Global Climate Change

Vanessa Svihla
Graduate School of Education, UC Berkeley
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This activity explores the role of energy in global climate change. Students explore netlogo models of climate, and learn about cumulative effects.

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This activity is for middle school students. The activity is used by teachers who exclusively teach science, as well as those who teach all subjects.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Should have an understanding of conduction and convection, but prior knowledge is assumed to be low.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity stands as a third unit middle school students use to learn about energy.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Solar radiation and energy transformation
Carbon Cycle and cumulative impact of human contributions
Mechanisms for greenhouse effect as a natural process

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students predict and evaluate ideas, interpret and synthesize across models

Other skills goals for this activity

Students develop writing skills and representational skills, they work in dyads.

Description of the activity/assignment

Understanding global climate change is challenging, even for adults, yet having an understanding of this topic is consequential for the future. In this activity, middle school students learn about global climate change using models that allow them to make predictions, observations, and then explain mechanisms for climate change. Component ideas include change over time, deep time, and accumulation. Students are asked to act as advisers on how to lower energy use, and refine their understanding of how and why this is important, before testing their ideas and finally revising their advice.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Assessments are embedded throughout the activity, and as pre/post measures ("Initial ideas" and "Reflecting" activities). These are coded using the knowledge integration framework. When teachers grade these, they sometimes adapt the knowledge integration framework, or apply their own scheme (see Linn, 2006).

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Linn, M. C. (2006). The knowledge integration perspective on learning and instruction. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 243-264). New York: Cambridge University Press.