Studying Climate & Carbon

Meet a scientist, learn about their research, and brainstorm research questions related to climate & carbon.
Ages 8-14 / 60-90
min Activity
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  • Watch a video introduction of a scientist in the GLOBE International STEM Network (GISN) to learn about their research and identify connections between the scientist’s research and your local environment
  • Brainstorm possible research questions your class could investigate using GLOBE protocols related to the Year of Climate and Carbon (YCC) Campaign
  • Create an annotated sketch to illustrate and describe connections between climate and carbon concepts, your local environment, and research questions your class could investigate using GLOBE protocols
  • Exchange materials with your GLOBE partner class to help them learn about your local environment and GLOBE research question(s)

Supporting Research

The instructional framework presented in this lesson incorporates pedagogical practices of Ambitious Science Teaching (AST) to support students in constructing scientific knowledge and engaging in scientific inquiry. This lesson leverages the second practice in the AST framework, “eliciting students’ ideas”, by encouraging students to contribute their ideas, experiences, and background knowledge as they learn about concepts related to climate and carbon. During this virtual exchange, students will strengthen their self-awareness as they make connections between their lived experiences and the science concepts presented, perspective taking as they listen to and learn from their peers, and collaboration as they work together to develop a research question.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out Empatico’s Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners

Part 1: Meet Your Collaborating Scientist from the GLOBE International STEM Network (GISN)!

  1. Introduce the activity to your students.

    You might explain: “Today, we are going to watch a video introduction from a scientist who our class will be working with over the next few months. Then, we will brainstorm research questions we could investigate in our local community related to climate and carbon. The GLOBE scientist is going to share information about their background, research, and tools they are using to better understand the environment, climate, and the role carbon plays in influencing the Earth’s climate system. As we watch the video, be sure to write down any ideas you have about the topics presented or questions you have for the scientist. After we watch the video, we will brainstorm ways that the scientist’s research might be related to our local environment and the environmental issues we shared with our partner class.”

    Note to educators: Please watch the video below of the scientist who is partnered with your classroom. You may also want to show students two short videos from the North America Phenology Campaign, “Why is studying phenology important?” and “What questions are scientists asking about spring green-up?”, to stimulate discussion about the importance of studying phenology and research questions related to phenology.

    Meet Dr. Claudia Caro (Peru) who will be collaborating with Maria Fernanda Kielmanowics' (Argentina) and Juan Felipe Restrepo Mesa's (Colombia) classes

    Meet Larisa Schelkin (United States) who will be collaborating with Dario Greni Olivieri's (Uruguay) and Ronda Schlumbohm's (United States) classes

    Meet Yashraj Patel (India) who will be collaborating with Carey Bryant's (United States) and Lynn Defilippo's (United States) classes
  2. Introduce students to the following driving questions:
    • How are environmental challenges in our local community related to the topics presented in the opening video?
    • What are some research questions related to climate and carbon that we could investigate in our local community using one or more of the following GLOBE protocols: Green-up/Green-down, and/or Carbon Cycle protocols?

    Depending on your class’ familiarity with GLOBE protocols associated with climate & carbon, you may need to spend some time introducing or discussing related protocols or you may identify the GLOBE protocols your class will use in advance.

    See the “Resources” section of the Carbon Cycle page for teacher guides related to posing research questions (including example research questions), developing research plans, and more. Visit the Year of Climate and Carbon Campaign (YCC) page for more information on climate-related GLOBE initiatives related to the YCC campaign, including the North America Phenology Campaign and the Trees Around the LAC Campaign. We encourage educators to submit a YCC Campaign participation form linked to the bottom of the page.
  3. After students have been introduced to climate & carbon protocols, create a driving question board on a whiteboard, chart paper, or digitally to display in the classroom for students. Engage students in a Think-Pair-Share exercise to brainstorm answers to the driving questions.

    Students should:
    Think individually and record their ideas on paper or digitally.
    Pair with one or two students sitting near them and share their ideas with each other to compare how their responses are similar and different.
    Share their thoughts with the rest of the class.

    Encourage students to refine their ideas in small groups, then each group can add their ideas to the driving question board during the whole class discussion. As small groups share their ideas during class discussion, group similar ideas or themes together.
  4. As a class, come to a consensus on a research question that the class could investigate in the local community using GLOBE protocols. Use strategies such as dot-voting to ensure that all students have the opportunity to contribute ideas and participate in the decision-making process.

    Consider using the Characteristics of a Good Research Question Worksheet to refine your research question as a class. The driving question board can be displayed throughout the collaboration period for students to reference and add questions/ideas to as the investigation plan is developed.
  5. Share the top three research questions with your partner class on the GLOBE Community Padlet.

    Note: the GLOBE Community Padlet will be used over the course of several collaborations. For this activity, please share the information below. Click on "+" in the bottom right corner of the Padlet and search for your location to add a post to the map. Be sure to include a descriptive title, corresponding to the bolded items below, on each post to share information about your GLOBE Community.

    What GLOBE Protocols Could You Use to Study Your Environment?: How might you investigate your local environment using GLOBE protocols related to the Carbon Cycle, Green-up, and/or Green-down?
    Research Questions Related to Climate & Carbon: What are the top three research question(s) related to climate and carbon your class could investigate in your local community?

Part 2: Illustrate Important Science Ideas Related to Your Research Question

  1. In small groups, students should create an annotated sketch to summarize the new science ideas presented by the scientist in the opening scenario.

    You might say: “Next, you will create an annotated sketch explaining how the concepts introduced by the scientist in the opening video are related to our local environment. The sketch should illustrate and describe a potential research question that our class could investigate in our local environment related to climate and carbon.”

    The sketches should include illustrations, labels, and succinct comments to describe features, processes, and interrelationships among the different components of their local environment.
  2. Encourage students to brainstorm everything they know about the topic before they begin sketching.

    Consider creating a list of “must-haves” as a class to determine what features and relationships should be included in the sketch. For example, arrows should be used to show the flow of carbon through the Earth’s spheres, sketches should illustrate observations that could be made to study climate & carbon in the local environment, etc.

    By sketching their ideas, students will begin to develop an initial model to illustrate how concepts related to carbon and climate relate to their research question and their local environment.

  3. Students should create their sketches on paper, whiteboards, or digitally.

    It’s important to reinforce that the sketches do not need to be a work of art! Sketches can include simple illustrations to show features, processes, and interactions among the earth systems; the key is to include brief descriptions to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts presented. For more information and examples of concept sketches, visit the Concept Sketches page from Teach the Earth.
  4. Compile photographs of student sketches into a Google slide presentation or Google document to share with your partner class through the GLOBE Community Padlet.

    Consider encouraging students to establish group roles for small-group collaboration and accountability. If time permits, consider conducting a gallery walk for students to share ideas and provide peer feedback to their classmates.
  5. Share your students’ sketches with your partner class through the GLOBE Community Padlet for feedback, discussion of similarities and differences, and to help students learn more about research questions proposed by their partner class.
  6. After exchanging your digital packages, review the artifacts with your students and encourage them to share their observations by asking these questions:
    • What can we learn about our partner class from their sketches? What similarities and differences do you notice?
    • Is there anything that surprised you?
    • What is something that you found interesting and want to learn more about?
    • What questions do you have for our partner class?
  7. Gather students in a reflection circle to discuss the questions below. This is an opportunity to help them share their developing ideas and extend their learning.
    • What questions do you have for the scientist we will be working with? Is there anything you would like them to provide feedback on related to our research question(s)?
    • What is something that you learned from our partner class? Is there anything you found interesting or surprising?
    • What would you like our partner class to provide feedback on?
  8. After your reflection, encourage students to post comments and questions on the GLOBE Community Padlet to provide feedback and build community with your partner class.

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.