Environmental threats to our Planet
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Delivery guides are designed to represent a body of knowledge about teaching a particular topic and contain:
- Content: A clear outline of the content covered by the delivery guide;
- Thinking Conceptually: Expert guidance on the key concepts involved, common difficulties students may have, approaches to teaching that can help students understand these concepts and how this topic links conceptually to other areas of the subject;
- Thinking Contextually: A range of suggested teaching activities using a variety of themes so that different activities can be selected which best suit particular classes, learning styles or teaching approaches.
Climate change and extreme weather conditions cause many threats to both people and the environment. This theme develops understanding of these key environmental threats affecting countries and the world as a whole. Learners will explore the changing climate, including possible causes, and the current consequences. An introduction to the global circulation of the atmosphere leads to a study of extreme weather conditions and subsequent drought which can impact both people and the environment at a range of scales.
|2.3.1||The climate has changed from the start of the Quaternary period.||G|
|2.3.2||There are a number of possible causes of climate change.||G|
|2.3.3||Climate change has consequences.||G, R, N, L|
|2.3.4||The global circulation of the atmosphere controls weather and climate.||G, R|
|2.3.5||Extreme weather conditions cause different natural weather hazards.||G|
|2.3.6||Drought can be devastating for people and the environment.||G, R, N, L|
Approaches to teaching the content
This theme is split into two sections. The first section addresses the big picture of longer term climate change; what has caused it and what impacts it is having around the world. The second section addresses how our atmosphere works; how it creates extreme weather events and focuses on short term climate changes using El Niño as an example.
There are clear links between the two sections of the theme, which will help students to gain a deeper understanding of them both. For example while learning about extreme weather students will investigate the frequency of extreme weather events and if they have changed over time, leading students to investigate a possible link to longer term climate change.
It is key, when delivering this theme, to place great emphasis on the use of evidence to support climate change theories. Students will inevitably start this theme with a range of opinions and it is vital to use a variety of evidence to support the climate change theories that will be taught. This theme presents a clear opportunity to introduce the concept of qualitative and quantitative data as well as primary and secondary sources of evidence.
Common misconceptions or difficulties students may have
Students may already hold strong views on climate change and this coupled with the large amount of information spread via the media, potentially makes this theme engaging and thought provoking. It is important from the outset that students are shown the bigger picture of climate change since the beginning of the quaternary so that they can see the current warming in context.
It is also very important, to teach or often re-teach exactly what the greenhouse effect is and that it is vital to life on Earth, and then to teach the enhanced greenhouse effect. This helps to address any misconceptions and ensure that all are starting from the same open mind-set. It is not necessary to teach this in the very first lesson, but you may inevitably find yourself correcting student’s misconceptions until this is taught.
Students sometimes struggle to comprehend the complexities of weather and climate and the delicate balances and relationships that exist in our atmosphere. It is beneficial during this section of the theme to provide some examples of feedback mechanisms so that students can have a better contextualised understanding of how nature or human activity could affect the atmosphere on a global scale.
Conceptual links to other areas of the specification – useful ways to approach this theme to set students up for topics later in the course
This theme provides numerous opportunities to develop a range of skills that will support students with the ‘Geographical Skills’ unit. Examples include the use of a range of graphs and photographs while looking at evidence for climate change and the use of synoptic charts while tracking extreme weather events.
This theme has clear content links to the ‘People of the Planet’ theme. Shared case studies could be developed for the ‘impacts of climate change’ and ‘extreme weather’ and for the ‘causes of uneven development’ or ‘factors that contribute to a country’s economic development’.
There are also clear content links between the sections on climatic regions of the world and the ‘Ecosystems of the Planet’ theme and links could be made between El Niño and its effects on coral reefs, again linking to the ‘Ecosystems of the Planet’ theme.
There are also some fantastic links to other curriculum areas such as the study of Frankenstein in English which was written after the eruption of Tambora in what became known as the year without a summer. Another interesting link is with History and the increase in the burning of women for witchcraft during the ‘Little Ice Age’.
This resource can be used in the early stages of teaching the Environmental Threats to our Planet theme.
The graph is from Discovering Antartica and shows carbon dioxide and temperature records from the past 800,000 years from the EPICA Ice Core in East Antarctica. It could be used as starter activity with an enquiry question such as ‘Does this graph disprove manmade climate change?’ Or it could be used to explore the link between carbon dioxide and climate change.
There is also good potential to use this as a data response activity asking, asking some targeted questions about the graph where students can annotate it with responses.
This activity provides students with an introduction into what life was like during the little ice age and is ideal for use as a starter activity.
Using the painting ‘The Hunters in the Snow’ students annotate around the painting prompted by the geographical questions. Students are then provided with the story behind the painting and this is then linked to the time period known as the ‘Little Ice Age’.
Teachers can find lots of detailed and accurate information by typing the name of the painting into a search engine, as it is one of the most famous winter landscape paintings of its time.
Students are divided into small groups, each group is going to learn and then ultimately teach another group about a different source of evidence for climate change e.g. ice core data. Each group is provided with information about their source of evidence which they have to read, understand and summarise. The groups then divide up and teach other groups about their source of evidence until everybody has a complete summary sheet of the different sources of evidence for climate change.
It is useful to model this activity by teaching about one type of evidence yourself before the students begin the activity. You could use glacier retreat as an example, this BBC video is a useful starting place.
This activity culminates in the students completing a diamond ranking exercise. It enables the students to firstly re-cap what they have learnt about the different types of evidence for climate change and then to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each type of evidence.
Finally they evaluate the importance of the evidence and rank them in order of importance. Students then justify their decisions.
This activity encourages students to evaluate whether or not current warming is natural or man-made.
Students split into groups of four and are given a statement to debate. They are told to either argue that the statement supports natural, or man-made climate change theories. They can be provided with web links and newspaper reports and are given 20 minutes to construct their argument. The teacher then constructs a boxing ring in the classroom and a team member from each group takes part in a series of ‘verbal boxing’ rounds in which they ‘battle’ to win the argument The teacher decides when a ‘knock out’ punch has been delivered (a debate winning statement has been presented).
This activity can be followed up by a piece of extended writing. As well as the students evaluating evidence this exercise teaches them the importance of using evidence to back up opinions. You could also ask students to prepare for this lesson by telling them if they will be debating on the ‘man-made’ or natural causes’ side of the fence and asking them to complete a home investigation task to research this.
The aim of this lesson is for students to investigate a small number of consequences of climate change from a variety of locations around the world. The activity should provide a good breadth of knowledge and then lead to students studying one consequence in more depth.
This has been designed as a computer based lesson but can also work as a conventional lesson if the teacher provides paper copies of the news stories.
Students use the Consequences of Climate Change slide with a world map that has enquiry questions attached to different parts of the globe. These enquiry questions are hyperlinked to news stories about different impacts of climate change around the globe. Students visit the links and summarise the impacts. They then pick one to research further and produce a presentation about.
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