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Investigating El Nino using real data

Atziri Ibanez, Kate Thompson, Kenneth Casey, NOAA Ocean Data Education (NODE) Project

This is a sequence of 5 classroom activities focusing on the El Niño climate variability. The activities increase in complexity and student-directedness. The focus of the activities is on accessing and manipulating real data to help students understand El Niño as an interaction of Earth systems.

The entire sequence of activities takes nine 45-minute class periods but can be shortened when only doing part of the sequence. Computer access is necessary.

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Climate Literacy
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Climate change vs. climate variability and patterns
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.

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

  • NOAA remote sensing data from the 1990s is used in the activities. The "get data" link in the activity provides data up to 2006.
  • The educator's guide provides good background information and excellent references.
  • Comment from scientist: Also aside from the statistical concepts of normal and extreme very little new scientific content is presented, such as "Why does El Niño occur?," "Where can I find out more?" Additional information can be found on the PMEL ENSO pages http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/tao/elnino/nino-home.html.

About the Pedagogy

  • A carefully constructed series of 5 activities that can be entered at different levels depending on background knowledge and experience of the students.
  • Students or educators who are not tech-savvy or comfortable manipulating data may have a hard time with these activities.
  • Students may find the resource more engaging if more recent data is used.
  • The vocabulary is relatively advanced, and a glossary is included.
  • The educator guide is thoughtfully designed and easy to follow.
  • Younger students will need support to complete activities.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Where possible, non-internet options are provided to decrease the need for intensive technology facilities. However, in order to really get the skills, some computer time will be necessary.

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