Climate Education in an Age of Media > Bring Student Media Production Into Your Courses > Animation for grades 6-12

Animation for grades 6-12

Angelica Allende Brisk, Cambridge Media Arts Studio (original author); Ana Caldeira, Somerville, MA High School, Tobe Stromberg, Cambridge (MA) Rindge and Latin High School, Candace Dunlap, TERC (editors)
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Students will create an animation to represent one of the many feedback loops that influences climate change. To create their animation, students will use clay, cut paper, whiteboard or other materials commonly found in the classroom. They will make a storyboard, plan a narration, rehearse their animation and then film their animation with stop-motion photography.

Learning Goals

Content/concept goals for this activity

Students will learn about a feedback process that affects climate change. Students will use systems thinking tools such as causal loop diagrams to illustrate how their system can change when key variable(s) of the system change.

High order thinking skills for this activity

Students will use the following thinking skills to develop an animation:

Other skills goals for this activity

When creating an animation, students will learn and apply the following media skills:

Context for Use


The Feedbacks in Climate Change Animation lesson is suitable for students in middle school and high school. Examples of content areas in courses, units or lessons that are natural fits for this animation lesson include:

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

This Animation activity may be more meaningful for students if they have previously had some background in climate science and media production skills. Feedbacks and systems thinking may be completely new concepts for students - regardless of their age. Teachers will need to spend time having students learn about feedbacks and systems before launching this activity.

How the activity is situated in the unit or course

This animation project is well suited for a culminating project to a unit of study. Alternatively, a unit on climate change and/or systems thinking may be structured around creating this animation. In this approach, the student's ability to research and evaluate climate feedbacks and apply systems thinking strategies to interpret climate feedback science becomes the primary focus for assessment.

Description and Teaching Materials

The climate change feedback animation lesson follows a sequence of activities. Some of the activities can be done for homework. Pre-teaching climate change science content, systems thinking and climate feedbacks will differ from class to class based on age and needs.


CAM Animation Project Handout for Grades 6-12 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 683kB Dec4 13)

Scenario: Causal Feedback Loop in a Warming Arctic (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 880kB Jan27 14)

Scenario: Causal Feedback Loop in Pine Bark Beetle Infestations of U.S. Western Forests (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 899kB Jan28 14)

Scenario: Causal Feedback Loop(s) in the 2011 Texas Drought (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 946kB Jan28 14)

Scenario: Causal Feedback Loop in a Thawing Permafrost (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 745kB Jan28 14)

CAM Storyboard Template (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 558kB Dec3 13)

CAM Peer Review Form for Video Projects (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 111kB Dec3 13)

CAM Animation Stop Motion Demo

Teaching Notes and Tips

Teaching Tips and Notes:


There are several points in the development and completion of this animation project that offer opportunities for assessment. For example:
  1. The animation storyboard and the narrative can be assessed for clarity, creativity, scientific accuracy and planning
  2. Final animations offer numerous opportunities to assess the following:
    • editing skills
    • scientific accuracy
    • quality of visual and audio aspects of the video as well as editing of the final cut
    • creation and use of audio and visual assets to communicate a key science concept
    • public speaking skills (as students explain what they are trying to convey, especially during face-to-face screenings).
  3. Effective use of specific critique skills
  4. Peer review of team members can be helpful for students to review each others' roles and contribution to the team effort.
  5. Group screenings with constructive feedback provided by the audience (classmates, other students, families) offer students an opportunity to refine their climate science knowledge and public speaking skills. A simple form (we have used Google Docs forms) can be used to solicit student feedback on their peers (an example is provided).

References and Resources

CAM Climate Science Resources- good websites for climate science information and images

CAM Media Production Resources - print and online tools for creating media projects

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