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Eyewitnesses to Change

Smithsonian - Natural Museum of Natural History

In this activity students explore recent changes in the Arctic's climate that have been observed and documented by indigenous Arctic residents. Students watch a video, take notes, and create a concept map. Students also examine and graph historical weather data and indigenous data for an Arctic community. Students explain why natives are critical observers.

Activity takes a minimum of one 45-minute class period but offers materials for up to four 45-minute class periods. Equipment to show videos must be available.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate's role in habitats ranges and adaptation of species to climate changes
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3a
Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.3 Humans and Their Societies:B) Culture
Other materials addressing:
B) Culture.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

About the Science

  • This lesson introduces students to the increasing importance of indigenous ecological knowledge in understanding climate change. It begins with note-taking from expert observers in the video to the development of a concept map of the observations and impacts and links indigenous knowledge and science.
  • The data provided is from 1956 to 2005. There are, however, references that would allow students to add additional and more recent data points.
  • While some may question the value of qualitative traditional ecological knowledge, the lesson does a good job of arguing that the observers are highly motivated to be accurate. The qualitative observations are verified by historic weather records.
  • Extensive list of references for the educator are provided.

About the Pedagogy

  • Carefully constructed activity suggests a variety of approaches for conducting the investigation with students of various abilities, grade levels, and interests.
  • Includes clear guidance for educators on how to carry out the teaching methods.
  • Builds student skills: note taking, note organizing, summarizing and concept map making.
  • Includes assessment options.
  • Extension options are suggested.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Really well organized and laid out for easy use by teachers and students.
  • May require the download and install of Realplayer to view the video.

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