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Arctic Climate Curriculum, Activity 3: Exploring Arctic Climate Data

Karin Kirk, Anne Gold, CIRES Education Outreach; University of Colorado Boulder

In this activity, students use authentic Arctic climate data to unravel some causes and effects related to the seasonal melting of the snowpack and to further understand albedo.

Activities takes about two 50-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, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 7 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 7 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices

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

  • Activity will work well for learning about seasons, especially those of the Arctic, which differ greatly from seasons students in temperate or tropical regions would be familiar with.
  • Activity introduces positive feedback loops and does a good job of explaining that 'positive' in this usage doesn't equate with 'good', but teachers may want to reinforce this concept.

About the Science

  • Activity addresses albedo and the connection with solar radiation, snow and melting, and positive feedbacks.
  • Students work with actual scientific data and are guided through the interpretation of the data.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    Great activity!
    - asking students to sketch their idea of albedo is a great way for them to really conceptualize
    - working with Excel data and plots
    - explains very clearly the definition of albedo and how it is measured
    - there are lots of supporting materials to guide teachers

    - w/m^2 should be W/m^2 (Capital 'w')
    - In my experience teaching albedo I had to often remind students that "shortwave" is the same as "solar" radiation

About the Pedagogy

  • Students use the variety of data and graphs in the lesson to extrapolate connections among temperature, snowpack, and albedo in an Arctic year.
  • Makes good use of Excel and provides clear explanations for students to build graphs from the given data.
  • Good for teaching graphing, using provided Excel data, reading finished graphs, and for extrapolating connections among different sets of related data.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • With frequent changes to Excel, be sure to try the directions before assigning to students.
  • Students will need computer access to Excel to create graphs and see the data provided for use in the lesson.
  • There are some discrepancies in some of the data, which is explained in the teacher guide.
  • Teachers who use Google Sheets instead of Excel will need to adapt the activity.

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

The following address links to the whole curriculum: http://cires.colorado.edu/education-outreach/resources/curriculum/arctic-climate-connections/

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-PS4-2: Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-PS4.B1:When light shines on an object, it is reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through the object, depending on the object’s material and the frequency (color) of the light.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 7

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

MS-C1.2: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems

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-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

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.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

MS-P4.2:Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.

MS-P4.3: Distinguish between causal and correlational relationships in data.

MS-P4.4:Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

MS-P5.1: Use digital tools (e.g., computers) to analyze very large data sets for patterns and trends.

MS-P6.1:Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

MS-P6.3:Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-ESS2-2: Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-PS3.D1:Although energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms—for example, to thermal energy in the surrounding environment.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 7

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

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

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-C3.5:Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth).

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

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

Science and Engineering Practices: 5

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

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

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P5.2:Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.

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

HS-P6.2:Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

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