Human Impacts on Earth’s Systems JT16.png

Lesson 1: Climate Change


Humans depend on Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, land, and ocean for many different cultural resources. The majority of these natural resources are limited and/or nonrenewable within our lifetimes.  As human populations and consumption of these natural resources increase so do the negative impacts on Earth’s systems. (ESS3.C) (ESS3.3)



Biosphere, atmosphere, natural resources, nonrenewable, climate change, climate

Make ahead:

Blue ball (actual balls, make them out of paper, or anything similar. The goal is to resemble a unit of rain)

Projector or similar technology to display images, climate change video (see supplementary section)

Whiteboard or similar tool to display the class responses to questions (see sections below for questions)

Captivate & Collaborate:

Teacher Says/Does

Open Questions

Student Answer

1. We are going to play a game called Climate Catch!


This game will help us to think about how climate change may affect plants.

For round one, the teacher will break the class up into thirds, each group as equal as possible. 1/3 of the class will be trees, 1/3 will be suns, and 1/3 will be rain.

This group of students will be the “rain” students, and this group will be the “tree” students. Each “rain” student receives a blue ball or blue wad of paper. The “rain” students’ goal is to throw their water (blue paper) to the “tree” students who need it to survive.  The goal of the “sun” students is to intercept the rain and steal as many water units as there are tossed to the “tree” students. (Teacher should remind students about appropriate behavior for interactive movement lessons in the classroom so students remember classroom behavior guidelines.)

It is important to note that the “tree” students are not allowed to move as their roots are firmly fixed in the soil.

Record round one results in a data table.

1. Under normal climate conditions (with the current amount of trees, rain, and sun)  how much water are the plants able to catch?

1. Create class data table (see materials section)


Round 1 → Sun students 8

               → Tree Students 15

Once the data is entered for round one, we will begin round two.

The overarching goals in round two will be the same as round one. However, there will be more sun students and less rain students (to model climate change in the game, turn some number of rain students into sun students).

As the number of sun students increases and they are able to intercept more water, the plants will have to work harder to survive.

2. Have students create a group hypothesis before starting round 2 (explain that a hypothesis is an educated guess) on which round they think the plants will be able to get more water. Discuss why they think that.

3.Repeat the activity from round one but now with fewer rain students and more sun students as interference.  The teacher will help students create the data table and create data plots under the two different scenarios.

4. Follow up with additional questions.

5.In the real world the sun and trees are not playing a game catching water, discuss with open questions.

2. Do you think there will be more water collected by trees in the first round vs the second round? Why? What would be a good hypothesis?

3.How much water did the tree students get in round two? Record this number on a class data sheet.

4.Why can’t plants go get water somewhere else? Can we move them? What would the problem be with moving them? (links to invasive species idea below)

5. What do you think the game was trying to demonstrate?

  • Did the trees get more water the first or second time?
  • Why?
  • Was your hypothesis correct?
  • How does this relate to climate change?

2.Hypothesis: the trees will catch more water in the first round than in the second round. This is because there is both more water available to catch and less sun interfering.

3.Example: In round two, tree students were able to get 7 units of water.

4.The trees cannot move because they are rooted in place. We can move them but may run into problems if we do, because they have adapted over many years to live where they do. Also, it would be really hard to move a giant tree! Additionally, by moving plants into new areas you could create invasive species.

5.The game demonstrated how climate change and the associated increase in temperature will make it increasingly difficult for Joshua Trees to get water. The trees got more water the first time.


Teacher Says/Does

Open Questions

Student Answer

6.Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere (area of the planet and atmosphere where organisms live), sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. Changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts for different living things. These impacts can be negative or positive. As average global temperatures increase, it is increasingly difficult for Joshua trees to get enough water to live, or for the young seedlings to survive. Scientists think that the trees could mostly die from places like Joshua Tree National Park which is a place in CA that is famous for Joshua trees!

Show image of Spider Robot - here is a picture created by an artist about some of the issues we have been discussing.

The artist created a robot that would be a mobile vehicle for the trees to move to better climates. It has sensors so it can test the soil conditions and monitor the environment and move the tree to areas where it can survive. The artist was also commenting on the public perception that we do not need to change our bad behaviors (like the list on the board of things leading to climate change) because scientists will save us. The spider was intentionally supposed to be a bit scary and disturbing to make you think about scary science solutions and that we need to take responsibility to our actions and just can’t expect scientists to save us.

As temperature increases and rain decreases, it is increasingly difficult for plants to survive. Plants are unable to go get water somewhere else because they cannot more. We cannot move plants somewhere else because when humans transport plants to non-native areas we run into issues involving invasive species. Native plants have adapted to their specific habitat over thousands of years through natural means. Humans cannot just move species to a new area without impacting the ecosystem of the new area.

6.What do you think was the artist’s intent with this artwork? (turn to a neighbor and discuss, then share with the class).

7. See link below for climate change video and watch it together in class. After watching the video, make a list on the board with student help of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

7. Why is the climate changing?

How is weather different from climate?

7. Pollution, cars, factories, the industrial revolution, all of the trash we make, meat production and farming practices.

Climate is what you expect the temperature and weather patterns to be based on patterns over time, whereas weather is what you get - the actual current weather happening right now outside.


Teacher Says/Does

Open Questions

Student Answer

8.Showing pictures of Joshua tree armor and Spider Robot, ask students to design a tool to address the issues of climate change in Joshua Tree National Park.

I want you to be engineers and design something to save Joshua trees. You can create a robot, a climate bubble, anything you can imagine. You must draw me a diagram of your invention with labels, and describe how your invention works and list the limitations or issues.

8. Describe the purpose and goal of your invention. What possible issues do you foresee with the invention you choose? (students list on assignment)

Supplementary materials:

PowerPoint “Lesson 1 - Climate change” with images

Blue paper or blue balls (water for the game)

Climate Change Video:

Example graph for introductory activity:

# of water units captured by tree students

# of water units captured by sun students

Normal Climate Conditions

Round #1

Hotter Climate Conditions

Round #2