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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

This activity develops student understanding of the relationship of weather and climate. Students use interview techniques to explore perceptions about local climate change among long-time residents of their community. Students then compare the results of their interviews to long term local temperature and precipitation records.

Activity takes about 3-4 classroom periods with several weeks for students to work on project assignment. Students need access to computers.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Definition of climate and climatic regions
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4a
Climate is not the same thing as weather – defining difference
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4b

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Students will need help finding interview subjects and more time practicing their interviewing skills than the activity suggests.
  • Educators should start out teaching about climate variability over relatively small distances.
  • Educators may have to use climographs for their areas to identify comparable weather stations with long term temperature and precipitation records.
  • There are other sources for local historical weather data that vary from community to community. Look for a more complete local historical record online.
  • The assessment ideas suggest comparing 30-year records of temperature and precipitation in arctic cities to local cities. Include this assessment - it will strengthen the scientific understanding of the topic.
  • Resource from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) may provide a more complete learning experience than this resource (listed in the reference list.) Educators may find that the UCS resource helpful in in improving this activity.

About the Science

  • Activity teaches how to relate qualitative survey results to quantitative data sets.
  • Students are asked to take mean weather data from the closest city to them. But there are only a few US cities tracked on the NOAA website and the closest one may not have data representative of their area. Educator may need to supplement weather data from other sources.
  • Students interview long time community residents, analyze and interpret survey data and historic weather records.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity helps students develop interviewing skills.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy to follow lesson plan - all materials including worksheets and educator guide are easily accessible.
  • Students will need access to a computer and may need help downloading data.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

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Changes Close to Home --Discussion  

I'm wondering if anyone found other easy weather data sources, since the NOAA one only offers a few regional locations to carry out this activity as written. ITs a great activity, I'd like to localize it, but not sure what data/weather source would meet the needs, any ideas?


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