Climate change is a very complex subject, and students may have heard conflicting information about what is happening, what causes it, and how it will affect the planet’s future. This pre-assessment activity enables you to gauge students’ pre-existing attitudes and content knowledge on this complex and often controversial topic. Remember to save the completed pre-assessment student pages for later comparison with the post-assessment exercise at the end of this unit, which contains the same questions. This repetition allows teachers to effectively evaluate student attitude changes and knowledge gains over time.
Getting Ready: 10 minutes
Doing the Activity: 20–40 minutes
- Copies of “Pre-Assessment: Carbon & Climate” student page
- Make copies of the student page.
Doing the Activity
- Give each student a copy of the Pre-Assessment: Carbon & Climate student page and allow students time to complete it. Share with students that their responses will be used to guide instruction over the coming weeks; the page will NOT be graded. Encourage students to be honest and not to skip difficult questions, but to try to pick the answer that feels right to them. Collect all responses after students have finished.
- Explain to students that over the next few weeks they will be exploring the connection between climate and carbon. Ask students what they know about this topic and what questions they have about it. What terms or associated words and phrases might they have heard or read about? How do they feel about this topic? Why does it matter?
- Pose an open-ended question, such as “Do you think the climate is getting warmer? Why or why not?” This allows students to state what they think, while also revealing some of the evidence that supports their view. Explain that this unit will help them understand and analyze the available evidence on the Earth’s changing climate and learn how they can use it to support their view.
- Encourage students to use their science journals to document other questions they have about this topic. Point out that they will have a chance to revisit these questions after doing the unit activities.
- False. Weather is what is happening daily in an area at a given time, whereas climate is the average of the weather over many years.
- False. Carbon cycles between the atmosphere, the land, and the ocean through many different pathways.
- False. Carbon dioxide is a natural component of the atmosphere. However, the level of carbon dioxide has been rising steadily since 1850.
- False. There have been ice ages and warming spells throughout Earth’s history.
- B – Studying air bubbles in ice cores. While tree rings can provide information about recent climate conditions in a particular area, and air samples from the Mauna Loa Observatory can provide current and recent data about carbon dioxide levels, scientists use air trapped in ice core samples to measure carbon dioxide levels going back 800,000 years.
- D – All of the above.
- C – Plants are blooming earlier in the spring and continuing to grow later in the fall.
- B – Recent article from a university professor that cites the sources of its information.