Parks Climate Challenge

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Lesson PLans
This collection of lesson plans allows educators to teach the principles of climate literacy through America’s national parks.  Each lesson plan was developed with a particular national park in mind and is biased toward hands-on engagement of students.  The lesson plans are organized by the principles of climate literacy and are accompanied by the following information: Park, Grade, Subject, Title, and a Short Description. Educators can adapt these plans to fit the specifics of their classroom goals.

Filter the lessons by a specific Climate Literacy Principle:


Greenhouse Gas Tag
Climate Literacy Principle: The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earth's climate system.
Park: Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Grade: 4th and above
Subject: Science, Climate Change

A great activity and lesson to introduce greenhouse gases and the role they play in our Earth's atmosphere. Students will also explore the ways humans contribute to the addition of CO2 to the air and discuss actions they can take to positively impact the atmosphere.

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Carbon Cycle Mayhem
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
Park: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Grade: 6-7
Subject: Earth Science

Your students will embody the carbon cycle- both in and out of balance, observe the role of carbon sources and carbon sinks in maintaining the Earth's carbon balance, and learn how national parks like Great Smoky Mountains help store carbon.

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The Effect of the Orographic Effect
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
Park: North Cascades National Park
Grade: 6-8
Subject: Weather, Earth Science, Geography

In this lesson, students will learn that there are different climate zones, understand how physical features influence climate, and examine how changes in global temperatures can affect regional climates- all through participating in an interactive obstacle course.

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Weather, Climate, and Phenology
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
Park: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Grade: 6-8, 9-12
Subject: Science, Math

Students will learn the difference between climate and whether, and learn about phenology by plotting and analyzing data from the Great Smokies.

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The Glacial Valley
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
Park: North Cascades National Park
Grade: 6-8
Subject: Science, Geology, Geography

Glaciers are a looked to increasingly as examples that reflect the impacts of climate change. Ever wonder how glacier and glacier valleys were created in the first place? This lesson explains just that.

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Carbon Cycle Relay Race
Climate Literacy Principle: Human activities are impacting the climate system.
Park: Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Grade: 4th and above
Subject: Science

An engaging way to teach students about how carbon cycles between animals, plants, and the atmosphere role of carbon. Also, an exercise that discusses how burning fossil fuels can affect the carbon cycle.

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Ocean Acidification
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
Park: Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Grade: 4th and above
Subject: Chemistry, Ocean Acidification, Climate Change, Carbon Cycle, Language Arts

After this lesson, students will understand how climate change will impact the physical environment of our ocean and using the scientific process, conduct an experiment focused on changes in pH levels.

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What is a Watershed?
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
Park: North Cascades National Park
Grade: 6-8
Subject: Science, Geology, Geography

Students will use models and dramatization to better understand water cycles and watersheds.

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Changes in Climate
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
Park: North Cascades National Park
Grade: 4-8
Subject: Earth/Physical Science, Geography, Life Science, Social Studies, Language Arts

What's more fun than a game show? Students will demonstrate their understanding of climate change science and impacts through a quiz bowl game. The information in this activity covers an array of climate change topics.

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Shifting Habitats
Climate Literacy Principle: Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
Park: North Cascades National Park
Grade: 4-8
Subject: Life Science, Science (in Personal and Social Perspectives), Geography, Social Studies

Learn about the many plants and animals that live in the different life zones of North Cascades National Park. Students can brainstorm species that live in their area and think about ways in which climate change might affect those plants and animals.

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Sources of Energy
Climate Literacy Principle: Human activities are impacting the climate system.
Park: North Cascades National Park
Grade: 4-8
Subject: Physical Science, Science (in Personal and Social Perspectives)

What do vampires have to do with where we get our energy?? Find out in this fun activity through which students will make the connection that using power leads to the burning of fossil fuels and identify what appliances use the most power.

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Reduce Our Carbon Footprint, Let's Compost!
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
Park: North Cascades National Park
Grade: 4-8
Subject: Applied Arts, Fine Arts, Earth Science

In conjunction with our video on composting, this is a fun project and a great experiment for students that can be easily turned into a Life/Earth Science experiment.

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All About Aerosols
Climate Literacy Principle: Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
Park: Cape Cod National Seashore
Grade: 5-8
Subject: Physical Science, Earth and Space Science, Math, and Technology

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Connecting Clouds to Climate
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
Park: Cape Cod National Seashore
Grade: 5-8
Subject: Earth Science

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Carbon Cycle Pathways
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
Park: Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Grade: 6-8
Subject: Earth Science, Climate Change

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Build-A-Park
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
Park: Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Grade: 6-8 or 9-12
Subject: Social Science, Climate Change

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Predicting the Future
Climate Literacy Principle: Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
Park: Glacier National Park
Grade: 4-6
Subject: Language Arts, Science, History, Technology

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How Much Water is in this Snow?
Climate Literacy Principle: Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
Park: Glacier National Park
Grade: 6-8
Subject: Science, Math

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Biodiversity and Habitat Loss
Climate Literacy Principle: Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
Park: Yellowstone National Park
Grade: 5th-10th
Subject: Science, Biodiversity

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Forest Factor Tag
Climate Literacy Principle: Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
Park: Crater Lake National Park
Grade: 4th and above
Subject: Biology, Physical Education

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Pikas In Peril
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
Park: Crater Lake National Park
Grade: 4th and above
Subject: Biology, Physical Education, Math

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Ecosystems: A Balancing Act
Climate Literacy Principle: Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
Park: Capulin Volcano National Monument
Grade: 3rd-12th
Subject: Science

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Glacier Goo: How Does A Glacier Work?
Climate Literacy Principle: Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
Park: Yellowstone National Park
Grade: 4th-10th
Subject: Earth Science, Physical Science, Climate Change

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Climate-Friendly Park Visits
Climate Literacy Principle: Human activities are impacting the climate system.
Park: National Mall and Memorial Parks
Grade: 9th-12th
Subject: Climate Science, Writing, Biology

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Climate Change Impacts National Parks
Climate Literacy Principle: Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
Park: National Mall and Memorial Parks
Grade: 9th-12th
Subject: Climate Science, Writing, Biology

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Phone: (202) 354-6460 Email: kchesson@nationalparks.org
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