USDA Southwest Climate Hub Education Units

A Partnership Between the USDA Southwest Climate Hub and the Asombro Institute for Science Education

Climate Change and the Water Cycle

10-hour Unit

Target audience: 6th-12th Grade Students

 

Increased temperatures and altered precipitation will make water, a limited resource in the arid southwestern United States, even scarcer in many locations. With the aim of fostering climate literacy in our future citizens, we partnered with the USDA Southwest Climate Hub to create an engaging, fun, and scientifically rigorous education unit for 6-12th grade students. It is aligned with Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

 

Click the icons below to watch brief instructional videos to learn how to conduct select lessons from the Climate Change and the Water Cycle Unit.

In Insulating You, Insulating Earth, students model the enhanced greenhouse effect through an experiment using their own body heat, thermometers, towels, and space blankets. 

Watch this video to learn how to conduct the experiment.

In Evaporation Investigation, students conduct an experiment to investigate the effects of various factors on the rate of evaporation.

Watch this video to learn how to set up the experiment.

In The Water Cycle Game, students illustrate the movement of water in the water cycle through reservoirs in an interactive game. 

Watch this video to learn how to play.

The Ready, Set, Grow lesson is focused on the effects of climate change on primary producers.

Watch this video to learn how to play the kinesthetic game involved.

The Effects of Climate Change on Agricultural Systems

5-hour Unit

Target Audience: 6th-12th Grade Students

 

As the climate changes, increased temperatures and extreme events are predicted in the southwestern United States, which could impact crop productivity and food security. We partnered with the USDA Southwest Climate Hub to design an engaging, fun, and scientifically rigorous education unit aligned with Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. This unit is freely available and intended for use by anyone, especially educators of 6-12th grade students. The unit consists of five activities and was designed to be conducted over five days (or five hours). Each activity can also stand alone however, and the unit need not be completed in its entirety.

 

Click the icons below to watch brief instructional videos to learn how to conduct select lessons from the Effects of Climate Change on Agricultural Systems Unit. 

Farms on the Table teaches students about challenges associated with agricultural production under climate change conditions, through playing a fun game in which they make management decisions for a farm. 

Watch this video to learn how to play the game.

In Interacting Adaptations, students conduct research on agricultural adaptations to climate change, create posters, and carry out a gallery walk to analyze the interconnectedness of adaptations. 

Watch this video to learn more about this lesson.

In Wilt It Be Productive, students evaluate an agricultural adaptation to climate change through an experiment to test the effectiveness of a model shade structure in reducing transpiration from spinach leaves under lights. 

Watch this video to learn how to conduct the experiment. 

Washed Away is a lesson about the effects of extreme precipitation events on soil quality that includes a whole-class demonstration, an experiment, and an online activity. 

Watch this video to learn how to set up and conduct the whole-class demonstration.

In Get Out and Graze, students learn about a heritage cattle type, Raramuri Criollo, that is well adapted to arid conditions and is being studied for its potential to be more successful than traditional cattle types under climate change conditions in the southwest. 

Watch this video to learn how to play the fun kinesthetic game involved.

Climate Change and the Carbon Cycle

3-hour Unit

Target Audience: 9th-12th Grade Students

 

This unit was designed to introduce 9-12th grade students to climate change, the carbon cycle, and the effects of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth’s climate. We partnered with the USDA Southwest Climate Hub to design this rigorous high-school level education unit aligned with Common Core State Standards and the three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards. This unit is freely available and intended for use by anyone, especially educators of 9-12th grade students. The unit consists of three activities and was designed to be conducted over four days. Each activity can also stand alone however, and the unit need not be completed in its entirety.

 

Click the icon below to watch a brief instructional video to learn how to conduct select lessons from the Climate Change and the Carbon Cycle Unit.

Up in the Air is a two-part lesson in which students model Earth’s carbon cycle. In Part 1, students build a qualitative model to demonstrate carbon reservoir sizes and identify the chemical processes that move carbon over long and short time periods. In Part 2, students build a quantitative model of fluxing and non-fluxing carbon in Earth’s carbon reservoirs.

Watch this video to learn how to conduct the activities in Part 1, and watch this video to learn how to play the game in Part 2. 

The Ins and Outs of a Climate Feedback Loop is a lesson about the greenhouse effect and how a positive feedback loop results in increased global temperature. Students will conduct an experiment to model the enhanced greenhouse effect using their own body heat, thermometers, towels, and space blankets. 

Watch this video to learn how to conduct the experiment.

Where's Our Water? Water Conservation in the Southwest

45-minute Lesson

Target Audience: 6th-8th Grade Students

In this standalone lesson, students will interpret graphs to explore the causes of water shortages in the Southwestern United States and predict future conditions. They watch a video about traditional and current water conservation methods and then design, build, and test their own water conservation system. This lesson can be completed in-class, remotely, or as a homework assignment with suggested modifications.

Climate Change and Wildfire

4-day Unit

Target Audience: 9th-12th Grade Students

This unit was designed to introduce 9-12 grade students to the effects of climate change and rising global temperatures on wildfires. We partnered with the USDA Southwest Climate Hub to design an engaging, fun, and scientifically rigorous education unit aligned with Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. This unit is freely available and intended for use by anyone, especially educators of 9-12 grade students. The unit consists of three activities and was designed to be conducted over four days. Each activity can also stand alone however, and the unit need not be completed in its entirety. The curriculum is free to download.

 

Click the icon below to watch a brief instructional video to learn how to conduct select lessons from the Climate Change and Wildfire Unit.

Wildfire: Past and Future helps students to investigate the impacts of climate change on wildfire. They will interpret graphs to see the connections between temperature and wildfire, then conduct an experiment to understand why increasing temperature plays a role in wildfire risk and severity.

Watch this video for an introduction to the class experiment.

In Playing With Fire, students explore how a history of fire suppression and climate change inform management of wildfires through a competitive game.

Watch this video to learn how to conduct a class demonstration.