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Climate Change and Ecosystems

World Wildlife Fund

In this activity students research the inter-dependencies among plants and animals in an ecosystem and explore how climate change might affect those inter-dependencies and the ecosystem as a whole.

Activity takes at least five 45-minute class periods.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e

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

  • Portions of this lesson can be used independently.
  • Consider using a local ecosystem for research if relevant data and information are available.
  • Consider taking a field trip to the study site before you begin the exercise/research project.

About the Science

  • An independent research project that focuses on changes in the ecosystem produced by climate change/global warming.
  • Important to clarify for students the difference between climate change and climate variability.
  • Many good references and supporting materials; suggestions for teachers as they guide students to conduct research.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Biodiversity in ecosystems is a very "hands-on" topic that is readily accessible to most students/schools.
  • This activity does an excellent job of encouraging students to appreciate this topic in their local environment – this is excellent.
  • This develops excellent critical thinking skills, encourage hypothesis development for the scientific method, and also provides an engaging, practical atmosphere through field-trips.

About the Pedagogy

  • Worksheets provide good scaffolding for student research.
  • Teachers (or students) may have to find research websites for students although many are suggested.
  • Student preconceptions are brainstormed in the first part of the lesson.
  • Supplies knowledge prerequisites for both students and teachers.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Well-organized worksheets for students.

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

updated link for EPA's Climate Change website on forest impacts: https://www.epa.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-forests
updated link for the regional reports of the U.S. National Assessment at http://www.globalchange.gov/nca3-downloads-materials

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-LS2-6: Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.

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: 5

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

HS-C1.1:Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

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-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

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

Science and Engineering Practices: 4

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

HS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

HS-P3.5:Make directional hypotheses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.

HS-P6.1:Make a quantitative and/or qualitative claim regarding the relationship between dependent and independent variables.

HS-P6.4:Apply scientific reasoning, theory, and/or models to link evidence to the claims to assess the extent to which the reasoning and data support the explanation or conclusion.

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