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Climate Science Lesson Plans and Curricula
Check out our favorite climate lesson plans below. You can view them either by subject or by key concept. We encourage teachers to use these resources to extend their students’ learning beyond the ACE Assembly. Also check out our Energy Lesson Plans page.
Most of these come from the CLEAN database of curricula, so if you’re looking for something specific, start there.
Carbon Sequestration in Campus Trees: 1-hour period
Climate Change and Arctic Ecosystems: 2 45-min periods
Temperature and precipitation as limiting factors in ecosystems: 2 45-min periods
Carbon Cycle: 3 45-minute class periods or 1 lab
Mountain Pine Beetles: 1 week
Automotive Emissions and the Greenhouse Effect: 1 90-min period
ACE ocean acidification animation: 2-min video in ACE animation style that breaks down the chemistry of this complicated topic.
Off Base - Acidity of oceans: 2 45-min periods
Biomass - Investigating Gases: 2-3 50-min periods
Understanding Ocean Acidification: varying length
How Greenhouse Gases Absorb Heat: 1 45-min period
Dendrochronology - Trees: Recorders of Climate Change: 1 hour period
Energy and the Poor - Black Carbon in Developing Nations: 3 45-min periods
US Historical Climate: Excel Statistical: 2 hour-long periods
- Human behavior has an environmental impact.
- Carbon is an integral part of the natural world.
- By burning fossil fuels, humans are causing climate change.
- Scientists use ice cores among other techniques to understand past climate.
- The Earth’s climate system has many complex interactions that scientists are constantly discovering more about.
- Climate change is already impacting the world and will continue to do so.
- Personal environmental impact extends beyond individual behavior to indirect impacts of consumer behavior.
- Earth is a closed system – our trash ends up somewhere.
- Different countries have different environmental impacts depending on their lifestyle.
2. Carbon is an integral part of the natural world.
- Today’s energy source, fossil fuels, is made of carbon and comes from plants and animals that lived millions of years ago and took millions of years to form.
- Burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
- Energy from the sun passes through Earth’s atmosphere and warms the surface of the planet. Earth puts out heat, which is trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is the greenhouse effect.
- Greenhouse gases are essential for keeping the planet warm enough to support life.
- Plants, animals and people have adapted to living in a specific environment and climate.
- Earth’s climate is sensitive to small changes in CO2 in the atmosphere.
- Carbon constantly cycles through the natural world, moving between the ocean, the biosphere, the atmosphere and the geosphere. This is the carbon cycle.
- The carbon cycle is taking up human emissions of carbon, but this is not a sustainable process.
- Scientists use information on CO2 and temperature found in ice cores to study past climate.
- Climate has changed naturally in the past, in sync with CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
- Causes of past climate change include the sun, variations in the Earth’s orbit and volcanoes. These factors are understood by scientists.
- Current CO2 levels and rates of increase are well beyond the natural range of variability over the last 800,000 years.
- Natural variations alone can’t account for current climate change.
5. The Earth’s climate system has many complex interactions that scientists are constantly discovering more about.
- The Earth’s climate system is nonlinear and may contain tipping points.
- The Earth’s climate system can take decades to respond to changes in CO2.
- Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, which is also produced by human activity. One source of methane is from livestock.
- The 10 hottest years ever recorded have all been in the last 13 years.
- The vast majority (97%) of climate scientists agree that humans are causing climate change.
6. Climate change is already impacting the world and will continue to do so.
- Climate change affects people’s lives in many ways, including extreme weather events, sea level rise, access to food and water and human health.
- Climate change affects our weather by contributing to more intense storms, floods, droughts and heat waves.
- Small changes in global temperature have large impacts on the natural world.
- Expected temperature rise in the next 100 years is 3-7ºF, similar to the difference between an ice age and a non-ice age (interglacial).
- Climate change threatens many plants and animals with extinction. Many species can’t adapt quickly enough.
- Climate change affects the U.S. economy as well our national security.