Climate Change in My Watershed: an Inquiry
Climate Change in My Watershed is one of a series of Inquiries — called Climate Change Where I Live — that enable students to examine the impacts of climate change where they live, identify the mitigation and adaptation measures required to address these changes, and take action.
Climate Change in My Watershed was developed by Aleks Erdelyi and Rob Millard of Notre Dame Catholic High School (Carleton Place) with Dick Holland and Gordon Harrison of GreenLearning Canada.
• Teachers can use the student instructions to understand the pace and direction of the inquiry. Specific tips have been listed below. For more suggestions and support please consult the GreenLearning Inquiry Learning Guide.
• Our Guide suggests that Inquiry can be seen as a continuum ranging from largely student-centred to fully teacher directed. An online version is necessarily a hybrid, but it is adaptable to your needs and your classroom.
Teacher Notes → Spark, Hypothesize & Plan
• Essential to the launch of an inquiry is a genuine and rich Spark! that can help students see the scope of the inquiry and the need for research and analysis. The student instructions suggest a Spark! in the form of a question to think about, but you may want to think of an alternative that is more specific or local are suited to your classroom.
• The support data for the CCWIL Inquiries is rich and you can let students brainstorm widely and pursue the questions that match their interests and their lives. [Work in Progress: GreenLearning is developing an online space for CCWIL that will facilitate students searching for resources more easily, by their location — in the interim, most of the resources in this inquiry are from the Mississippi Watershed.]
Teacher Notes → Explore & Research
• For this section of the Inquiry, ensure that students consult the Support Resources: Watershed document. This is aimed at students and will be much more helpful than the “Google gives me everything I need.” habit.
Teacher Notes → Analyze & Check
• The key support from the teacher in this section is to help the students dig deep in their analysis and be see where the data takes them. Ensure that they are open to the possibility or rethinking their inquiry or their inquiry question as a result of what they find.
Teacher Notes → Communicate & Act
• In this stage the students will need the parameters to be set by the teacher. Try to find as authentic a situation as you can for their performance task. Many of the settings suggested have agreed to be host for student presentations (of all kinds).
Instructions for Students
Students → Hypothesize & Plan
• Sparking the Inquiry – Think about the following: What would be worse for your community: spring floods or summer drought? Sit in pairs – preferably with someone who has the opposite opinion. Jot down your notes in a quick T-chart comparing the effects of a flood to the effects of drought. Discuss briefly as a class; at this point just get the ideas out – do not evaluate yet.
• Background information – The next step is to investigate the concept of a watershed. To begin, stay in your pairs and watch the animation (U.S. Department of Agriculture) video and examine a poster (Conservation Ontario) and answer the following questions:
1. Define watershed in your own words. Alternately Draw and label a diagram of a watershed.
2. What are three key ways that watersheds affect you?
3. Why can a watershed be described as a system?
4. The great thinker Edward de Bono once proposed that industries located on rivers have their waste pipes located upstream from their inflow pipes. Why?
• After discussing the answers as a class, investigate the Conservation Ontario website to identify the watershed in which your school is located. Explore the website and generate one question you would like the class as a whole to discuss.
• Observe – Discuss as a class the changes in weather/climate they you have noticed (no longer need to wear coat under your Hallowe’en costume, skiing season is shorter, water levels at a friend’s cottage are lower…). One class prepared a pancake breakfast without maple syrup which sparked a discussion on how climate change is/will affect maple trees in particular and forests in general.
Focus your discussion on what you have actually seen/observed/already know with respect to your watershed: changes in the climate and how they might affect the watershed (e.g., extreme weather events, lower water levels, etc.), the consequences of these (on fish, human health, agriculture, forests, recreation, etc.), and who would be affected (farmers, tourists, loggers, etc. — and you).
• Climate or Weather?: Before you go you need to be sure that you are clear on the following: Are these just changes in the weather or is the climate changing? (How do we know?; where can we find out?) Discuss the difference between weather/climate – use graphs, data, etc. from Mississippi watershed documents.
• Inquiry Question: Now think of an inquiry question that can guide you and the class in your research. The general idea is: How do you think climate change is/can affect our area (community, watershed, etc.) and different stakeholders (farmers, homeowners, people’s health, etc.)? If you are using the inquiry to test a hypothesis then use the “If …, then …” format. (e.g. If climate change continues as it is, then frequent droughts will make our community poor). On your own, or in groups, think of your own wording! Create flexible groups based on your interest.
These groups might be topical
• recreation and tourism
… or … based upon roles in the community
• property owners
• tourist operators
• local politicians
• Planning, or How can we find out? Following the open discussion, students choose and plan your Inquiry performance task. Planning could be initiated in a guided class session and/or by starting with the Student Guide to Conducting An Inquiry into Climate Change Where I Live [coming soon]. Form groups around common Inquiry performance tasks. This is an overview of your plan:
• Perform (Investigate) and Record
• Analyze and Interpret
• Communicate: At the outset, plan how you will communicate your Inquiry.
Communication could target the community; (for example, students target the local conservation authority, an environment event or people at the local mall, using a public service announcement (PSA), a display, or an info-graphic poem / song).
• Evaluate: Use the Assessment Rubrics provided.
Groups brainstorm what research you think is relevant. A Tourism group, for example, could think about being paddlers, campers, snowmobile enthusiasts, hikers, or bird watchers. What information and sources of research become relevant?
[During this step and throughout the inquiry, you might hear other students may ask questions or raise comments such as “I’ve heard that climate change is a hoax.” A resource to help you facilitate this side-inquiry — Climate Change Is Real? — will be added in June 2014.]
Students → Explore & Research
• In your groups, read, select, evaluate and integrate information from various sources, including electronic and print resources, to answer the questions chosen.
Resources to support your Watershed Inquiry have been identified and added to the COOL 2.0 Database; see the attached GreenLearning Inquiry Learning Guide.
To gather data relevant to their inquiry, you can engage experts such as local producers or producers’ associations or others available through the COOL 2.0 database; again, see the attached GreenLearning Inquiry Learning Guide.
You can also conduct a wider search in the COOL 2.0 Database using such search words as CCWIL, watershed, climate change, etc. — keep an eye on the COOL 2.0 Database as new resources are added on an on-going basis.
You can also search the web for resources to support their Inquiry. If you find a resource(s) to support this Inquiry, please add to the COOL 2.0 Database with your teacher’s help.
Students → Analyze & Check
• Reflect on and discuss your preliminary findings and observations to compare these to your previous knowledge. You may need to clarify and modify your focus question(s) and inquiry plan.
• Review and evaluate the information you have collected and record this information.
• Use your information to answer your inquiry question(s), test your hypotheses, describe patterns and draw conclusions. Predict projected impacts on climate change – taking anticipated changes and applying them to your stakeholders’ perspective.
• Reflect on your findings to create new questions and hypotheses.
Students → Communicate & Act
• Communication, general thoughts: Once you have conducted an Inquiry into Climate Change in my Watershed, there are rich learning opportunities in communicating your findings back to your community, and even engaging your community in action. You could present your Inquiry to the local conservation authority, and/or share your final project at farmers markets, syrup producers meetings, local radio stations, mall displays, local fairs, science fairs, etc.
• Specific suggestions: Create a public service announcement (PSA), a mind-map, an info-graphic, or a poem / song and present this to an appropriate audience.
• Rubrics have been developed for these inquiries and are posted as attachments.
• Showcase student inquiries — and your versions of these Inquiries — in the COOL 2.0 Database [available in June]
Resource Type:Lesson Plan
Subject(s):Geography, Civics, Social Studies, Environmental Studies, Environmental Science,
Topic:Air, Atmosphere and Climate, Ecosystems, Natural Disasters,
Level:Primary / ElementaryIntermediate / MiddleSecondary
Grade: 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Web Pages Used
- USDA animation
- Conservation Ontario poster
- Conservation Ontario website
- Mississippi River (Ontario) in a Changing Climate, Factsheet
- Ontario's Mississippi Watershed—Impacts of the 2012 Drought
- From Impacts towards Adaptation—Mississippi River in a Changing Climate (Ontario)
- Watersheds and Climate Change, Ask-an-Expert
- Climate Change and Kingston—with excellent information relevant to watersheds
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