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The Student Climate Data project is funded by NASA as part of their NASA Innovations in Climate Education (NICE) initiative to improve the quality of the nation’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and enhance students’ and teachers’ literacy about global climate and Earth system change.

       NASA logo       Univ. of NH logo

Bringing Climate Concepts to

Elementary Students

Although our tools and resources are geared toward upper-middle, high school, and undergraduate students, it is important to introduce elementary students to tools for understanding climate change and the scientific process.  Below are ideas to give elementary students authentic, hands-on science experiences.

1. Use a Temperature Experiment to explore how different colored objects reflect and absorb light.  Measure the difference in temperature between a white piece of paper and a black piece of paper when both are placed under the same lamp. See attached sheet for experimental procedure. This gives the students the basis for understanding energy balance and albedo (reflectance), important concepts in climate change.

Temperature Experiment Teacher Guide  PDF

Temperature Experiment Handout (Gr. 1-3)  PDF

Temperature Experiment Handout (Gr. 3-5)  PDF

2. Use Picture Post images to explore changes in seasons. What do students notice about the cycle of the seasons when looking at a series of Picture Post images? What features in the image change over the seasons, what remain the same?  Use images from the Picture Post website, set up a Picture Post in the schoolyard, or take a picture out the window each week to see what details they notice.  Track when the leaves emerge and fall off the trees, or join a citizen science network such as Project Budburst and share your observations with a wider community.

Picture Post Website

Project Budburst

3. For upper elementary, show students climate maps and animations from the Student Climate Data website. What areas of the earth have similar climate? Different climate? Where do they see the greatest change in climate?

Climate Maps

Climate Animations

4. Take students on a Nature Walk/ Habitat Hike.  Take students outside, either in their schoolyard, or a local park.  Use measuring tapes (or rulers and string) to measure tree circumference: what is the largest tree they can find? Use leaf shape to identify basic tree species. Use a spoon to dig up a *small* amount of soil: What is the texture? What is the soil color? Discuss what animals might live in this area: Where/how could they find food, water, and shelter? Record the weather: what are the sky conditions? What is the temperature? Is the temperature different in the sun and the shade?

5. EPA has a great website for students to learn about and explore climate change.

 EPA Climate Change Website for Students

6. Practice using scientific tools and taking accurate measurements. Develop mini experiments, where students make a prediction, and then use a science tool to collect data. For example, in grades K-2, teach students how to read a thermometer and measure the temperature of warm vs. cold water, sun vs. shade, or inside vs. outside.

7. Collect weather data at your school, and keep a record on a poster in the classroom.  Observe patterns and trends over time.

8. Elementary GLOBE includes stories and learning activities focused on Earth Systems, Clouds, Soils, Seasons, and Water. 

Elementary GLOBE website