Lesson Plan

Man, It's Hot!

Mist rises from the mirror-smooth Current River, Ozark National Park
Mist rises from the mirror-smooth Current River, Ozark National Park
NPS Photo
Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Sixth Grade
Climate, Climate Change, Environment, Mathematics, Meteorology, Science and Technology
2 Days, plus one month
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
CCSS.Math.Content.4.MD.B.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.2a, 4-ESS2 Earth's Systems, 4-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity
climate change, global warming, temperature, chart, lesson plan, trt, measure, graph, math


global warming, climate, carbon sequestration, weather


The conversation about global warming is heating up and the topic at the coffee table is the weather. The question is, what does 'global warming' mean and we are really seeing climate change? In this lesson the kids will do some investigation to determine for themselves if our climate is changing at all.


  1. Students will understand that climate varies over time.
  2. Students will know that changes in climate can affect the organisms that live in the affected area.
  3. Students will be able to collect data and monitor climate variables in their own area and make comparisons with historical data.
Essential Questions:
  1. What is global warming?
    (the rise in average global temperature)
  2. What effects does global warming have?
    (Can effect ice melts, sea level rise/fall, changes in precipitation, changes in plant/animal habitats)
  3. What can we do to prevent global warming?
    (Improve energy efficiency, carbon sequestration, increased numbers of plants and trees)


The average global temperature and concentrations of carbon dioxide, one of the major greenhouse gases (or GHGs) have fluctuated on a cycle of hundreds of thousands of years as the Earth's position relative to the sun has varied. As a result, ice ages have come and gone.

However, for thousands of years now, emissions of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere have been balanced by the green house gasses that are naturally absorbed.  As a result, green house gas concentrations and temperature have been fairly stable. This stability has allowed human civilization to develop within a consistent climate.

Occasionally, other factors briefly influence global temperatures.  Volcanic eruptions, for example, emit particles that temporarily cool the Earth's surface.  But these have no lasting effect beyond a few years. Other cycles, such as El Niño, also work on fairly short and predictable cycles.

Humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than a third since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Changes this large have historically taken thousands of years, but are now happening over the course of decades.


In addition to the Global Warming Information sheet (below), students will need materials to measure and graph the local temperature.
  • colored crayons or pencils
  • pencil
  • paper or journals
  • temperature graphing worksheet or alternative (see below) 
  • thermometers for measuring local temperature (one for every 2-4 students)
Optional Materials for Extension:
  • Field or ground thermometers
  • High-low (or minimum-maximum) thermometer
  • Wind gauge
  • Rain gauge
  • Other tools for measuring weather conditions


Start the lesson by writing the words "Global Warming" on the board.

Turn to the class and say "What do you know about these words?" This will be an open conversation with no judgment being made, everyone's input is welcome.  Use this opportunity to note and correct any misconceptions that arise. 

Then put definition of Global Warming on the board.

"The rise in the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans since the late 19th century and its projected continuation."

Ask the students what they think that definition means. Do not take this time to correct the students. This activity will allow them to correct themselves. Pass out information that presents evidence of global warming in the United States. This collection of information is included. Allow the students a few minutes to read over this information.

Talk with the students about the information that you provided to them. Allow them to talk to each other as well if the change occurs. (The students are going to have an mind set about this topic and hearing this information from you is not going to be enough. Monitor their conversation and make sure that it stays appropriate.)

Ask the class if they can come up with ways that we can check for ourselves whether or not global warming is occurring. Allow all ideas to be submitted. If they need guidance provide that support.

Lead the students into the idea of monitoring temperatures to measure global warming. This is the bases for the lesson but will be more rewarding for the student if they believe that this was in some way there idea.

Ask the students how collecting data will provide proof. (If needed, guide the students to the idea that as a class they could compare the data to previous years.)

Have students collect data on previous year's temperatures in your area from this website http://www.almanac.com/weather/history
(While this is not the only website that will provide students with information on previous years' weather patterns, this site does provide temperature readings for each day of each month, as well as the daily rainfall amount.)

Now take some time to explain what the students are going to be doing. Suggested process:

  • Tell students that they are going to collect information about temperatures from the previous year to compare to this year.
  • Pass out the graph that they will be using to monitor the temperatures (one per group). See the attached graph as an option, or use your own as you prefer.
  • Ask them to
    1) fill out there groups graph as the class goes over the data or
    2) have the students go to a computer and pull up the information themselves and fill out the graph.
  • Instruct the students to use a blue crayon or colored pen for the previous year's data. If desired the students can use other colors to fill in different years as well. This can be done with as many years as you would like but make sure that the colors are explained in a table

As the students get situated, review with them the concept that you are covering, "Global Warming". Ask them if they thought about this topic at all after they left yesterday, and see if they have anything new to share. Also ask about their graphs and what they are starting to notice about the changes from year to year.

Today the students are going to start using some science and math tools to begin collecting data for the current year. Below is the suggested process:

·         If the students need more time to complete their graphs allow that time before proceeding.

·        Talk with the students about the math and science tools they will be using.

  • Show the students each tool and explain what it does and how it needs to be cared for. Ask the students if they have ever used tools like these before.
  • Pass out the thermometers. Each group will need at least one. If more thermometers are available, allow each group to have two or three. This will enhance their experience and allow them to become more competent in using this tool.
Before going outside with the tools and their charts, ask the kids about the process of taking data. Probe the kids to bring up that data needs to be taken with as many controlled variables (like time and place) as possible. This may make more sense to the students if you ask them if it would be okay if you recorded the temperature tomorrow at 7:00 am but then the next day took the temp at 1:00 pm. The students should be able to tell you that by taking the temps at different times the results won't be accurate. Also as the students if it would be good science if you took the temperature in the shade today but out in the sunny parking lot tomorrow. The students should again tell you that this would make the results inaccurate.

·        Now take the students outside with their graph, at least one thermometer, and a pen and journal or notebook paper to record their results.

  • Have the students pick a spot in the school yard where they will be taking the temperature every day.
  • Have the students start a new journal entry (or label a piece of notebook paper) for this experiment.
  • On the journal or notebook page, ask that the students describe using words where they will be taking their temps each day.
  • Then have them draw a map as well.
  • If using a journal you can have the students mount their data page (with the information they gathered from the website) in the journal for safe keeping.

·         Instruct the students to put their thermometers in a place where they won't be messed with and allow the liquid or needle to stop moving before recording the data.    

Ask that the students:
  • record their daily temperature readings and observations about the weather each day 
  • record the temperature data on the chart they made on Day 1 using a red color.

Each day allow the students 5 minutes outside to record the data for that day. (If weather is not permitting. Locate a reliable source to record from, but still have the students' journal about their observations.)

After a month of data has been collected and recorded bring the kids back for a group conversation.  This can be done in one big group or in two groups (depending on your class size). 

Suggested Process:
  • Have students compare the data they collected with the historical data from the almanac website. 
  • Ask the students if they see any changes. If so what kinds of changes 
  • Discuss possible effects that changes may have on plants and animals.
  • Ask the students if there was anything about our process that could have affected the results.
  • Talk with the students about other ways people monitor climate changes. Have students write a short summary of their experiences. This can be in their journals or on a piece of notebook paper. Ask that they talk about what the noticed and what they thought about the results.  


Performance Task: Students collect and compare data from year to year.
Self-Assessment: Discussion in the class each day as students take and record their data to check their data with other students. This will lead the students to question their findings if they do not match the class's results, leading them to try again or to discover why there is a difference in results.

Other Assessment Opportunities: Students use tools to measure climate variables. This can be ground thermometers, field thermometers, rain gauges, high and low thermometers, and wind gauges. The use of these tools will open the opportunity for the students to enhance their understanding of how math and science go together.

Other Evidence of Understanding: If students note changes in the variables or effects of the variables they are measuring in their discussions with each other. This can lead to questions about why the climate is changing and what could affect these changes.

Park Connections

This lesson plan was prepared by Samantha Majors, Teacher-Ranger-Teacher at Ozark National Scenic Riverways.


For older students:
  • Monitor more variables than just temperatures such as precipitation or wind gusts.
  • Have the students pick an organism that lives in the area and do research on that organism's needs. Then relate this to the effects of changes in the variables that they monitored. 
For Younger students:
  • Repeat this experiment at different times of the year. IE – Summer, Fall, Spring ·         Have them note changes in one season compared to other seasons. 

Additional Resources