Lesson Plan

Views of Climate Change in Alaska, the Arctic, and Beyond

Fuzzy red and orange willow blossoms stick out from a green willow plant
Climate change affects every aspect of the Arctic, from the sea ice, to the wildlife, to even the plants.
NPS Photo / Kathi Quinn

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Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Subject:
Climate, Climate Change, Conservation, Earth Science, Environment, Geography, Landscapes, Oceans
Duration:
60-90 minutes (1-2 class periods)
Group Size:
Up to 24
Setting:
classroom
National/State Standards:
Science: C1; C3; [11]SC3.2; D1; SD3; [10] SD3.1; [11] SD3.1 Geography: A1; E5; F3; F4.  Speaking and Listening: 1; [6]1d[6]2; [7]2; [8]2;

Overview

Climate change is occurring globally, however some of the effects are more noticeable in certain regions of the world, like Alaska and the Arctic.  Everyone can have an impact in slowing the effects of climate change. 

Objective(s)

At the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  1. List and describe 4 effects of climate change.
  2. Explain 3 ways that climate change is affecting Alaska and the Arctic. 
  3. Compare 2 effects of climate change in Alaska and the Arctic with 2 effects of climate change occurring in their own state/backyard/or other region of the world.


Background

Climate change is happening. It is not restricted to one location, it is happening right in our backyards, it is happening regionally, and it is happening globally. There are regions however (like Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska, and the Arctic) that are experiencing the effects of climate change at a faster rate and at times in a more obvious manner. We will begin by taking a look at some of those effects through a game of Memory and discussion. Following that, with the help of the Fragile Earth app for iPads, we will take a closer, and very real, look at things that are happening in our backyard and across the globe.

Materials



Procedure

Memory game:

  • Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska, and the Arctic are areas that are being affected by climate change at a faster rate than other parts of the world. Play a quick game of memory to introduce the class to observed effects…to begin to get a better sense of exactly what’s going on out there. Break the class into groups of 3 or 4, depending on class size. There are nine pairs of cards each depicting an effect of climate change. The cards do not include text in order to encourage the students to begin to think about what the effects are as well as to give the educator an opportunity to evaluate the level of prior knowledge regarding climate change.
  • The memory game cards are accompanied by information sheets (CLIMATE CHANGE IN ALASKA and the ARCTIC) that provide additional information and questions regarding the changes that have been observed in Alaska and the Arctic. The photos on the information sheets are related to the memory cards, however they are not identical to encourage the students to make connections between the memory cards and information presented.

The information sheets can be used in a number of ways:

  • Display the sheets around the room. After all students have finished playing, conduct a race to see which group can match up their cards to the information sheets the fastest. (Caution: Could be total chaos! And great fun!)
  • Display the sheets around the room. After the students have finished playing, the educator (or a student) chooses one of the Climate Change in AK and the Arctic sheets at random and begins to describe what has been observed without revealing the title of the sheet. Each group of students guesses the sheet by raising the memory card they believe corresponds to the sheet being described. The group that guesses the most correctly wins! 
  • Display the sheets around the room. After the students have finished playing, tape one of the memory cards to the forehead of each student without revealing what their card is. Each student will need to figure out what their card is with the help of their fellow students who are allowed to describe the effects of what is on the card but not what the object is on the card. The student will then stand near their corresponding sheet until all students have found their match. Once all of the cards and sheets have been matched correctly the students will present their informational sheet and a discussion regarding the question posed on each sheet can be facilitated.
  • Display the sheets around the room. As a student makes a match they find the corresponding information sheet, read it, and return to their table to share with the others what they learned. As a group, the students will brainstorm a list of how these effects of climate change could affect them and the area live in. This will also give them an opportunity to list any changes they may have noticed locally, for example seasonal shifts, stronger storms, wildfire increase, etc. It will be important to note that some of the things happening may seem so far away and therefore unrelated to their world (are there glaciers in Florida?) but they affect us all as they contribute to a larger problem. For example, glaciers melting in Alaska contribute to sea level rise which is occurring globally and potentially wiping out cities and even entire countries thousands of miles away. Along with this, as these changes are occurring they are affecting food webs, habitats, communities, economies which cannot be isolated to the region in which they are occurring. For example, as oceans warm and become more acidic and food webs are altered, harvest of certain fish species will have to change which will affect local and global fisheries and economies…and our dinner plates.

FRAGILE EARTH APP:

The climate change effects that we explored in the memory game are effects that are already very visible to those living in Alaska and the Arctic. Using the Fragile Earth app we are going to view additional effects that are occurring around the globe, along with some of the causes of climate change.

Getting a global view of climate change:

Break the class into pairs or small groups depending on number of iPads. As a class, take a look at the Fragile Earth App and talk briefly about the different categories and what they might find in each. Do all categories relate to climate change? (Note: Many of the views presented in Natural Phenomena are due to geologic events such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes which currently have not been linked to effects of climate change).

As an introduction to the lesson, consider the following view as a class:

Man’s Impact: Air pollution, National Stadium, Beijing, China Begin by pinning the view card to a world map for geographic reference. Then locate the view in the app and take a moment to look at the before and after and to read the information provided. Is this a cause or an effect of climate change? Or perhaps a bit of both? What changed between the two views and why?

To answer these questions and encourage discussion fill out a Fragile Earth worksheet as a class.

Now the students are ready to receive a view card to look at in their groups. They will receive one of the view cards, locate it in the app, discuss the view as a group, fill out the Fragile Earth worksheet and then present it to the class. Before each group presentation instruct the students to tape or pin the view card to the world map so all will have a geographic reference.

Note: The pictures on the view cards are not identical to the picture in the app. The view will be located in the Fragile Earth app using the words.

Assessment

Class Discussion:

Climate change cannot be reversed. We have seen some of the causes and effects and have taken a closer look at who and what will be affected by climate change. How can we best plan for and mitigate the effects of climate change? What can we do at a local level? How can we reduce the pressure for continual need and use of some of the resources that are major contributors to climate change (nonrenewable resources, cattle, deforestation, and others). Can turning off the lights when I leave a room really have an impact on reducing the effects of climate change? What can I do?!

Brainstorm a list of simple (and perhaps not so simple) actions that can be done.

How can we best get involved? Talk to people! Education! Stewardship starts at home!

Conclusion:

Stewardship starts at home and our individual actions really do matter! We want to ensure the best future for ourselves and our planet. We can’t stop climate change but we can definitely play a part in slowing the effects and thus helping conserve and preserve places like our own homes, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska, the Arctic….and beyond. Every single action and impact counts!



Extensions

  • Develop a memory game of climate change effects that have been observed in your state or region.
  • Dig in to the app! Assign a view for each student to look at, further research and present to the class. Encourage them to talk to the local scientific community to see what has been observed in your area and what is being done to slow the effects of climate change at a local level.
  • Conduct a discussion regarding the title of the app, Fragile Earth. Do you think the Earth is fragile? Is it resilient? Perhaps a bit of both…? Explain why you think so and why it might be a good or bad idea to label the Earth as fragile. How could this help or hinder climate change policy discussions?
  • Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is 2.7 million acres that includes tundra, coastline, lava flows, the largest maar lakes in the world along with other incredible geologic features, and a fascinating human history. This is an area that one day may transition from tundra to trees and be a completely different landscape and resource. How can resource managers best plan for this and other effects of climate change to best conserve and preserve the phenomenal resources of this area now and in the future?
  • Create a citizen science project! Encourage the students to make their own observations. Organizations like the National Phenology Network and the National Audubon Society have been collecting data for years which helps determine and pinpoint how seasons have been shifting and migration patterns have been changing. And this is something YOU can do in your backyard! What a great way to get involved and have a positive impact!