Climate Change and Michigan Forests Overview

This 10-day unit is designed for middle school students who have been introduced to graphing data points, slope, and line-of-best-fit. The lessons are best taught in chronological order, although the field trip lesson can take place at any point during the unit and reinforces material throughout the curriculum. 

Unit Outline

Click each Lesson title to view and download lesson materials.

Introduction to Climate Change and Michigan Forests

Table of Contents, Lesson Summaries, and Note to Teachers.

Lesson 1: Get in Touch with Trees!

Students brainstorm and create a list of why forest ecosystems are important to humans and the environment.  They take notes on a PowerPoint presentation discussing factors that affect plant growth, and characteristics of deciduous and coniferous trees.   

Lesson 2: Connections to Climate Change

Students watch and take notes on a suite of videos produced by the National Science Foundation on climate change and its impacts on humans and the environment.

Lesson 3: Down to the Core!

Students learn how scientists study tree growth. They count and measure tree growth rings using enlarged photos of tree cores, and predict how temperature and precipitation influence tree growth.

Lesson 4: Scientific Modeling

Students describe characteristics of scientific models, and create and interpret a scatterplot graph in order to describe the relationship between the tree growth data they collected and precipitation and temperature data.

Lesson 5: Making Sense of Data!

Students share and interpret their graphs to discuss and make predictions about the relationship between temperature and tree growth.  They interpret scientific models showing the predicted growth of six tree species in a future greenhouse gas emissions scenario.

Lesson 6: Climate and Plant Growth

Students review the climatic factors that influence plant growth. They read and interpret climographs in order to characterize the climates of multiple biomes, and discuss why plant growing seasons differ by region.

Lesson 7: Regional Impacts and Predictions

Students discuss how climate change impacts weather, ecosystems, and human economic activity within five biomes. Students collect, interpret, and organize information in order to make a Regional Prediction and Explanation based on supporting evidence.

Lesson 8: Student Actions

Students define climate change mitigation and adaptation and discuss examples of each. They work in groups to collect information on how climate change impacts biomes, and actions they can take to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Lesson 9: Student Conference

Students work in groups to collect information on how climate change impacts biomes, and organize their findings into an informational poster. They present their posters to the rest of the class, and grade each others' work using a peer evaluation rubric.

Field Trip!

Students visit a local forest and learn about different data collection methods forest ecologists use.  They take a tree core sample and collect other tree growth and forest ecology data. 

Appendix - References

Student Assessment Questions

Multiple choice and short answer questions that can be used to assess your students' learning. 

Additional Teacher Resources