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Hitting Home: Climate Change in Colorado

Laura Bicknell, Kellie Courtney, Jessica Campbell, John Gerber, University of Colorado at Boulder

In this lesson, students examine and interpret varied observational datasets and are asked to determine whether the data supports or does not support the statement: climate change is occurring in Colorado.

Activity takes about three 50-minute class periods.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

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
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Evidence shows that human-caused global warming have impacted ecosystem resulting in reduced biodiversity and ecological resilience
About Teaching Principle 6
Other materials addressing 6d

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
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G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:D) Evaluating accuracy and reliability
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D) Evaluating accuracy and reliability.
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.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:A) Identifying and investigating issues
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A) Identifying and investigating issues.

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

  • Consider not showing a video to begin the lesson. Do the activity first and use the videos as an extension or summary of the concept.

About the Science

  • To investigate whether climate change is happening in Colorado, students examine and analyze various datasets concerning changes in peak river flow, glaciers, temperature, fire frequency, snowpack, changes in birds and plants.
  • Uses real data: observations of various natural systems.
  • Snowpack and fire data are several years old.
  • Comments from expert scientist: It addresses the various elements that students can experience and shows the changes in these parameters. Typically trend lines are put on graphs. Relating the potential climate change to location of species is very interesting and should resonate with students as to impacts of climate change.

About the Pedagogy

  • Students engage in a guided version of the scientific process, beginning with observations of real data and continuing through analysis and hypothesis testing, ending with validation or invalidation of hypothesis. Students then do a performance assessment at the end of the activity (write an article to the newspaper).
  • Various handouts used for the analysis of the research question provide good scaffolding.
  • Videos (online) are suggested as additional materials.
  • Aligns with Science and Engineering Practices in the NGSS.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

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