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Temperature and precipitation as limiting factors in ecosystems

GLOBE Project

This classroom activity is aimed at an understanding of different ecosystems by understanding the influence of temperature and precipitation. Students correlate graphs of vegetation vigor with those of temperature and precipitation data for four diverse ecosystems, ranging from near-equatorial to polar, and spanning both hemispheres to determine which climatic factor is limiting growth.

Activity takes two 45-minute class periods.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Performance Expectations, 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 8 Cross Cutting Concepts, 7 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices

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

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
Other materials addressing:
G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:A) Organisms, populations, and communities
Other materials addressing:
A) Organisms, populations, and communities.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
Other materials addressing:
C) Systems and connections.

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

  • Activity could be enhanced if educator indicates that seasonal patterns may be changing somewhat and builds some connections towards an understanding of global climate change.
  • The recognition that temperature can be an indicator of either energy that plants can use to capture carbon or energy plants cannot use, could be included when teaching the activity.

About the Science

  • Demonstrates the strong - but variable - relationship between temperature, precipitation and plant growth.
  • This is an evergreen activity in which the foundational concept is supported by the data included in the resource.
  • Excellent opportunity for students to analyze data and use techniques scientists use to understand climate.

About the Pedagogy

  • Very clear directions and great visuals.
  • Several strategies work to increase student engagement; excellent visualizations, graph analysis, grouping and discussion teaching strategies will enhance learning for a broad range of learners.
  • Students need to actively work toward finding the answer, so this activity promotes depth of understanding.
  • The educator will need to provide context in order for students to understand the relevance.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy to use, all necessary materials are provided.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 2

MS-LS2-1: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

MS-LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

MS-LS2.A1:Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors.

MS-LS2.A3:Growth of organisms and population increases are limited by access to resources.

MS-ESS2.A1:All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 8

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C1.2: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C3.3: Proportional relationships (e.g., speed as the ratio of distance traveled to time taken) among different types of quantities provide information about the magnitude of properties and processes.

Science and Engineering Practices: 7

Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

MS-P2.5:Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

MS-P4.2:Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.

MS-P4.3: Distinguish between causal and correlational relationships in data.

MS-P4.7:Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.

MS-P6.1:Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

MS-P7.3:Construct, use, and/or present an oral and written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon or a solution to a problem.

MS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.

High School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Patterns, Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C4.2:When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

HS-C7.1:Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.

Science and Engineering Practices: 5

Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P6.1:Make a quantitative and/or qualitative claim regarding the relationship between dependent and independent variables.

HS-P7.4:Construct, use, and/or present an oral and written argument or counter-arguments based on data and evidence.

HS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

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