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Monday Morning Ready04.18.2019
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Predicting the weather is a complex science and predictions become less accurate as the range of the forecast increases. So how have scientists managed to learn what the climate – the average weather- was millions of years ago? And why is this important today?... < read more >
Grade 3-4

Why is it important to understand the difference between weather and climate?

Grade 5-6

How can understanding what the climate was like millions of years ago help people today?

Grade 7-8

Do you think it would be harder to predict past, present or future weather conditions? Why?

Grade 9-10

How would you summarize the results of last year's meeting of scientists and climate modelers at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History? What do you think is the best way for them to get their message out to the public?

Research and Debate Climate Change Solutions


  1. Remind students that when scientists and climate modelers met at the National Museum of Natural History in 2018, they created a model to illustrate historical climate change. Display the PhanTASTIC graphic. Tell students that this graphic is that model.
  2. Explain that the graphic shows warm and cold periods in Earth's history. Point out the red and blue line. Tell students that they are likely to associate red with "hot" and blue with "cold." However, this blue line only dips down to about 50° F-which isn't that cold. The line changes color at roughly 67° F because that is the point at which polar ice caps melt or form.
  3. Further explain that the red and blue line shows Earth's average temperature-from the equator to the Poles-not highs and lows. Have a volunteer identify the average temperature today (about 60° F). Encourage students to use information from the graphic to describe what it might be like if Earth's average temperature rose to 92° F.
  4. Finally, point out that this graphic covers hundreds of millions of years, but the small box in the upper right corner highlights the past 20,000 years. Discuss what the information in the small box reveals.
  5. Then, pose a question to the class: "How should people tackle the issue of climate change?" Divide the class into teams. Encourage teams to brainstorm ideas and then conduct research to learn more. Challenge them to seek out credible sources to support their ideas.
  6. Give teams time to summarize their ideas and create visuals that highlight their key points. For example, students could create a map that shows what Earth would look like if melting glaciers caused sea levels to rise 197 feet, as the article suggests.
  7. Guide teams as they use their information to debate how people should tackle the issue of climate change. Following the debate, have the class vote to identify which solution they think would work best to solve the problem.


Following the debate, encourage students to explain why they voted for or against different proposed solutions. Challenge students to identify specific arguments that swayed their opinion one way or the other.


Grades 3-4:
Prior to conducting the debate, have students create a list of rules for students to follow. For example: Each student gets one minute to speak; each speaker is only allowed to speak once; and audience members are not allowed to interrupt while someone else is speaking. Invite each student to share his or her opinion. Challenge students to follow the rules as they conduct their debate.
Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into four teams. Give teams time to conduct research and formulate their opinions. Instruct each group to write an opening statement, craft a detailed summary and create at least three visuals that support its key points. Then hold two short debates. Have students vote after the second debate is finished.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into two groups. Give groups time to conduct research and formulate their ideas. Challenge them to locate source documents that support their positions. Encourage them to incorporate that data into graphs, charts or other types of visuals that they can use during their presentations. Then have groups select members to present their ideas during the debate. All other group members should prepare rebuttal questions to ask after hearing the opposition's position.
Grades 9-10:
Prior to conducting this activity, create an eight-team bracket. Divide the class into eight teams and assign each team a position on the bracket. Give groups time to identify credible sources, conduct research and formulate their opinions. Instruct groups to write an opening statement, craft a detailed summary and create at least five visuals that support their key points. Then hold a classroom tournament in which students debate their ideas on the issue. In each match, each competing team gets three minutes to state its position. After both teams have presented, they get two minutes to confer and then one minute to present a rebuttal. Class members select a winner after each round. The winner goes on to the next round.
Deep Time Symposium: Earth’s Temperature History Videos
Watch this collection of videos to hear from leading experts in the climate change field. Part of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's Deep Time Symposium.

Climate Change Learning Sciences Research
From the University of Maryland, this educator resource includes PowerPoint presentations, visual aids, resources from NASA and more to aide in teaching climate change.

Making Sense of Climate Change: A 6-Part Series
Despite widespread agreement among scientists, climate change has become one of the most hotly debated and perplexing issues of our time. Explore these videos from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to discover how we got here, how we move forward and what it could mean for our food, our coastlines and our homes.

Second Opinion: Forging the Future
These resources, compiled by the education teams across the Smithsonian Institution, feature lessons, activities, exhibitions, videos and tools that can be used to teach students about the broad climatic, biodiversity and other forces underway that will shape Earth’s future.

Reading Climate Change from Fossil Leaves
Use this collection of videos and webcasts, printable lessons, posters and worksheets, online activities and other science literacy resources from the National Museum of Natural History to help students understand everything from climate change over time to how paleobotanists use plants as climate indicators.

Climate Change
Are you a student researching climate change or someone looking to learn more about climate change and the ocean? If so, this overview from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History dives into everything you need to know.

How Climate Change and Plague Helped Bring Down the Roman Empire
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn how we can learn crucial lessons by examining the natural forces that shaped Rome’s rise and fall.

Smithsonian Education Online Conference: Climate Change
Students and teachers can deepen their understanding of the challenge of climate change through this archived online conference, courtesy of the Smithsonian’s History Explorer.

Climate Effects on Human Evolution
This article—part of the National Museum of Natural History exhibit “What Does It Mean to be Human?”—explores the hypothesis that key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability. Explore the site to learn more.