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Time Series: Uncovering the Hidden Processes in Science

Beth Simmons, Palmer LTER

In this activity, students review techniques used by scientists, as they analyze a 50-year temperature time series dataset. The exercise helps students understand that data typically has considerable variability from year to year and to predict trends or forecast the future, there is value in long-term data collection.

Activity takes about one 45-60 minute period

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

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

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
Other materials addressing:
G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:A) Questioning
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A) Questioning.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
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E) Organizing information.

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

  • Educator can use this activity in a variety of ways as a formative or summative assessment, or stand-alone activity during any time of the year as it addresses science processes.
  • Great activity to use in any discussion of why, at least in climate science, data collected over long periods of time is valuable.

About the Science

  • This lesson uses long-term sea surface temperatures to help students understand the benefits of using long-term data to make scientific observations and identify trends, as opposed to selecting a short-term occurrence. Strengths lie in its short to-the-point format.
  • The concept is simple - demonstrating why single snapshots of data are not suitable for finding trends or patterns that occur over long time periods, as in changes in climate. Richard Alley illustrates this concept nicely in one of the Earth: The Operator's Manual segments, choosing individual data points in his lifetime.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Straightforward simple activity that very quickly demonstrates to students the importance of looking beyond a snapshot of data.
  • This lesson is intended to be an introductory activity to a science methods/process unit as stated by the author.
  • The assessment is successful completion of the worksheets used to analyze the temperature graphs.
  • Group discussions both in small groups and with the entire class round out the exercise.
  • Resources for those interested in learning more are provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Available in pdf format.

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