The Heat is On: Understanding Local Climate Change
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
The students should also have had some practice interpreting geospatial data on GIS images, analyzing data (pre-statistically) for trends, designing evaluative research, and supporting claims with evidence.
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Using technologies to collect, organize, and display data
Formulating evaluative research design
Reviewing, summarizing, and explaining information and data
Formulating testable hypothesis
Making logical connections between hypothesis and design
Constructing a reasoned argument
Expressing scientific skepticism
Critiquing explanations according to scientific understanding by weighing the evidence and examining the logic
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
The is a curriculum module from the project Data Sets and Inquiry in Geoscience Education (DIGS). The module consists of a week-long unit and two-day performance assessment in which students apply the inquiry skills to problem-based investigations of urban micro-climates. The unit and performance assessment present semi-parallel tasks but about different cities (Phoenix and Chicago).
Sudents draw conclusions about the extent to which multiple decades of temperature data about Phoenix suggest that a shift in local climate is taking place as opposed to exhibiting nothing more than natural variability. The data are from the Global Climate Historical Network (GHCN) database. GHCN is a large, multi-year, international project to measure temperature, precipitation, and air pressure from near the ground. Each monthly maximum and minimum temperature is the highest and lowest temperature reading for the month, measured in Celsius. In Phoenix and in most other places, the temperature data are collected at local airports. The performance assessment for this module requires that students apply the methods and findings from the investigation of the climate data for Phoenix to climate data for Chicago. The Chicago data shows less evidence of trends in temperature change, and this is most evident comparing the night-time minimum temperature fluctuations between the two cities. Chicago also exhibits less increase in urban development and population growth than does Phoenix. In contrast to the curriculum unit, which primarily uses constructed-response tasks to encourage student explanation and discussion, the climate assessment tasks pose explicit selected- and constructed-response questions to ensure that the items elicit the intended thinking and hence provide evidence of the targeted standards-aligned skills and understandings.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Teaching materials and tips
- Instructors Notes (Acrobat (PDF) PRIVATE FILE 25kB Feb6 08)