Pedagogy in Action > Library > Role Playing > Role-Playing Scenarios > WorldWatcher Project: Global Warming Project

WorldWatcher Project: Global Warming Project

Teaching Materials by the The Geographic Data in Education (GEODE) Initiative (more info) - Starting Point page by R. Teed (SERC).
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This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.


In this exercise, students role-play advisors to various heads of state on the subject of global warming. The web site offers a curriculum to help the students become experts on global warming. It offers lab activities, computer visualizations (using free WorldWatcher software), lots of background readings, and choose-your-own-adventure journeys through the carbon and water cycles. The unit concludes with a summit on global warming at which students give their presentations. For teachers, there is a pedagogical explanation for each activity and rubrics for the presentation and for an energy balance diagram assignment.

Learning Goals

Students will:
  • Learn about scientific issues relevant to global warming, such as temperature, the carbon cycle, and how different scientists often develop different theories on the same data.
  • Come to understand how global warming and the political and economic issues around it will affect different countries.
  • Investigate the causes of global warming.
  • Synthesize their knowledge in a presentation.

Context for Use

This unit is intended to take several lesson periods, depending on which activities the teacher intends to do. There are 33 activities, some of which can be done outside of class and some of which will take less than a class period. The proposed role-play should come at the end of the unit and deals with the international politics of global warming.

Description and Teaching Materials

The Global Warming Unit Plan (more info) links to a whole global warming curriculum, broken into various activities by theme:

  • Introduction to the Global Warming Issue
  • How Does Temperature Change?
  • What Makes Earth Warm?
  • Addressing Climate Change

It also has links to readings, WorldWatcher Visualization Software for both Mac and PC and teacher resources.

Teachers will also need:

  • Computers for students for WorldWatcher exercises
  • Lab materials for some of the lab activities
  • NOAA's (free) Report to the Nation: "Our Changing Climate"
  • Optional: graphing software and temperature probes
Students will need journals to write in.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This exercise is originally intended for 7-10th graders, but can be adapted in part by upgrading certain activities and making rubrics more demanding. This is a good opportunity for the inclusion of models, data, and quantitative skills development.


There are two assignments and rubrics for assessing each: a presentation on temperature change and an energy balance diagram. There is also an article in here about tracking the project through student journaling.

References and Resources

Interactive role-playing exercises dealing with the complicated issue of humanity's dependence on fossil fuels and its consequences include:

  • Mock Environmental Summit
    At the end of a six-week class or unit on global warming, students role-play representatives from various countries and organizations at an international summit on global warming.
  • The Great Energy Debate
    This lesson plan explores the energy debate in the U.S. Students will hold a mock congressional committee meeting and make decisions about public lands and energy resources.
  • What Should We Do About Global Warming?
    This module contains an 8-lesson curriculum to study greenhouse gases and global warming using data and visualizations. The students will summarize the issue in a mock debate or a presentation.