundle is to establish the difference between climate and weather. At the end of Tier 1, students will have reviewed work from previous grade levels on weather; they will have some interesting questions about climate and weather; they will likely run into a wide range of opinions on climate change and appropriate solutions; and they will have encountered some personal stories and weather anecdotes that may (or may not) intersect with available observational data.

Big ideas:

  1. Climate in Iowa, and all over the world, has changed in the last 100 years.

  2. Precipitation has changed over the past 100 years, locally, globally and nationally.

Standards addressed:

MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
MS-ESS2-5 Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.
MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.
MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

Tiers in depth:

Tier 1:

Students will conduct interviews with family members (or other respected adults) to collect information about whether or not our local climate (and perhaps the climate of other areas) has changed over the years.

Tier 2:

This tier has a part A (changes in precipitation locally and beyond) which we recommend as a whole class activity. We focus on precipitation changes over the last 100 years because this is an important climate impact category that effects nearly all aspects of life and all economic sectors in Iowa. Students investigate how precipitation has changed over the past 100 years, locally, globally and nationally.  The class will find that nationally and globally, some places are getting wetter and some drier. But in Iowa, the trend is toward more frequent heavy rains, especially in summertime.

Tier 2 continues with a Part B which allows more differentiation by interest area, learning goals, and ability levels.

Throughout Tier 2, we encourage students and teachers to use authentic (and where appropriate, local) data in a claim and evidence approach.  We also feature articles where scientists explain climate and weather phenomena.  And we provide a system to teach students how to vet information (such as articles and websites) for reliability. For any climate-related question, there is an important issue of scale — climate, and the types of relevant climate questions and available data, change with scale: from the local county all the way up to continental and global scales.  And when using data to make claims about climate (such as stating whether the data support a claim that heat waves are more severe) — there are different levels of data analysis that you can do.  At one extreme, you can find claims from other people — often a graph they have made and some conclusions.  You just have to make sure you understand it and evaluate the credibility and quality of the source. At the other of the spectrum, one can go through the full process of obtaining observational data (i.e., temperatures) and evaluating claims and hypotheses with them. Along the way, many interesting questions come up that practicing scientists routinely wrestle with: how to handle missing or suspect data; how to define a meaningful average; how to quantify uncertainty and error; and how to handle changes in measurement technologies over time.  Choosing how to direct students in terms of selecting climate impact categories (temperature, flooding, drought, heat wave, etc.), spatial scale, and comprehensiveness in data analysis is up to each teacher.  We have tried to provide support for a wide range of combinations.

That said, we recommend starting (Tier 2, part A) with the whole class focused on the same climate question (precipitation), the same spatial scale (Iowa), and the same level of data analysis. This gets things started while being manageable, and allows the class to see best practices in terms of claims, evidence, vetting of sources, etc… and allows them to negotiate variables.

Tier 3:

Solutions!  What can kids do?  How can we limit undesirable changes in climate, and how can we engineer solutions or adaptations that make the consequences of changing climate manageable? Here we look at things like carbon footprints but teacher and student selection topics is encouraged.


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Iowa 8th grade Science Bundles Copyright © by Ted Neal, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.