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Investigating Weather and Climate with Google Earth

Environmental Literacy and Inquiry Working Group at Lehigh University

In this activity, students use Google Earth to explore global temperature changes during a recent 50 - 58 year period. They also explore, analyze, and interpret climate patterns of 13 different cities, and analyze differences between weather and climate patterns.

Activity takes one to two lesson periods (possibly homework assignment).

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Definition of climate and climatic regions
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4a
Climate change vs. climate variability and patterns
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4c
Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting 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.

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

  • Encourage students to recognize that, on a whole, the trends observed for the cities need to be averaged, not taken individually, with all the other stations worldwide.
  • Jigsaw the cities.

About the Science

  • This is one in a technology-supported series of inquiry activities focusing on a range of environmental science topics using Google Earth.
  • No reference is given to the source of the climate data in the kmz file.
  • Some background information for teacher provided.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Students gain experience in graph reading, geography, examining temperature trends over time, and evaluating evidence that supports surface warming trends.

About the Pedagogy

  • All student supporting materials are available online. For educators to access the suggested assessments, they need to log into http://www.ei.lehigh.edu with a password.
  • Using Google Earth will likely engage students of different learning styles.
  • Instructions for students are well-written and clear.
  • This activity is part of a curriculum - background information is listed on the homepage of the entire curriculum http://www.ei.lehigh.edu/eli/cc/index.html
  • This is a technology-supported middle school science inquiry curriculum emphasizing weather and climate using Google Earth web- based tools. Curriculum has been pilot tested in urban middle school classrooms.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Educators might need to review how to integrate Google Earth technology into their classroom instruction.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-ESS3-5:Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Stability and Change, Patterns

MS-C7.3:Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.

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

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

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

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-P5.2:Use mathematical representations to describe and/or support scientific conclusions and design solutions

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

MS-P8.2:Integrate qualitative and/or quantitative scientific and/or technical information in written text with that contained in media and visual displays to clarify claims and findings.

MS-P1.6:Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, outdoor environment, and museums and other public facilities with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on observations and scientific principles.

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-ESS3-5: Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-ESS2.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Patterns, Stability and Change

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

HS-C7.2:Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.6:Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory.

HS-P3.5:Make directional hypotheses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.

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-P4.3:Consider limitations of data analysis (e.g., measurement error, sample selection) when analyzing and interpreting data

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

HS-P8.2:Compare, integrate and evaluate sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a scientific question or solve a problem.

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