Lesson Plan

Exploring Climate Science (Climate Change)

Monitoring Station
Monitoring Equipment


In “Exploring Climate Science (Climate Change),” students will explore causes of climate change and discuss impacts on the environment. Our extensive “Exploring Climate Science” curricula unit is broken into eight lessons, each taking 40 minutes to complete. Designed around the 5th grade Next Generation Science Standards, it is a unit easily adapted up for middle or high school use. Teach the entire unit or pull out particular activities. This is lesson 1 of the unit.


Students will be able to:
1.  List three causes of climate change
2.  Describe at least two impacts to the environment caused by climate change 


Water is essential for life on Earth. Relative water availability is a major factor in designating habitats for different living organisms. In the United States, things like agriculture and water rights are hot topics. Current models predict that average global temperatures are going to continue to rise even if regional climate changes remain complex and varied. These changes will have an impact on all of Earth's systems.

Studies have shown that climate change is driven not only by natural effects but also by human activities. Knowledge of the factors that affect climate, coupled with responsible management of natural resources, are required for sustaining these Earth systems. Long-term change can be anticipated using science-based predictive models making science and engineering essential to understanding global climate change and its possible impacts.

National Parks can serve as benchmarks for climate science trends and effects over time because they are protected areas void of human influence. Understanding current climate trends will help set students up to be successful in interpreting and engaging in discussions about climate change, which will lead to informed decision making.


Day 1- Climate Change

Day 2- Weather vs. Climate

Day 3- Snowpack

Day 4- Snow Course Field Trip

Day 5- Watersheds

Day 6- Streamflow Data

Day 7- NPS Connections 

Day 8- Research Projects 


Most of the materials for this unit are provided in the Snow Study Trunk or as downloadable files.

Model of Earth (Provided in Snow Study Trunk)
White strips of paper, 1 per student, (teacher created)
5 yellow strips of paper (teacher created)


Step 1
Explain to students that they will be spending the next two weeks learning about climate change and what scientists are doing to address climate change. Brainstorm – have students share what they already know about climate change.

Step 2

1. Pass out white strips of paper to students. Ask students to write one type of air pollution on their strip of paper. Collect the strips and tape them together in a circle.

2. Have student volunteers hold up the model of the earth and the sun. Use the yellow strips of paper to demonstrate how the sun's rays reach the earth and then bounce back away from the earth. Have another volunteer hold up the circle of "pollution" around earth. Again demonstrate the yellow rays hitting the earth, but then show how they are trapped by the pollution, thus warming the earth.


Step 3

3. Have students divide into pairs, read the text passages, and record their learning in worksheet 1.1.

4. Have each pair summarize and share 2-3 facts they learned about climate change from their reading.

5. Talk about how scientists respond to climate change by conducting scientific research (monitoring) and then taking action based on that research. Lessons will focus on this over the next two weeks. 


1. Ask students how they think climate change or global warming is impacting the local community.

2. Exit ticket question: "How is climate change caused and what are some of its impacts?"


Pollution, climate change, global warming, greenhouse effect (these words to be taught in context during the lesson)