Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Activity takes one 45-minute class period. Computer access is necessary.Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»
See how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices
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.
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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
- 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.
Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:
Performance Expectations: 1
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: 1
MS-LS2.A1:Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors.
Cross Cutting Concepts: 4
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-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.
Science and Engineering Practices: 6
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.