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Getting Micro with Climate (3rd-6th) | Series 8, Lesson #1

Getting Micro with Climate

Key Topics/Vocabulary: Climate, Weather, Season, Microclimate, Habitat, Heat Island Effect/Urban Heat Island

Grade Level: 3rd-6th

Click here for #8 Series Description

Science Framework

Spanish Lesson Plan

Lesson Overview:  

In this lesson students will explore the difference between climate, weather, and seasons. Each is related to one another and can affect the growth of plants. Field observations and data collection of microclimates existing on campus will give students real data to argue why certain designs and landscapes are more ecologically friendly than others, as well as more comfortable to people, animals and plants.

Suggested Activities and Learning Objectives by Grade Level:

Essential Question(s) that Connect CCCs and SEPs:


Climate- The general weather conditions in an area over a long period of time

Weather-How the atmosphere is behaving throughout the day, rain,sun,wind. This can change a lot!

Season-A period of the year characterized by different weather patterns(Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter)

Microclimate- The general weather pattern of a small area where the surrounding areas climate is different

Habitat- A place where the needs of an animal are met

Heat Island Effect/Urban Heat Island- Occurs when a city experiences much warmer temperatures than the surrounding rural area



Activity Procedure:


Today, we are going to learn about microclimates on our campus! What does the word “micro” mean? Where have you heard it before? Maybe you’ve heard about microscopes, microorganisms or microfiber. Micro means small! And what does the word climate mean? What do you think a microclimate is? Why study microclimates? Temperature has an impact on the kinds of plants and animals that can live in a particular place. Varying types of land cover can affect temperature. What kinds of scientific investigations can be done to study microclimates? What tools will we need? (Scale; Planning and Carrying out Investigations)


Either divide students into groups or have them complete the activity independently. Instruct students to  go into the garden and find an area that they think is a micro climate (somewhere they think would be hotter, colder, wetter, or drier than most of the garden). Encourage students to look under rocks, on top of asphalt, in the garden beds, etc.


Creating microclimates can benefit us as humans by reducing energy needs to cool or heat an area. This makes areas more comfortable for ourselves and also allows desirable plants to grow.  Did you know that planting trees on the south side of your house can help cool it down during the summer?  And planting trees around streets and parking lots can help keep people, cars and buildings cool?  Trees that block wind can help reduce evaporation and water loss, as well as keep us warmer, out of the wind.  

We live in the northern hemisphere. Based on the tilt of the earth, the sun is usually to the south, making the south side of buildings, mountains, etc. hotter than the shady north side. If you observe tree growth on the hills around San Luis Obispo county, you can often find more trees on the shady (and therefore wetter north slopes). Even though it freezes in north county, some people are able to grow lemon and orange trees by planting them on the south side of their houses where they get extra heat reflected off of the building!

Use some examples from gardening too, to explain the effects of microclimates: lettuce grows best in cooler seasons.  But it can be grown in the hot summer if it is planted in shady areas.  Which side of a building would you grow lettuce on in the northern hemisphere? In what other microclimates might lettuce grow? Take a moment to define and relate the remaining vocabulary words.

Action: Exploring Microclimates

  1. Review the garden agreements.
  2. Take a moment to explain the ‘Microclimate Observation Sheet’ and the uses of your measuring tools. It is helpful to completely demonstrate the activity by recording data from a sample microclimate.
  3. Have individual students or groups return to their microclimates and record observations and data on their observation sheet.
  4. Encourage the class to pair-share with their classmates, and discuss what they discovered.


Call on students to describe the microclimates that they found and ask some of the following questions: What was the temperature in this spot?  What might be making this a hot or cool spot?  What plants and animals did you notice living there? What patterns did you notice in the plants and animals found in the colder microclimates vs. the warmer microclimates?  Did you notice any differences between the plants and animals that live in the other locations? What were the differences? How does weather and seasons affect/change your microclimates? (Patterns; Asking Questions and Defining Problems; Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information). What ways might you create a microclimate in the school garden?

Extension/Filer Activities:

Gardens Change Lives!                                                          Page  of