My students are better at making graphs than they are at reading them. And the people who have brought us our state standardized test recognize the ability to interpret graphical representations of data as an essential skill: My students aren't likely to pass the high stakes high school exit exam without that ability. My students also learn better when they are actively engaged in making meaning. Understanding the science of global warming is all about being able to make meaning of graphs and to understand the relationship between variables.
This week I plan to introduce global warming with a video entitled Arctic Meltdown, Rising Seas (See resources section of "Teaching about Global Warming" in the Useful Websites section of this page). It does a great job of putting a human face and story on the issue. I'll also have them explore the Union of Concerned Scientists' "Climate Hot Map." In order to allow them to make their own meaning of the facts behind global warming, I also plan to have them read and interpret graphs that show the research behind scientific opinions about global warming. Here are some links to graphs:
(Middle school lesson plan. Scroll down to see graphs)
I'll likely print graphs for them to analyze in groups of four. I'll ask them to identify the dependent and independent variables, indentify trends and write a caption for their graphs. For my classes of thirty to thirty-four eighth graders, I'll need at least four good graphs. That way we can have two presentations of each graph.
You can use the links for your own research (like I will later this week) or turn students loose to follow links on this site to find their own graph. They'll probably know that all they need to do is cut and paste URLs into the address window of their browser.