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A Warmer World for Arctic Animals

Elementary, Middle

Description

The effects of climate change on ecosystems and the distribution of organisms within
them are already evident in the Arctic. In this lesson, students will learn about the
challenges that climate change presents for four specific Arctic predators. They will
explore how such changes ripple throughout ecosystems, habitats, and food webs.

The effects of climate change on ecosystems and the distribution of organisms within them are already evident in the Arctic. In this lesson, students will learn about the challenges that climate change presents for four specific Arctic predators. They will explore how such changes ripple throughout ecosystems, habitats, and food webs.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The study of ecosystems allows students to develop those skills associated with system thinking; i.e. to identify the elements at work in a system, the interaction among those elements, and the affect of altering elements within the system.

Strengths

The resource has a number of strengths:

  • topic - the impact of climate change on the Arctic needs our attention and understanding
  • pedagogy - studying the Arctic from the context of ecosystem change is an effective starting point, leading as it does to a consideration of the implications of these changes
  • resources - the lesson is part of a larger program of study that provides teachers with the resources to pursue related issues. 

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The resource has particular relevance for those science units that examine habitats (grade 4) and later units that investigate the topic of ecosystems (grade 7). It also would support those geography /social studies units that explore weather and climate and human impact on the environment.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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        • Wetland Ecosystems
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        • Interactions and Ecosystems
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        • Science 4: All living things sense and respond to their envionment
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        • Science 7: Earth and its climate have changed over geological time
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        • Science 7: Earth and its climate have changed over geological time

Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Ecosystems (4)

    • Biodiversity
    • Bioregionalism
    • Habitat Loss
    • Interdependence
  • Water (1)

    • Marine Environments

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

The competing perspectives regarding the causes of climate change are not part of the focus of the video and accompanying lesson plan. Nor should it be, given that the world's scientist have pronounced on that issue. Rather, the lesson concerns itself with the  disruption of an ecosystem - the Arctic. The information provided is based upon observations and our knowledge of the interdependent nature of ecosystems. 

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Satisfactory

The lesson limits itself to having students examine the challenges facing Arctic wildlife due to rising temperatures in their habitat. The concluding discussion asks students to consider how rising  temperatures and sea levels will affect human communities. Such a discussion will lead to a consideration of the economic and social consequences of climate change for those who live in the Arctic. This requires another lesson plan but this lesson is a good introduction.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The study of an ecosystem encourages system thinking. System thinking helps students understand and acknowledge the complexity of many of the issues they investigate - the interplay and interdependence of the elements involved.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

A Warmer World for Arctic Animals is part of a larger unit of study on climate change. Each unit includes a "What Can We Do?"segment. Other lessons in the unit have students plan and install native plants as a grade appropriate action response.  

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

Student discussion of the loss of habitat and the resulting threat to the existence of the species who make that habitat their home should lead them to consider how much value they attach to the natural world and the societal values that have the effect of enlarging our carbon footprint.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

Students may be expected in later lessons to better understand and empathize with those people who live in the Arctic and whose way of life is threatened by climate change. One might expect that teachers would see such a study as completing and complementing this study of Arctic wildlife.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

Students will emerge with a better understanding of certain Arctic animals and hopefully empathy for the struggles these animals face because their habitat is a victim of climate change.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The unit plan attached to this particular strand of the larger topic of climate change suggests students take a walk in their school yard or local park to investigate the plants found there and how they might be affected by climate change. Similar field trips might be undertaken to a local botanical garden or aquarium. 

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

The study of the impact of climate change on ecosystems requires that students investigate existing ecosystems, the changes already occurring within these ecosystems and the future changes projected by scientists. 

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The primary goal of the lesson is to have students understand something of the impact of climate change on Arctic wildlife. In doing so, it opens the possibility of student consideration and discussion about the causes of climate change and how we might respond to the challenges posed by what is regarded by many as the greatest issue of our day.  

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

The study of ecosystems is a central topic in the science curriculum - particularly in grades 4 and 7 in most Provinces and Territories. A number of Geography units have students examine people's influence on natural systems. In carrying out the assignments attached to the lesson, students have an opportunity to strengthen those English Arts skills involving listening and reading comprehension as well as writing and research. Watching and responding to the video portion of the lesson will help students practice those skills associated with the Visual Arts. 

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

The lesson plan asks the students to consider three questions related to the impact of climate change on the Arctic. Students seek the answer to these questions by identifying those features that characterize ecosystems; the interactions that might occur between living things and the environment in which they live; and selecting, investigating and reporting on an ecosystem of their choice. Once these student understandings are in place, the lesson focuses on changes that are occurring in the Arctic ecosystem and addresses the questions posed by the lesson.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Very Good

The lesson includes activities that involve students in role playing, individual/group research, viewing and responding to a video, and formulating future scenarios.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

The lesson includes a role-playing simulation designed to have students understand the interactions that occur among the living things that are part of an ecosystem. It also suggests that teachers take students on a "field trip" to the school playground or a local park to study a local ecosystem.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Students have an opportunity to work with others in investigating and reporting on an ecosystem of their choice. Students are also encouraged to investigate those organizations working to protect the Arctic environment and undertake a class project to raise funds to help one of these organizations. 

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

Each of the units in the larger study of climate change includes "Assessment Ideas". The ideas represent a starting point but would have to be supplemented by teacher devised assessment ideas.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good

Students are required to research an ecosystem of their choice, post the ecosystem profiles in a classroom 'gallery" and have the other students draw comparisons among different ecosystems.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

The Arctic provides an excellent case study of the impact of climate change on vulnerable ecosystems. 

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

The lesson plan is designed to have the teacher guide the students through a series of activities based upon the principles of scaffolding but does allow opportunities for student independent work.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.