Part 5: Vegetation and Climate Investigation

Guiding Questions:

What are ways that vegetation can affect climate? What are ways that changes in climate variables could influence vegetation?



Estimated Time: 

What to do and how to do it:

  1. INTRODUCTION: Write guiding questions on board or LCD projector. Using their previous knowledge, students spend 5-10 minutes answering them in their science notebooks and/or discussing in pairs. (Optional: Play NASA's Watching the Earth Breathe animation of global CO2 and green-up in the background as students are working). 
  2. Come together as a class, students share and refine their ideas.
  3. Instructor uses the GMSSR diagram (in the Planning Guide for Scientific Research) to discuss the scientific process with the students. Students have observed natural phenomena through the previous activities, and they will now complete the rest of the research cycle.   
  4. Based on the class discussion, and their knowledge from the previous activities, students use page 2 of the Planning Guide for Scientific Research to come up with a more specific research question with a partner (could focus on a specific region, climate variable, type vegetation, etc.). Instructor encourages students to pursue researchable questions (e.g., those that are explicit, and can be answered, at least in part, with the data available).
  5. Instructor describes the literature research part of the investigation. Students should look for 5 sources each that will support their investigation (either provide background information on the topic or have investigated similar questions). Most scientific literature searches are now done online, so learning where to look for appropriate information, and how to tell if it is scientifically valid is very important.  Discuss with students the importance of knowing the source the information they find online, and the difference between primary and secondary sources.  
  6. Students use the remainder of the period to begin their literature search, using the Creating an Annotated Bibliography handout, and the Literature Search Resource page.
  7. Students finish their literature search as homework and finish their annotated bibliography. Depending on the students’ experience, the instructor should change the minimum number of sources and assign a ratio of primary to secondary sources. 
  8. In class, students share their annotated bibliography results with their research partner and refine their research question. 
  9. With their partner, students use Student Climate Data tools to look at projected changes in climate variables or vegetation patterns (Climate Maps, Animations, Single Site Climate Data, Carbon Mapper, Tree Atlas).  Students record the results in their science notebooks using the Vegetation and Climate Investigation notebook prompts.
  10. As homework, students individually write a science report that synthesizes the results of their literature and data investigations. Use the Guide to Science Writing as a reference for writing scientific reports. See the Communicating Research Findings Page for further resources (guides, examples, sample rubrics, etc.)


  1. Use the Checklist for Student Work, or your own rubric, to assess the quality of student work.
  2. For suggestions, rubrics, and examples of formal reports, see the GLOBE Carbon Cycle Communicating Findings page.