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Pollen and Climate Change

John Pickle, Becca Kranz, Katharina Frazier, TERC

In this activity, students study the relationship between changing climate conditions and the distribution of plants across North America, using a unique tool called the Pollen Viewer. This tool allows the user to animate the retreat of the North American glacier and the migration of plant species during the waning period of the most recent Ice Age.

Activity takes 2-3 hours.

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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
Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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

  • Instructional strategies provided in Teaching Notes page.

About the Science

  • Students learn about plant response to changing climate conditions across North America.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The exercise takes students through the process of working with the actual numerical data, which is a very important hands-on skill for students to develop. This exercise also pools together information from several different credible sources, making one very complete (and therefore more useful) learning exercise.

About the Pedagogy

  • Four-part activity in which students select a region to study and collect data about plant abundance across a period of time. After importing that data into a spreadsheet program, students produce graphs that highlight how plant communities have responded to regional climate change across that period.
  • Carefully scripted activity provides step-by-step instructions with show/hide boxes to help guide students in accessing, downloading, formatting, and analyzing data using Pollen Viewer tool and Excel.
  • Has a "Going Further" section that provides ideas on how to use the techniques from this lessons to study other datasets.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Check when viewing images to be sure to select .gif as the file type, as they are not formatted in .jpg.
  • Familiarity with Excel is needed.
  • Requires internet connection and ability to download software and images.

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