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Communicating Climate 1: The Science of Climate Change

Jennifer Hanselman (Westfield State University), Rick Oches (Bentley University), Jennifer Silko (Pennsylvania State University), Laura Wright (Western Carolina University), InTeGrate, SERC

In this activity, students use climate data to develop a simple graph of how climate has changed over time and then present the result in a blog, emphasizing effective science communication.

Activity takes one 50-minute class period.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 3 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate science improves informed policy and decision-making
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPa

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

  • This assignment could be used in a science class to strengthen communication skills, or it could be used in a humanities or writing course to strengthen science skills. The activity is deliberately designed to be used either way.
  • If done as homework, the students should bring a printed copy of their graph to annotate in class. If done as an in-class exercise, students will need to have computers (ideally one per student) with Microsoft Excel or Mac Numbers installed and either Internet access or the climate data already downloaded.
  • The graphing part of the activity in Excel is very simple and user friendly, and, as such, this activity works well for novice Excel users.
  • The activity overview page also includes helpful suggestions and tips.

About the Science

  • This unit is designed to teach students how to create, interpret, and communicate graphs of climate change data to a general audience via a blog post. Engaging in the data in this way helps students become more familiar with the principles of scientific communication.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Scientific strength is that students will experience how to graph and interpret climatological data. Students who do not have a strong background in climatology may have no idea what they are looking at once they graph the numbers. More explanation of increases, decreases, and spikes may need to be provided by the instructor.

About the Pedagogy

  • This activity is carefully designed and uses a variety of teaching and learning styles.
  • Students work with data and must understand it to the point where they can explain it in simple terms. Students also use Excel; sample tutorials and support are provided. Lastly, students engage in informal writing and peer review of each others writing.
  • Science communication is one of the science and engineering practices important in the Next Generation Science Standards, which this activity emphasizes.
  • Students can work individually or in small groups. The design is flexible.
  • The combination of the graphing and blog component of this activity will especially help engage a broader group of students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The resource contains the assignment, data files, notes for teachers, example blog post, answer keys, grading rubrics, and several links to tutorials for Excel and Mac Numbers.
  • Some of the files are restricted access for instructors only. Instructors can fill out a form to gain access. Those that have a SERC account and are members of NAGT will have automatic access.

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

This activity is part of a larger course, Cli-Fi: Climate Science in Literary Texts.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1


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

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

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-P4.4:Compare and contrast various types of data sets (e.g., self-generated, archival) to examine consistency of measurements and observations.

HS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

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