Lesson Plan

Exploring Climate Science: Research Projects

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
5.RI.1, 5.RI.7, 5.RI.8, 5.W.8, 5.W.9
Additional Standards:
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


In “Exploring Climate Science (Research Projects),” students showcase what they learned throughout the unit by completing a final project based on climate change.
Students will be able to create a hypothetical research proposal that examines the potential impacts of climate change on the local community.


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.


*Depending on how deeply you would like to explore the activities of the lesson, this lesson could take anywhere between one and three 40 minute lessons. For example on day one, you could explain the project and students could begin work. On day two, students could continue preparing their work and then begin working on their presentations, and on day three students could finish their presentations and share with the class. Conversely, you could do a quick introduction, give students 30 minutes to prepare their grant proposals and then have a quick whip around, share-out, thereby concluding the lesson in a day. The times below are based on one 45 minute lesson.


Teachers will need access to the internet, a computer, and a projector for displaying the videos for the class.


Write the following questions on the board or projector so the all students can see them:

How have climate changes influenced human activities? How could Mammoth Lakes(or your community) be affected if the climate continues to change?


Prepare the following videos:

A Way Forward: Facing Climate Change

California Department of Water Resources: Snow Surveying (.wmv file)


Explains the sections of the grant proposal and how each proposal will be evaluated.

Download Worksheet 8.1: Grant Proposal Rubric

This worksheet will explain how to write the proposals and what should be included. Includes a sample proposal.

Download Worksheet 8.2: Climate Science Project Instructions

Students can use this worksheet to write their proposals.

Download Worksheet 8.3: Proposal Worksheet

Provides teachers with an opportunity to provide lesson plan feedback.

Download Teacher Unit Evaluation

Provides students with an opportunity to provide lesson plan feedback and assess what they’ve learned.

Download Student Unit Evaluation

Optional visual to help students understand the concept of scarce funding.

Download Fake Money

Lesson Hook/Preview

Explain to students that they will be thinking like a climate scientist today and using what they have learned the past two weeks to create their own climate monitoring project. Explain how in the real world it costs money to conduct research. To get money, scientists apply for grants. Grants are free money that organizations give to scientists to help the planet. Place fake money on table (See Materials Section). There is only enough grant money for two groups to do their project. The two best grant proposals will be awarded the funding and will be able to make a difference in the world.


  1. Pass out worksheets 8.1, 8.2, and 8.3 (In materials section). Read through the papers explaining sections if necessary. Be sure to discuss Grant Proposal Rubric. Explain that grant proposals will be scored using the rubric. Have students score worksheet 8.2 (the model) and discuss the scores given.

  2. Ask what could you research? Brainstorm research ideas as a class.

 3. Student work time (Students can work in groups, pairs, or individually according to teacher preference). It may be helpful to have computer time available in case students need more background knowledge about a topic. See Additional Resources section for web links that may helps students.



Assessment Materials

Have students share their ideas. Depending on time, some options include:

  1. Doing a quick whip around/share out

  2. Putting proposals on tables and doing a gallery walk of proposals

  3. Student presentations to the class

  4. Creating a poster for a mini science fair, etc.

Additional Resources

EPA kid friendly website all about the basics of climate change



Website of games, activities, and other resources all about global warming



Provides information on animals impacted by climate change from around the globe



Details impacts of climate change on various sea animals



Website all about how kids can reduce energy consumption



Helpful slideshow on climate change, weather, and climate


Related Lessons or Education Materials

Day 1- Earth as a System

Day 2- Weather vs Climate

Day 3- Watershed

Day 4- Climate Science Data and Tools

Day 5- Field Trip

Day 6- NPS Connections

Day 7- Project Preparation

Day 8- Evaluations

Contact Information

Email us about this lesson plan

Last updated: June 19, 2015