This lesson allows learners to analyze and evaluate how the science of climate change and global warming are portrayed in various online media outlets.
This lesson is used as an introduction to a unit on Global Warming or Climate Change in high school. Students are challenged to evaluate how this topic is portrayed in the media on various scales: global, national, local. With a generation of learners that increasingly relies on the media to learn about important issues facing humanity, this lesson provides students the valuable opportunity to find out for themselves how well newspapers around the world are portraying the science of climate change and global warming.
According to a 2010 research report from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and National Science Foundation titled “American Teens’ Knowledge on Climate Change”, teenagers in the U.S. have a rather limited understanding of climate change and global warming. In the study, 517 teens (ages 13-17) were surveyed across the country on their knowledge of Earth’s climate system, and the causes, impacts, and solutions to global warming. Using a standard grading scale for the survey questions, only 25% of teens in the study received a passing grade (A, B, C) while 54% received a failing grade (F).
The study also indicates that fewer than 20% of teens feel that are “very well informed” about climate change, while 70% of teens say that they would like to learn more about it. Most importantly, the study finds that 73% of teens claim that the Internet would be their top choice to learn about climate change instead of TV shows, books, magazines, or other printed texts. These results open the door to an important question to be addressed during this activity:
If teenagers are choosing to learn about climate change and global warming from online sources like newspapers, how reliable are these resources at portraying the science in an unbiased and scientifically accurate way?
The goal of this activity is for students to understand that the best place to learn about this topic is in scientific journals, articles, or texts that are written and published by credible scientific authors and researchers. Where the media can include political opinions and improper use/reference to data, scientific journals and articles are a much more reliable and accurate account of the science behind these very important topics.
Number off students in the class 1-4. This number corresponds to which type of news article they will find and analyze for homework.
Distribute a student handout to each student in class once numbers have been assigned.
Read the directions for Part 4 of the student hand out as a class. Assign a dry erase marker color to each student/article type:
Dismiss students four at a time (one color in each group of four) to come up to the whiteboard and place a dot on the Evidence and Opinion Matrix for where their article has been scored.
Bring the group back together for a group discussion about the following questions. Guide students towards these questions using a Socratic discussion methodology.
Have students staple their student handout and article together.
Part 5 of this activity serves as the extension. This same activity could be used for Youtube videos, TV shows, mass media news shows, or blogs and how the science of climate change and global warming are portrayed.
Completion of the student handout (Parts 1-5) can be used for assessment purposes.
PolarTREC Teacher Jamie Esler <esler [at] cdaschools.org>
## Idaho Science Education Content Standards, Grades 8-10
Goal 1.2: Understand Concepts and Processes of Evidence, Models, and Explanations
9-10.B.1.2.3 Develop scientific explanations based on knowledge, logic and analysis.
## ELA Common Core State Standards for Science and Technical Subjects, Grades 9-12
- Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account.
- Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.
- Analyze the author's purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text, identifying important issues that remain unresolved.
- Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
- Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.