Climate Change NGSS MS ESS3-5


In the Climate Change mini unit, students generate questions about graphs of Earth’s average surface temperature and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They build models of atmospheres on Earth, Mars and Venus and determine how atmosphere impacts climate. Students research carbon sinks and sources and find answers to one of their own climate questions.


Extension activities take a step back and look for all of the positive things happening to combat climate change. Students then share their positive findings in an original collage!


Anchor Phenomenon Ideas: The opening images of this mini unit can easily be used to generate authentic student questions about climate change. Any recent article or news clip about the changing climate would also be good anchors.

We find that middle school students are passionate about this issue and find the topic relevant to their future.

Tips and Tricks: As students create models of the different atmospheres on Mercury, Venus and Earth (question two), ask them to think about other factors that might affect each planet's climate: Distance from the sun, solar wind and the different materials that make up each planet.

Then, challenge students to add more greenhouse gases (Insulation) to earth's atmosphere and see what happens.

While most students understand the role that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases play in climate change, they may need more guidance about how carbon cycles through Earth. Here is a one minute video from NOAA to go along with question three.

These links to NOAA's monthly CO2 measurements and NASA's average global temperature data can be used for easy reference as students generate their own questions at the end of their packet.

Extension Activity: While the extension activity is usually reserved for students who are working ahead of pace, we highly recommend that you create some time for all students to make a positive collage.

Learning about climate change can be a heavy burden for kids and it is important to take a step back and make note of the positive actions being taken in their own communities.

This activity could be done in small groups, as a whole class or individually. Kids can make collages of photos taken in their neighborhood, positive news headlines and stories or their own sketches and drawings. We have found that providing this creative outlet eases the stress of this topic.

Enrichment Ideas: If students are ready to take on an additional academic challenge, ask them research local species that have been or will be directly affected by the changing climate in the near future. What is currently being done to help these species? What more can be done? Are there any positive local effects of a changing climate?