Global Warming Webquest - Teacher's Section


Teacher Introduction

Global warming has become one of the most pressing issues facing the United States and the world. The following webquest, based on the Koshland Science Museum’s exhibit Global Warming: Facts and Our Future, was designed primarily to introduce high school and middle school students to the complicated issues surrounding global warming and climate change. Through participating in a fictitious scenario, students will take an active role in determining how and why climate is changing and how humans may have contributed to these changes. Students become climate scientists, policy analysts, economists, energy experts, and urban planners as they learn about climate science, environmental impacts, policy initiatives, and renewable energy choices. Upon completion of their individual tasks, student teams present their findings and make recommendations that address the situation.

How To Use This Activity: Ideally, the webquest should be used in preparation for visits to the Koshland Science Museum or for extended learning afterward. However, the activity can also be completed online. The webquest will introduce students to the concepts of global warming, climate change, and sustainable energy sources.

In the classroom, this webquest activity can be used in many different ways To encourage cooperative learning, students should be divided up into groups of five and each student in the group should assume the role of one of the climate action team members. Working in a group allows students to experience the way a real-world investigative team operates. Alternatively, students can complete the webquest individually and investigate all five roles by themselves. Either way, students should be required to share their findings with the class by creating a presentation using multimedia whenever possible.

This webquest is designed to take approximately one week. To shorten the activity, students could complete only the group work section, which should take one class period.

You can find more information about the webquest in the following sections

Flowchart and worksheets - Graphical flowchart of student activities and corresponding worksheets.
Science Education Standards - The National Science Education Standards relevant to this activity.
Evaluation - Rubric for evaluating student achievement
Suggested Websites and Resources



Flowchart and Worksheets

The following worksheets are used in this webquest.

Group worksheet

Individual worksheets
Climate Scientist
Policy Analyst
Energy Expert
Urban Planner

Science Standards

Science Standards

The Global Warming Webquest is modeled on recommendations made in the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) and meets the following Inquiry and Science Content standards:

For Middle School Students

Content Standard A – Understanding about Scientific Inquiry
“Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.”

Students work with peers and consider the evidence that informs decisions related to climate change to draw links between evidence and explanations.

Content Standard B – Physical Science
“Students should develop an understanding of properties of matter, motion and forces and transfer of energy.”

Students learn the transfer of energy through models illustrating the “greenhouse effect.” Students are given an opportunity to better understand factors that contribute to changes in the Earth’s climate, including the Earth’s orbit variation in solar emission and ocean circulation, and changes in greenhouse gases and aerosol concentrations in the atmosphere.

Content Standard C – Life Science
“Students should develop an understading of regulation and behavior and populations and ecosystems.

Students develop a deeper understanding of populations and ecosystems as they learn about possible impacts of global climate change and changing ecosystems. Adaptations among organisms and populations are likely as temperature and water availability fluctuates.

Content Standard D – Earth and Space Science
“Students should develop an understanding of the Earth in the solar system.

Through data and information presented on global atmospheric patterns and the role of oceans in climate , students develop a better understanding of the structure of Earth as a system, Earth’s geographic history, and Earth’s role in the solar system. Students also learn that solar energy is the Earth’s main source of energy and that climate patterns, seasons, and ecosystems depend on the input, transformation, and retention of solar energy.

Content Standard E – Science and Technology
“Students should develop understandings about science and technology.”

Students will observe the many ways in which scientists have collected data and predicted future climate change. Methods of data collection and analysis are explained. Data from the last century are used in computer models to understand patterns over time.

Content Standard F - Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
“Students should develop understanding of natural hazards and risks and benefits.

Students gain a better understanding of natural hazards as they relate to global climate patterns. As students examine potential impacts of climate changes, they are challenged to think about estimating rates of change, types of natural disasters and possible locations of those disasters.

Content Standard G – History and Nature of Science
“Students should develop an understanding of science as a human endeavor and nature of science.

The webquest activity examines the impact of human endeavors on the climate system and how that information can be used to predict future events.


For High School Students

Content Standard A – Understanding about Scientific Inquiry
“Students should develop understandings about scientific inquiry, recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models and communicate and defend a scientific argument.

Through the “use of empirical standards, logical argument and skepticism” students analyze the data presented, evaluate how they were generated, and consider their validity and significance of in predicting potential global climate change. Students use evidence to support and defend their positions, and think logically and critically about potential future consequences of global climate change.

Content Standard B – Physical Science
“Students should develop understandings of chemical reactions, conservation of energy and the increase in disorder, and interactions, of energy and matter.”

Students explore the role of greenhouse gases in natural and amplified warming. Students also explore evidence of human impacts and changing CO2 levels and are required to apply their knowledge of dynamic systems, data analysis, and the interactions of matter and energy. Students look at methods of collecting and interpreting evidence. Students use computer models to apply knowledge of chemical interactions and their consequences to forecast a changing but uncertain climatic future.

Content Standard C – The Cell
“Students should develop understanding of the intersependence of organisms, and matter, energy and organization in living systems.

Students explore how the carbon cycle, cellular functions, chemical reactions, and human population size and activities affect the environment. Data from prehistoric climates allow students to apply their understanding of matter, energy, and organization in past living systems to think critically about the impacts of human behavior. Students use models to predict the effects of future climate change on health and disease, agriculture, changing water resources, and loss of biodiversity.

Content Standard D – Earth and Space Science
“Students should develop understanding of energy in the Earth system.

The webquest activities give students a chance to work with scientific evidence to examine the effects of the Earth’s energy balance on climate. Students investigate evidence for global warming through deep time, collect data on past changes, and compare those data with more recent data and with changes in human population sizes and activities.

Content Standard E – Science and Technology
“Students should develop understandings of understandings about science and technology.

The webquest activities provide opportunities for students to gather and analyze data developed by advanced technology and modeling systems. Students see how the amounts and forms of data increase as new technologies are developed and employed.

Content Standard F – Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
“Students should develop understandings of environmental quality, natural and human induced hazards, and science and technology in local, national and global challenges.

The webquest activities allow students to work in collaborative teams to collect data, think about their implications, and consider potential future global challenges. After students understand the science, they have opportunities to discuss implications for public policy and economics.

Content Standard G – History and the Nature of Science
“Students should develop understandings of science as a human endeavor and the nature of scientific knowledge.

Students learn that scientists share their methods and data, review each other’s work, and come to differing conclusions about results. Working as scientists, students discuss the data provided, share their interpretations, pose additional questions, and debate the significance of climate uncertainties in the future.



Download the Evaluation Rubric.

Alternate Activities

Global Warming Webquest Sugested Websites and Resources page

Suggested Websites:

National Academy of Sciences :
National Academy of Sciences - Global Change

State Government:
Energy Quest (State of California)
State of California - Climate Change Portal

Federal Government:
Goddard Institute for Space Studies
US EPA Climate Change Kids Site
US EPA Climate Change
NOAA Climate Prediction Center
NOAA Climate Program Office
NOAA Paleoclimatology
NASA's Earth Observatory
EIA Energy Kids Links

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Implications of Climate Change (IPCC)
UNEP-GRID-Arendal Climate Change

Scientific Organizations:
AAAS Climate Change Newsroom
AAAS Power Up! On-Line Energy Game
The Discovery of Global Warming On-line Textbook

Princeton University Carbon Mitigation Initiative
The Stabilization Triangle: A Concept & Game (Princeton University CMI)
Climate Discovery Teacher's Guide Carleton College - Teaching Climate Change

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) :
Teachers' Guide to High Quality Educational Materials on Climate Change and Global Warming (Carnegie Mellon)
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
UCS - The Great Green Web Game
UCS - Just the Facts
UCS - Climate Choices
Energy Hog
NRDC's Green Squad
The Keystone Center - Climate Status Investigations
The Nature Conservancy Climate Change Initiative
California Global Climate Change & Energy
National Energy Education Development Project
Renewable Energy Policy Project and Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology
Earth Day Network
Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (Careers in Science)
25 x '25
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies

New York Times Science - Global Warming
Time Magazine Special Report - Global Warming
ABC News - Hot Zone: Global Warming
PBS - NOW: Global Warming
PBS - NOVA Frontline: Global Warming
PBS - NOVA Frontline: Warnings From the Ice
PBS - Scientific American Frontiers: Hot Times in Alaska
PBS - NOVA Online Adventures: Tracking El Nino
PBS - NOVA: Sinking City of Venice
NPR - Science Friday
NPR - Tech Nation
National Geographic - Global Warming
National Geographic Kids - Melting Away
Seed Magazine - Climate Change Cribsheet

Science Museums:

Exploratoriam - Science From the Poles/Climate Change
Exploratorium - Climate Change

Real Climate Blog

Suggested DVDs:

The Great Warming
An Inconvenient Truth
National Geographic's Strange Days on Planet Earth
Discovery Channel - Global Warming: What You Need to Know with Tom Brokaw
Kilowatt Ours

Suggested Books:

The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World's Greatest Challenge
Kirstin Dow and Thomas Downing

The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth
Tim Flannery

Field Notes from a Catastrophe
Elizabeth Kolbert

Climate Change: Turning Up the Heat
A. Barrie Pittock

The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations
Eugene Linden

An Inconvenient Truth
Al Gore

The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future
Richard B. Alley

Thin Ice: Unlocking the Secrets of Climate in the World's Highest Mountains
Mark Bowen

The North Pole Was Here - Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World
Andrew C. Revkin

Climate Change and Biodiversity
Edited by Thomas E. Lovejoy and Lee Hannah

Science Magazine's State of the Planet 2006-2007
The Editors of Science

Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America 's Energy Future
Jeff Goodell