Climate Change and Michigan Forests

Contributor
Dr. Ines Ibáñez and Dr. Michaela Zint, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

The Middle School unit entitled Climate Change and Michigan Forests consists of 10 lessons on climate change and the local environment in Michigan based on forest ecology research conducted at the University of Michigan. The lessons can be adapted to other locales with a few changes. A teacher’s guide, PowerPoints, links to videos, student worksheets and answer keys are provided. Teachers should note that it takes time to access the lessons on the website as each lesson and each component of it must be downloaded separately.

The authors include tips for teaching a unit on climate change in situations where the topic may be controversial.  Parts of the lessons are very prescriptive, with the students taking notes on worksheets while watching videos and PowerPoints.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 7
  • Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on cause and effect relationships between resources and growth of individual organisms and the numbers of organisms in ecosystems during periods of abundant and scarce resources.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In Lessons 3-5, students explore the relationship between temperature and precipitation and the growth of tree rings. In Lesson 5, they examine futuristic models made by forest ecologists predicting growth of six trees in response to changing levels of carbon dioxide in the air. In Lesson 6, they interpret climographs showing temperature and precipitation of various biomes and relate it to photosynthesis and growing seasons. To fully address the Performance Expectation, the teacher would need to ask questions about the cause and effect relationship between resources during periods of abundancy and scarcity and the number of organisms in an ecosystem. The unit also addresses to a lesser degree the Performance Expectation MS-LS1-5 – Reproduction of Organisms - “Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms” in lessons 1, and 3-6.

MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.

Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence include grade-appropriate databases on human populations and the rates of consumption of food and natural resources (such as freshwater, mineral, and energy). Examples of impacts can include changes to the appearance, composition, and structure of Earth’s systems as well as the rates at which they change. The consequences of increases in human populations and consumption of natural resources are described by science, but science does not make the decisions for the actions society takes.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In lesson 7, students study how climate change impacts human economic activity in 5 different biomes. They complete a worksheet that asks them to make a claim, collect evidence, and provide reasoning. Pieces of evidence includes weather, ecosystems, and economic impacts. The teacher will need to engage students in a discussion of how human population and consumption of natural resources impact the biomes, and review the difference between weather and climate. They may want to substitute “climate” for “weather” in the worksheet. In Lesson 8, students discuss mitigating actions and adaptations they can make to lessen the impact of climate change and in Lesson 9, they present and peer-evaluate posters summarizing the information they have gathered. The unit also includes to a lesser degree the Performance Expectation MS-LS2-4 – Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems - “Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations” in lessons 4, 5, and 7-9.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In Lesson 5, student examine predicted growth of various species of trees based on a range of temperatures in graphs provided by the School of Natural Resources and Environment at University of Michigan. These mathematical models of tree growth are based on data collected on past forest growth and climate information. This process is described in various video resources in lessons throughout the unit. The teacher will need to assist students in connecting the various sources of evidence and seeing how the evidence aligns with scientific ideas, principles and theories. If groups of students work on selected pieces of data and share what they’ve learned with the rest of the class, the teacher can ask questions about the models and how the information ties together. If students are able to take a field trip as described in the unit, they would be able to conduct their own experiments to examine how climate change might affect a local forest.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In Lessons 3-6, students analyze and interpret data about tree ring growth, precipitation and temperature to provide evidence of the relationship between climate and plant growth.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
In Lessons 3-5, students explore the relationship between temperature and precipitation and the growth of tree rings. In Lesson 5, they examine models made by forest ecologists predicting growth of six species of tree populations in response to changing temperatures. In Lesson 6, they interpret climographs showing temperature and precipitation of various biomes and relate it to photosynthesis and growing seasons. To fully address the Disciplinary Core Idea, the teacher would need to ask questions about the impact of an increasing human population on living things.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
In Lesson 8, students discuss mitigating actions and adaptations they can make in their personal lives to lessen the impact of climate change and in Lesson 9, they present and evaluate posters summarizing the information they have gathered on the relationship between temperature and tree growth, on impacts of climate on regional biomes, and predictions of how climate impacts human activity.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Throughout the unit, students see that small changes in the environment (temperature, precipitation, carbon dioxide levels) can cause large changes in the growth rates of various trees. In Lesson 1, they study the differences between deciduous and coniferous trees and adaptations the trees make. In Lessons 5 and 6, they examine the impact of seasonal and climate change on trees. In Lesson 7, they investigate how changes in climate impact an ecosystem.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Cause and effect relationships are used to predict tree growth based on tree core samples from Michigan forests. Students discover the relationship between precipitation, temperature, and tree growth in a natural system. They study designed systems when considering the predictions of tree growth related to temperature change in future greenhouse gas scenarios developed in by the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The Climate Change and Michigan Forests 10-lesson fits together coherently and focuses on both Earth and Life Science concepts. Each lesson is based on previous lessons and provides a need to engage in the current lesson. The level of student involvement in the Practices increases throughout the unit. The format of the initial lessons relies heavily on students watching PowerPoints and videos and taking notes on a prescriptive worksheet. The notes pages are passive, not active learning, as all the information is presented to the students. Teachers more comfortable with engaging students in the Science and Engineering Practices would want to edit or eliminate the worksheets so that students are allowed to ask questions and design their own investigations to learn the content. By the end of the unit, students are writing scientific explanations and communicating what they’ve learned in a poster which their peers evaluate on the level of science content, so the use of the three dimensions does increase throughout the sequence of lessons.

  • Instructional Supports: The unit engages students in authentic and meaningful scenarios about climate change and forests. Although the resource is written for students in Michigan, it can be easily adapted to other locations, although no instructions are provided for generalizing the lessons. Students learn about climate change and how forests adapt to changes in temperature and precipitation, they then apply what they’ve learned in adapting and making modifications in response to climate change in various biomes around the Earth. The development of the Science and Engineering Practices progresses throughout the unit so that students are increasingly responsible for making sense of phenomena. The beginning lessons are prescriptive with students taking notes; in the later lessons they are asked to peer review posters based on included science content. No modifications for differentiation of learning are included. The teacher may want to modify student roles when they are working in groups or edit the worksheets to meet students’ learning needs. The teacher’s guide addresses controversy and opposition to climate change science with suggestions for dealing with students and parents. The website is cumbersome; users must download every lesson and every item in them separately. Teachers would need to allow an hour to download everything necessary to do the unit.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The pre- and post-assessment provided at the end of the unit addresses science content, with a mix of closed and open-ended questions focusing on the Disciplinary Core Ideas. The other two dimensions – Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts - are addressed when the students construct and present posters. The teacher can construct a rubric that focuses on the practices and share it with the students to highlight their use in compiling the elements of the poster. The practices are also addressed in a limited manner in the worksheets. Some of the convergent questions in the worksheets could be modified to ask students to draw a model or explain their reasoning, for example. Worksheets and answer keys are provided throughout the unit to assist with monitoring student progress as well.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Numerous videos are used in the lessons, but the students do not interact with them. On the website, each item for each lesson must be downloaded separately.