Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Activity takes one 45-minute class period. Computer access is necessary.Discuss this Resource»
Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing 3c
Other materials addressing 7e
Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines
Other materials addressing:
A) Organisms, populations, and communities.
Other materials addressing:
C) Systems and connections.
Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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Notes From Our Reviewers
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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy |
- Educators should point out the relationship between the discussed variables and caribou population: When insect activity increases (i.e. mosquitoes), a loss of blood results in a decrease in caribou population. When snow levels increase, energy consumption increases and inability to escape predators results in a decrease in caribou population.
- Educators should explain the relationship between increasing snowfall and arctic warming, which is counter-intuitive and not explained.
- Students need to understand percent increase and decrease in order to complete this activity; an example calculation is provided.
- Educators could add other resources that explain the effect of insects and snowfall on caribou population and discuss with students. See, for example: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF13/1344.html.
About the Science
- Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.
- Students explore the causal relationships between insect activity, which is affected by summer temperatures, and winter snow depth on caribou population.
- Data output is easily accessible to most middle school students.
- Comments from expert scientist: This is a great and exciting activity, although highly simplified it will serve the students and teachers with much needed models. It also introduces students to three major areas of concern- Population biology, phenology and climate change. Data sources or studies referenced in this activity have not been provided.
About the Pedagogy
- Suggested assessment is to have students create a board game about seasonal migration with the conditions the caribou might encounter and the positive or negative effects.
- Student activity sheet provided is well-constructed and easy to use.
- Educator references show a sample data output as well as the results of all nine variable combinations.
MS-LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
MS-LS2.A1: Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors.
Science and Engineering Practices
MS-P2.5: Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.
MS-P3.5: Collect data about the performance of a proposed object, tool, process or system under a range of conditions.
MS-P4.1: Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.
MS-P5.1: Use digital tools (e.g., computers) to analyze very large data sets for patterns and trends.
MS-P6.1: Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.
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.
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-C7.3: Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.
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.
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