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Climate: Teachers

Climate Essentials

Introduction to Climate Systems provides an excellent overview of topics including climate zones, the work of climatologists, and short-term and long-term climate change. Explore 12 pages of information, graphs, visuals and videos that will enrich your understanding of climate science.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains an up-to-date website on current climate topics. For a review of climate basics, NOAA and the National Weather Service provide concise information on Climate vs. Weather and Climate Zones. From the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) comes a good resource for understanding the impacts of climate change. Learn what causes climate change, the effects of global change, and how climatologists study our atmosphere and predict the future through scientific research and climate models.

Visit NASA's Global Climate site, dedicated to climate news and research that includes multimedia galleries, maps and interactives, as well as real-time data from NASA satellites. Scroll down to the "What Is Climate Change?" and "Explore" sections on the page for fascinating facts and images.

"Climate Change Stories" from National Geographic utilizes amazing photographs and scientific studies to report on current climate news.

Resources for Educators

The Center for Science Education, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has a wealth of resources for educators. Take a look at their Climate page for topics including Global vs. Regional Climate, El Niño, and the Greenhouse Effect. A Climate Change Perspective offers readings and interactives to use with middle school students. You'll also find short videos for all grade levels on paleoclimates, sea ice, sea levels, ice cores, coral reefs, and more. In addition, NCAR has links to some great interactives and games and simulations for classroom use.

You will want to check out NASA's climate resources for teachers. This site offers some terrific interactives, including the Climate Time Machine, as well as extensive graphics and multimedia resources. About Climate Change is a concise, fact-based discussion of causes, effects, and indications. Earth Minute Videos is a fun animated series explaining climate topics. NASA's student site, Climate Kids, is especially good for elementary classroom use.

Windows To The Universe, from the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is a great climate resource available in both English and Spanish. Take a look at the extensive menu of topics! This resource can be customized by Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Levels (elementary, middle school, and high school.)

CLEAN (Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network) is a remarkable collection of standards-aligned climate resources that have been reviewed by scientists for accuracy and by educators for pedagogic effectiveness. The collection is easily searched by grade level (3-5, 6-8, 9-12).

Changing Climate, from National Geographic, is an educator's guide to teaching climate science in grades 3-8. The guide is designed to support teachers and provide them with the necessary background to feel competent in teaching climate literacy. It includes numerous education features to help connect the content to classroom practice.

NOAA's climate education resources are well worth exploring. Especially helpful is a resource for teachers called Climate Literacy: Essential Principles of Climate Literacy that is available in English or Spanish. Teaching tips are provided for each principle, and the book can be downloaded for classroom use. An accompanying activity book, Discover Your Changing World, features ten hands-on activities that show the principles in action.

Another great resource from NOAA is its classroom-ready data resources, collected from around the globe, presented in easily accessible formats for student use.

You may want to have your students try one of the climate quizzes from National Geographic or the American Museum of Natural History.

USGS offers Global Change resources for middle school teachers that include background information, videos, interactives, photos and activities.

Science Wiz: Climate has many resources for whole-class or independent study.

Climate Central is a good source for graphs, maps, and other visuals.

Lesson Plans and More

You'll find lots of great resources at the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Educator's Bridge. For elementary teachers, Kids' Crossing In the Classroom is an educator's guide that includes three hands-on climate lessons. For middle school teachers, Investigating Climate Past and Investigating Climate Present contain 13 lessons for grades 5-8 designed to help students learn about Earth's climate systems.

NCAR's Center For Science Education offers an excellent collection of climate activities and lessons for your classroom. Be sure to check out "Climate Postcards," "Glaciers Then and Now," "Greenhouse Gas Game," "Looking Into Surface Albedo," and more.

The standards-aligned collection of climate lessons and activities from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is designed for grades K-12. Even first-graders will be fascinated by the "Global Warming Demonstration," while older students will be engaged by the sea-level and temperature explorations that utilize NASA satellite data.

These lesson plans, designed for 5th-6th grade, can easily be adapted for younger or older students.
Climate Zones
Weather and Climate
Sea Level Rise

Windows to the Universe, the website of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, has complete lesson plans on Climate and Global Change for elementary, middle school, and high school teachers. Take a look at "Carbon Dioxide: Sources and Sinks," "Changing Planet: Melting Glaciers," "Blooming Thermometers," and many more.

The EPA has a compilation of hands-on climate lesson plans for educators. Students will analyze tree rings and ice cores to learn about paleoclimates, and study the effect of increased CO2 levels on oceans and coral reefs.

UEN Climate Science features resources for teachers that include complete lesson plans. Eleven brief Climate Science In A Nutshell videos have accompanying teacher resource guides for classroom use.

Image showing extent of melting sea ice, NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center presents a series of lessons and activities exploring Arctic climate change for grades 5 and up.

Scholastic provides climate science lessons for middle school students on greenhouse gases, environmental change, and its effect on human health.

Our Changing Climate (grades 3-6) and Next Generation Climate (grades 6-8) are a standards-based series of interdisciplinary lesson plans designed to help students master the basics of global climate change.

Earthlabs: Climate and the Biosphere features hands-on classroom labs on topics such as Trees and Paleoclimates, Climate and Biomes, and Climatology Basics.

Learning about life in different climate zones is usually appealing to younger students. Take a look at these lesson plans about how polar bears and desert animals have adapted to the climate where they live. Climate Postcards is a fun lesson about climate zones and biomes designed for 3rd grade.

Climate change is already happening, and human beings will need to adapt. In NOAA's Beat the Uncertainty: Planning Climate-Resilient Cities, students become city leaders who must make decisions that will increase the city's resilience to climate change.

These Powerpoints on climate topics may be helpful for middle school teachers. For younger students, you might consider the USGS storybook called "The Perils of Polina" about the risks of global warning for polar animals, or this animation on how planting trees can help fight climate change.

PBS Learning Media

Each of these standards-aligned resources comes with a lesson plan, video, teaching tips, student handout, and/or background material.


Image: NASA

The Climate Literacy collection, for teachers of grades 3-12, brings together extensive resources including documents, videos, lesson plans and interactives.

Clue Into Climate is a compilation of lessons and videos for middle-school classrooms. Learn about climate science, the causes and effects of climate change, and how scientists work to understand climate processes.

Global and Regional Climate Change offers an extensive collection of teaching resources that can be filtered by grade level and resource type.

Antarctica's Climate Secrets, a collection for middle-school classrooms, features scientific research into Antarctica's past and future climate conditions.

Polar Lab is an interactive learning tool that combines interviews with scientists, immersive 360 environments, and games that send students on quests to increase understanding of how the poles are key to understanding Earth's climate.

Climate Change Impacts and Solutions: Drought is a set of resources and activities where students learn about the impact of drought and analyze data and models from NOAA.

Lessons for Grades 3-5:
What Is Climate? - Understanding climate and weather
Major U.S. Climate Zones - Visualizing the Koppen classification system
Climate and Ice - Using glaciers to learn about paleoclimate
Temperature and Precipitation Maps - Working with maps and averages

Lesson for Grades 6-9
The Effect of Land Mass on Climate - latitude, elevation, and land use
Understanding the Greenhouse Effect - effects on Earth's atmosphere
Kids vs. Global Warming - making a difference for planet Earth
Arctic Climate Perspectives - observing changing conditions in the Arctic

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