A Cooperative Classroom Investigation of Climate Change

Journal Article by: Juanita Constible, Luke Sandro, and Richard E. Lee Jr. Digital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

Scientists have a particularly difficult time explaining warming trends in Antarctica—a region with a relatively short history of scientific observation and a highly variable climate (Clarke et al. 2007). Regardless of the mechanism of warming, however, climate change is having a dramatic impact on Antarctic ecosystems. In this article, the authors describe a standards-based, directed inquiry they have used in tenth grade biology classes to highlight the ecosystem level changes observed on the western Antarctic Peninsula. This activity stresses the importance of evidence in scientific explanations and demonstrates the cooperative nature of science.

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A selection from The Science Teacher—September 2007

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Reviews (12)
  • on Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:36 PM

This article describes the jigsaw model for discussing climate change data. The resource provides detailed directions, instructional materials, and rubrics for evaluation. A very classroom friendly resource!

Steven Autieri  (Vernon, CT)
Steven Autieri (Vernon, CT)

  • on Wed Oct 09, 2013 7:47 PM

I love this lesson plan! I currently have my students conduct a climate change science fair project in the spring. This activity would be a great lead-in, and it would help provide a common background knowledge on climate change for my students. The lesson appears to be complete, including the content/data papers and questions for students to use as resources for the project. I am looking forward to completing this project with my students.

Susanne Hokkanen  (Orland Park, IL)
Susanne Hokkanen (Orland Park, IL)

  • on Mon May 20, 2013 3:45 PM

Students in the activity provided learn the effect of global climate change on the Adelie Penguins in Antarctica. These penguins rely on ice flows to access the krill they eat. The complete activity is presented for high school students but I would use it in an 8th grade class. Students are presented in a group with real data and are asked to explain the trend based on their specialty of an ornithologist, or an oceanographer, or a meteorologist, or a marine ecologist, or a fisheries biologist. Not only are they working with real data but they also learn the unique interests of the different kinds of scientists working on the same task.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:22 PM

This is a top-notch lesson that investigates climate change through the inquiry process. Students in a group are assigned different scientist such as oceanographer, meteorologist, ornithologists, and climatologist roles as part of this jig saw activity. The scientist group together with like scientist and interpret their data and article. Then, they meet back with their group and share their findings. Then as a group, trends and patterns are discussed. This is an excellent lesson as it portrays how scientist work in teams, collaborate, and share information across the disciplines.

Angelika Fairweather  (Bradenton, FL)
Angelika Fairweather (Bradenton, FL)

  • on Tue May 24, 2011 11:02 AM

In this activity, students learn the importance of sea ice to Adelie penguin population. The article includes excellent visual aids and charts and explains, in detail, the procedure to follow for a successful lesson. Using the jigsaw technique, students embark on an inquiry journey where they learn about the importance of sea ice to penguin communities in the Antarctic. Students are assigned specialities (such as biologists, meteorologists, and ornithologists) and work in groups with other "scientists" to investigate how climate change is effecting the antarctic. I look forward to incorporating this lesson into my curriculum soon!

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

  • on Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:02 PM

This article focuses on a student investigation of the impact of climate change, sea ice changes and food supply shifts on Adelie penguins and chinstrap penguins in Antarctica. This lesson plan is skillfully arranged to promote cooperative teamwork and the development of student expertise as a specialist on a component of the larger system. The lesson plan encourages critical thinking about the interactions between complex environmental variables and decisions based upon scientific evidence. One limitation to this resource is that the publication date is 2003, so for teaching purposes it would be helpful to do some background preparation research on the latest population data on these species.

Dorothy Ginnett  (Stevens Point, WI)
Dorothy Ginnett (Stevens Point, WI)

  • on Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:53 PM

In this article, the authors describe the interactions of many climate events on two species of penguins, and a lesson to allow students to take on the roles of experts in examining the impact of those changes from many perspectives. Detailed lesson plans and assessments are included. Could easily be adapted for middle school students as well.

Jennifer Rahn  (Delafield, WI)
Jennifer Rahn (Delafield, WI)

  • on Mon Jan 10, 2011 10:36 PM

We have all heard that changes are occurring in the ice cap of Antarctica, and that the penguins are losing habitat. But how have scientists arrived at those conclusions, and what are some of the factors that have been discovered that lead us to the conclusions related to shrinking populations of penguin species? In this jigsaw activity, students become "experts" in a single aspect related to penguin phenology, and use this information in conjunction with that of their classroom peers to provide arguments and evidence related to the observed ecosystem changes. Not only does it foster inquiry, but provides a supportive environment to demonstrate the cooperative nature of science.

Jennifer Rahn  (Delafield, WI)
Jennifer Rahn (Delafield, WI)

  • on Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:16 PM

This article is a great way to help introduce students to how climate change affects the whole world. Plus it includes a lesson that is interactive for students. Great article, thanks!

Michelle A
Michelle A

  • on Thu May 12, 2011 7:10 AM

This is a very interesting journal article that describes how a high school biology teacher was able to get students be become personally invested in learning about climate change. They studied the impact on penguins living in the Antartic and through this study were able to learn about many important aspects of climate change.

Dorian Janney  (Gaithersburg, MD)
Dorian Janney (Gaithersburg, MD)

  • on Tue May 10, 2011 10:45 PM

This journal article describes ow a 10th grade biology class used a Jigsaw cooperative method to learn about the impact of penguins in the Antarctic as they adapted to various aspects of climate change.

Dorian Janney  (Gaithersburg, MD)
Dorian Janney (Gaithersburg, MD)

  • on Tue May 10, 2011 10:45 PM

This journal article describes ow a 10th grade biology class used a Jigsaw cooperative method to learn about the impact of penguins in the Antarctic as they adapted to various aspects of climate change.

Dorian Janney  (Gaithersburg, MD)
Dorian Janney (Gaithersburg, MD)

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