Climate & Water Teaching Box

Recent climate change is already having impacts - from melting Arctic sea ice and glaciers, to the lack of rainfall in the southwest and central United States, and the impacts of sea level rise on coasts worldwide. This teaching box is filled with explorations and readings that help secondary students learn how climate change is affecting the water cycle.

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Recent climate change is already having impacts - from melting Arctic sea ice and glaciers, to the lack of rainfall in the southwest and central United States, and the impacts of sea level rise on coasts worldwide. This teaching box is filled with explorations and readings that help secondary students learn how climate change is affecting the water cycle.

Teaching Box Group

Overview

UCAR Center for Science Education Teaching Boxes are themed collections of classroom-ready educational resources to build student understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Resources highlighted within teaching boxes are from various science education programs and all have been vetted by the the Center's education team.

  • Topic: Climate & Water
  • Level: Middle and high school
  • How to use this resource: This teaching box is designed to foster understanding of the impacts of climate change on aspects of the water cycle. The first part (The Big Picture) provides an overview and should be covered first. Subsequent parts can be used as time allows and in any order. Note that there are other aspects of how climate change impacts water that are not covered in this teaching box including extreme precipitation and flooding, ocean acidification, permafrost thaw, and changes to ice shelves and sea ice.
  • Printable version of this overview (PDF)

The Big Picture

Goal: Students learn that climate change and its impacts are already being observed.

Activity: Students analyze data about climate impacts over the 20th Century.

Performance Expectation: Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems (HS-ESS2-2).

Standards:

  • NGSS Science and Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • NGSS DCI HS and MS-ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
  • NGSS DCI HS and MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
  • NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns, Cause and Effect, Stability and Change
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP2: Reason Abstractly and Quantitatively
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP3: Construct Viable Arguments and Critique the Reasoning of Others
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.8: Distinguish Among Facts, Reasoned Judgment, and Speculation.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.7: Translate Information Expressed Visually or Mathematically into Words

Melting Glaciers

Goal: Students learn that alpine glaciers are shrinking due to warmer atmospheric temperatures associated with climate change.

Activity: Students explore data about documented change in glaciers and explore how glaciers move, grow, and shrink using models.

Performance Expectation: Students interpret data and use models to understand why glaciers are shrinking.

Standards:

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models
  • DCI HS and MS-ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
  • DCI HS and MS-ESS2.C: The Role of Water in Earth Surface Processes
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns, Cause and Effect, Stability and Change

Sea Level Rise

Goal: Students learn how projected sea level rise threatens coastal areas.

Activity: Students learn about the potential consequences of sea level rise in different geographic areas through exploration of data and maps.

Performance Expectation: Students interpret data to learn how sea level rise due to global climate change is projected to impact cities and towns.

Standards:

  • NGSS: Science and Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • NGSS: DCI HS and MS-ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
  • NGSS: Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect, Stability and Change
  • National Geography Standard 18: How to Apply Geography to Interpret the Present and Plan for the Future
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.7: Translate Information Expressed Visually or Mathematically into Words

Less Rainfall

Goal: Students learn that droughts, increasing in intensity due to climate change, impact people in the United States.

Activity: Students learn about the impact of drought on agriculture and then explore how currrent and future projected drought impacts U.S. agriculture.

Performance Expectations: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity (HS-ESS3-1).  
Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems (HS-ESS3-5)

Standards:

  • NGSS: Science and Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • NGSS: DCI HS and MS-ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
  • NGSS: DCI HS and MS-ESS2.C: The Role of Water in Earth Surface Processes
  • NGSS: Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns, Cause and Effect, Stability and Change
  • National Geography Standard 18: How to Apply Geography to Interpret the Present and Plan for the Future
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.7: Translate Information Expressed Visually or Mathematically into Words

Dwindling Sea Ice

Goal: Students learn that Arctic sea ice is shrinking due to warmer atmospheric and ocean temperatures and the ice-albedo feedback.

Activity: Students learn how sea ice is changing by exploring sea ice data, researching questions about sea ice, and hypothesizing how sea ice change is affecting polar bears.

Performance Expectation: Students interpret data, ask questions, define problems, and explore a model to learn how and why sea ice is melting rapidly in the Arctic. Students use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate. (HS-ESS2-4)

Standards:

  • NGSS: Science and Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Constructing Explanations, using Models
  • NGSS: DCI HS and MS-ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
  • NGSS: DCI HS and MS-ESS2.C: The Role of Water in Earth Surface Processes
  • NGSS: Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns, Cause and Effect, Stability and Change