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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, one needs to consider long-term data.

Activity takes about one 45-60 minute period

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

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
Other materials addressing:
A) Questioning.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
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.
  • 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.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    - Analyzing time-series in high school (!)
    - Recognizing the importance of long-term scientific data
    - converting to Fahrenheit from celsius (since almost everything is not in Fahrenheit)
    - Reading graphs
    - Working in small groups

    - Could additionally have students covert to Kelvin; in my opinion, that's more widely used than celsius
    - introduction to different types of time series data (e.g., different proxies such as ice cores, coral cores, speleothems, tree cores...etc.)
    - I noticed it says "If time permits, reveal the entire 57-year record"--but I think that should be a MUST!

About the Pedagogy

  • Straightforward activity that 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.
  • 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 can round out the exercise.
  • Resources for those interested in learning more are provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Available in pdf format.
Entered the Collection: May 2018 Last Reviewed: September 2016

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