In this project-based learning activity, students explore the geologic history of a particular region of the world to see how past climatic changes have altered the landscape. Students create museum exhibits to model what earlier climate patterns can reveal about current global temperature trends.
Note: We provide information and resource materials for the Great Lakes, which is a particularly interesting area to study on this topic. However, you may easily adapt the activity to focus on another region, state, or city. Have a look at local examples from New York and Kentucky.
- Students will identify ways that climatic changes have altered the landscape of a specific region over time.
- Students will determine how past climate patterns can inform our understanding of current global temperature trends.
- Video on ice ages or glaciers, on the geologic history of the region students will study, or on extinct animals from the last ice age (optional, see Additional Resources)
- Materials for glacier demonstration (optional, see Engage in Doing the Activity)
- Copies of Letter from the Museum Director, Climate Science Project Planner, and Climate Time Machine Evaluation Rubric student pages, one per student
- Slips of paper and a bowl or hat (optional)
- Student journals or planners
- Access to the Internet for research
- Poster board, marking pens, design software, or other exhibit materials
- Style guidelines for citing sources (for example, Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, optional)
- Getting Ready: 45 minutes or more
- Doing the Activity: Five or more 50-minute periods
- Evaluate: Varies, depending on option selected
- Make copies of the student pages.
- Choose and plan for one or more of the engagement activities described in Step 1 of Doing the Activity.
- Create a timeline for the project, including dates for specific components. A possible timeline might be:
- Engage (introducing the project): one 50-minute class period
- Explore (identifying what students need to know for the project): one 50-minute class period
- Explain (planning and conducting research): one to two 50-minute class periods, plus time between for research
- Elaborate (planning and creating exhibit): one or more 50-minute class periods
- Evaluate (presenting exhibit): one or more 50-minute class periods
- (Optional) Write the names of the project expert roles (Historical Geologist, Engineer, Climatologist, and Ecologist) on slips of paper and place into a bowl or hat.
- (Optional) Arrange with an exhibit designer at a local museum to talk with your students about what goes into making a successful exhibit.
- See Additional Resources to find other supports for teaching this activity.
PLT Conceptual Framework
- 4.2. The structure and scale of ecosystems are influenced by environmental factors such as soil type, climate, availability of water, and human activities.
- 5.0. Structures and systems may be stable and yet change over various periods of time.
- 5.3. Ecosystems change over time through patterns of growth and succession. They are also affected by other phenomena such as disease, insects, fire, weather, climate, and human intervention.
See Standards Connections in the Appendices for a list of standards addressed in this activity.