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Soil Microbes and Global Warming
http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ean08.sci.ess.earthsys.microbe/

KUAC, WGBH Educational Foundation, Teachers' Domain

In this video, adapted from KUAC-TV and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, viewers learn how one-celled organisms in permafrost may be contributing to greenhouse gas levels and global warming.

Video length: 3:55 minutes.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Life—including microbes, plants, and animals and humans—is a major driver of the global carbon cycle and can influence global climate by modifying the chemical makeup of the atmosphere. The geologic record shows that life has significantly altered the atmosphere during Earth’s history.
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3e

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

  • Before viewing, give students questions to answer as they view.
  • Very dense text in background essay. A diagram of a feedback loop would be a good scaffold.
  • Since microbes get such little recognition as a contributor to climate change, this video could be a good way to show students a different perspective on how Earth's atmosphere is being altered.

About the Science

  • Soil has many different kinds of microbes that break down matter for energy and recycle nutrients back into the environment. Scientists are discovering that soil microbes, active in the topmost layer of permafrost, produce carbon dioxide and methane gas in the process of decomposition. As surface temperatures gradually warm, more of the permafrost thaws, increasing microbial action and the release of more carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere.
  • Comment from expert scientist: Overall, the information contained in this activity is accurate and up-to-date. I liked that the activity also went into some of the nuances of the effects of soil warming on microbial activity. I also liked that there was information about positive feedback loops in this activity because positive feedbacks are so important to understanding how climate change can occur.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Background information and review questions are provided to supplement this video.
  • Feedback loops require a lot of scaffolding. Teachers should consider showing simple diagrams of feedback loops.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Good quality on small scale.
  • On full screen, pixelation is a problem.

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