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Turning Misinformation into Educational Opportunity Climate Change: Lesson 1 Scientific Consensus

National Center for Science Education

This activity has students examine the misconception that there is no scientific consensus on climate change. Students explore temperature data and report their conclusions to the class. Then students examine techniques of science denial and examine a claim about scientific consensus.

This learning activity takes one 60 minute class period.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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

  • A supplemental materials guide helps teachers adapt this lesson to various student ability levels and can be found on the resource website.
  • Other additional materials, a webinar about this lesson, and related lessons can be found on the website for the larger unit: https://ncse.ngo/supporting-teachers/classroom-resources
  • Students will need some background knowledge about the greenhouse effect and the structure of the atmosphere to successfully do this activity. The activity will require some additional resources to meet the lesson plan objectives. Basic graph reading and interpretation skills are required. Recommend re-organizing reading and associated graphs for each student team.
  • This lesson is designed for 9th grade. The lesson can be adapted for advanced middle school students, as well as for AP Bio, and Environmental Science applications. These adaptations will be provided in a separate supplementary document.

About the Science

  • This is a lesson about how science works, but while there are many lessons that teach the scientific method, this one teaches students how the science enterprise works, not individual scientists. Through the process of interpreting real data and forming conclusions, students will construct their own understanding of what the data show. This will inoculate them against misconceptions and misinformation.
  • Activity addresses the nature of science, consensus among scientists and data driven conclusions, logical thinking and how science misconceptions develop.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Explanation of what you should expect from greenhouse gas-driven warming versus solar-driven warming is very solid. The misinformation tactics and "inoculation theory" parts track my understanding of the subjects.

About the Pedagogy

  • In this activity students analyze temperature data, draw conclusions about the causes of trends in the data, and present on the trends they find. Teachers help students explain the drivers of these patterns. Then students learn about the scientific consensus on climate change and techniques used by climate change deniers to sow uncertainty. Students then examine a claim from a global warming denier website using their knowledge about the techniques that are being used.
  • Student groups are asked to arrive at consensus about the source of global warming through the analysis of data and a short explanatory text. Teams are provided with only one set of data with no information about how the data was collected. Further investigation would lengthen the instructional time. Links are provided, and although many are not active in the pdf, they are available in the document version included in the supplemental materials folder.
  • Student presentations can be used as assessment if teachers think the quiz provided is not sufficient.
  • This activity includes a lot of discussion, but there are worksheets and data to help guide teachers and students through these discussions.
  • Supplemental resources provide a variety of adaptations for varying learning styles and levels.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Very easy to follow the guide. Teachers may want to go through some of the activities in advance so they are prepared to help facilitate student explorations and discussions.
  • Educator Prep item links are not active in the PDF but can be found in the document version included in the supplemental materials.
  • Graphs and background reading for students should be printed from pdf and organized as handouts for each small groups.

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

This website houses the larger unit with links to additional materials and to the other lessons in the unit: https://ncse.ngo/supporting-teachers/classroom-resources

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