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Climate Change and Arctic Ecosystems

Project Activities for Conceptualizing Climate and Climate Change, Purdue University

In this activity, students learn about how climate change is affecting the Arctic ecosystem and then investigate how this change is impacting polar bear populations. Students analyze maps of Arctic sea ice, temperature graphs, and polar bear population data to answer questions about the impact of climate change on the Arctic ecosystem.

Activity will take about two 45-minute class periods.

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, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 9 Cross Cutting Concepts

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
Climate impacts ecosystems and past species extinctions
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3c

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:A) Organisms, populations, and communities
Other materials addressing:
A) Organisms, populations, and communities.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
Other materials addressing:
C) Systems and connections.

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

  • Questions at the beginning seem odd in their placement, but could be used as a pre-test.
  • Educator should enlarge and laminate the map of the Arctic for use in the activity to improve readability.
  • Educators should project the given images and go through the process of calculating percentage of sea ice cover with students.

About the Science

  • Good background readings for students are provided.
  • Activity is very current and has scientifically-rich resources.
  • In preparation for this lesson, educators should make sure they understand the difference between temperature anomalies or change in temperature from some mean temperature - usually a 30-year average.
  • Comment from scientist: Some of the numbers on the web page are somewhat outdated. Educator should check for most up-to-date numbers on: http://pbsg.npolar.no/en/.
  • Comment from scientist: Page 3 states that the central part of the Arctic is frozen all year - this is no longer true.
  • Comment from scientist: All materials on this site imply that climate change is the only factor potentially responsible for the decline of the species. The major threats are: climate change, over-harvest, pollution, oil development, and tourism (not listed in order of priority).

About the Pedagogy

  • This is a best practice lesson in its layout format, which takes the learner from engaging their thinking and making predictions, to exploring and explaining concepts, to extending their thinking, and finally to applying knowledge and reflecting.
  • Group work and discussions are good strategies for students of different learning styles.
  • Scaffolding of concepts is appropriate for the lesson and promotes the learning.
  • The lesson ends with a good performance assessment (concept mapping) to evaluate student understanding.
  • Links to a PowerPoint and concept map are included in the Teaching Tips section.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The activity is nicely organized and has an attractive format that will engage students.
  • The educator must open separate windows for accompanying educator guide, concept map, and PowerPoint slides at http://iclimate.org/ccc (Left menu under Teaching/Learning Modules - Ecological Impacts.)

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

  • This lesson is part of a unit of curriculum from Purdue University. Concept Map, PowerPoint Presentation, and other teaching resources at: http://www.iclimate.org/ccc/.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-LS2.C1:Ecosystems are dynamic in nature; their characteristics can vary over time. Disruptions to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its populations.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Energy and Matter, Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect

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

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C5.2: Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter.

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C7.4:Systems in dynamic equilibrium are stable due to a balance of feedback mechanisms.

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-LS2-2: Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

HS-LS2.C2:Moreover, anthropogenic changes (induced by human activity) in the environment—including habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change—can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 9

Patterns, Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

HS-C1.4:Mathematical representations are needed to identify some patterns

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C2.4:Changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.

HS-C4.2:When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

HS-C5.4: Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems.

HS-C7.1:Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.

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.

HS-C7.3:Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.

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