Believe It or Not

By Mary Lovin and Mary Jo Campara


Students will critically analyze data regarding climatic changes using a glossary of terms generated by the examination of climate related articles. After examining and graphing climatic data from several Wisconsin cities, students will be able to discuss, hypothesize and test apparent discrepancies in their findings.

Daily Synopsis

  • Day 1 - Students will collect temperature readings from various stations located around the school. Students will compare results and come up with a list of reasons why discrepancies occurred.
  • Day 2 - Students will use articles to build a glossary of terms related to weather and climate. They will then use these terms to rewrite sentences in their own words.
  • Day 3 - Students will calculate and graph the mean monthly temperature for a Wisconsin city. Using their graphs, students will take a position on global warming.
  • Day 4 - After discussing the rational for manipulating the presentation of data, students will reconstruct a graph of their data. They will use this in a debate to convince the other students that their position on global warming is valid.
  • Day 5 - As a small group, students will plan out an experiment that will test one of their discrepancies from day 3. Students will follow the basic skeleton of the scientific method formulating their plan on paper.
  • Day 6+ - Students will carry out their experiment and fill in their lab report. At the completion of the experiments, the class will discuss their findings.

Standards Met


  • A.8.1.a. - Using reasoning abilities to evaluate information
  • A.8.1.d. - Using reasoning abilities to formulate questions for further exploration
  • A.8.1.f. - Using reasoning abilities to justify statements
  • A.8.1.g. - Using reasoning abilities to test reasonableness of results
  • A.8.1.h. - Using reasoning abilities to defend work
  • A.8.2. - Communicate logical arguments clearly to show why a result makes sense
  • A.8.4.e - Develop effective oral and written presentations that include understanding of purpose and audience
  • A.8.6. - Read and understand mathematical texts and other instructional materials and recognize mathematical ideas as they appear in other contexts


  • A.8.3. - Defend explanations and models by collecting and organizing evidence that supports them and critique explanations and models by collecting and organizing evidence that conflicts with them
  • C.8.1. - Identify questions they can investigate using resources and equipment they have available
  • C.8.3. - Design and safely conduct investigations that provide reliable quantitative or qualitative data, as appropriate, to answer their questions
  • C.8.9. - Evaluate, explain, and defend the validity of questions, hypotheses, and conclusions to their investigations
  • C.8.10. - Discuss the importance of their results and implications of their work with peers, teachers, and other adults
  • C.8.11. - Raise further questions which still need to be answered
  • H.8.1. - Evaluate the scientific evidence used in various media (television, radio, internet, newspapers, and scientific journals) to address a social issue, using criteria of accuracy, logic, bias, relevance of data, and credibility of sources.


Completion of vocabulary sheets, graphs, and lab report. 

Day 1: Discovering Discrepancies


Identify potential sources of variability in the collection of data.

Teacher background:

In order to encourage discrepancies, place thermometers at various heights or over a variety of surfaces. We placed our thermometers on wooden stakes so that we could vary the height and location of the thermometers. Since we want students to measure air temperature, thermometers were placed in the shade.


  • 4 thermometer stations
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Worksheet


  1. Read and record the temperature from the thermometers located outside at 4 different locations. (Keep your readings to yourself.)
  2.  Have students create an individual data table to record their temperature readings.
  3.  Compare readings of the class by creating a large data table on the board.
  4. Discuss student generated ideas as to why the data has discrepancies. Possible explanations may include; height of thermometer, reflection of the sun from a nearby surface, location of thermometers, inaccurate readings, etc.
  5. Discuss other forms of data collection that may include discrepancies. Possible examples may be; sales of products, television ratings, political polls, etc.

Day 2: Building a Glossary


Students will construct a classroom glossary of terms related to weather and climate to be used for further discussions.

Teacher background:

Two weeks prior to the beginning of this project have students collect articles relating to weather and climate. To ensure that there will be a wide variety of glossary terms, you may also want to collect articles. You also need to collect a variety of graphs, which will be used for a further lesson. The extent of the glossary will depend upon the articles your students collected. You may need to add more terms to complete your glossary list.


  • Climate/Weather related articles from the last 2 weeks
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Worksheet


  1. Students will collect a minimum of 5 climate/weather related articles prior to the beginning of this unit.
  2. Students will read through their 5 articles circling or highlighting any climatic term they do not understand.
  3. Using only context clues students will come up with definitions for the words.
  4. Definitions and articles will be displayed on the wall. This will give students the opportunity to compare their definitions with others.
  5. As a class discuss discrepancies in their definitions.
  6. Students will complete attached worksheet using a dictionary and/or their science book

Day 3: Graphing Data


  • Students will finalize glossary terms.
  • Students will be given a years worth of daily temperature readings for one of several Wisconsin cities.
  • Students will accurately calculate the monthly mean values and graph this data.

Teacher background:

Review the term mean and how to calculate the mean of a set of data. In this graphing activity, uniform x and y-axis scales must be used to make comparisons valid. Allow students to discuss what these values should be. Regional trends in U.S. climatic data can be obtained by contacting Steve Meyer at Data for 8 Wisconsin cities may be obtained from the ClimProb software.


  • Graph Paper
  • Pencil
  • Data Information
  • Worksheet
  1.  Students will be given a yearly set of temperature readings from one of four Wisconsin cities.
  2. Students will calculate the mean temperature data and plot their results on graph paper.
  3.  Students will compare their graph with someone who has the same city.
  4. Discuss any discrepancies found within your graph.
  5. Teacher will construct groups in which data from each Wisconsin city is represented. Students will compare their graph with the graphs from the other cities discussing any discrepancies they find.
  6. Students will construct a list of possible reasons for those discrepancies.
  7. Handout student assignment.

Day 4: Manipulating Data


Students will present data in a form that supports their position on global warming.

Teacher background:

Presentation of data can be easily manipulated by varying the scales on your graph. You will be using graphs collected at the beginning of this unit for this lesson.

  • Graphs
  • Pencil
  • Graph Paper
  • Worksheet


  1. Using the newspaper graphs, facilitate a discussion about the purpose of each graph.
  2. Ask students how they would change the graph to display the data differently.
  3. Ask the students why someone would want to change to presentation of the data and is this misleading to the reader.
  4. Divide your students into two groups based on their positions regarding global warming. If necessary, subdivide those groups into workable units.
  5. Without changing any data, students (as a group) will need to create a new graph that better supports their position. (Students will essentially be creating a misleading graph using the given data.)
  6. When students have finished they will use their graphs in a debate to convince the other group on their position of global warming.
  7. Discuss with your students why it is important to carefully analyze how data is presented on a graph.

Day 5: Designing an Experiment to Test the Discrepancies


  • Students will design an experiment that attempts to explain one of the discrepancies they noted in their data from day 3.
  • Students will use the scientific method to design the experiment.

Teacher background:

Review the steps of the scientific method. The time frame for this part of the unit will depend on the experiments your students design.


  • Data Analysis from Day 3
  • Various Materials to create experiment
  • Index Cards
  • Worksheet


  1. Students should be divided into groups of 3 or 4
  2. Have students take out their data from day 3.
  3. From the list of discrepancies, students should chose one they feel they can test.
  4. Review the scientific method.
  5. Give the students a time frame in which the experiment must be completed.
  6. Students will turn in a list of their materials needed for the experiment at the end of the class period. This will allow you to gather the necessary materials for tomorrow.
  7. Allow your students to design their experiment using the attached handout.

Day 6: Experimentation


  • Students will carry out an experiment to test their hypothesis.
  • Students will fill in a lab report form.

Teacher background:

Make sure that your students are on task and recording their data.


  • Pencils
  • Materials for the experiment
  • Worksheet


  1. Distribute lab report forms.
  2. Students will check out needed materials.
  3. Allow students to begin their experiments. Remind students that they need to record their data and attach a copy to their lab report.

Day 1 Worksheet

NAME _____________________

Discovering Discrepancies

  1. Read and record the temperature readings from the thermometers at 4 locations located outside. 
    1. Compare your readings with those of the class. 
    2. Explain four reasons that might account for the differences. 
  2. Give examples of 2 situations in which there would be discrepancies in the collection of data.

Day 2 Worksheet - Part 1

Building a Glossary

Using your science book or a dictionary, define each of the following terms in the space provided. 

  1. Climate
  2. Weather
  3. Latitude
  4. Meteorology
  5. Global Warming
  6. Greenhouse Effect
  7. Elevation
  8. Discrepancy

Part 2

Building a Glossary

Read the following sentences.  Then, in your own words, rewrite the sentence in the space provided.

  1. The amount of solar energy an area receives is determined by the area’s latitude.
  2. Climate is controlled by factors such as latitude, elevation, wind patterns, local geography, and ocean currents.
  3. As elevation increases, temperature decreases.
  4. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has consistently increased over the last century.
  5. Scientists are doing intensive research on the possible effects of global warming.

Day 3 Worksheet

NAME ____________________________

Graphing Data

  1. Obtain a piece of graph paper and a set of data from the teacher.
  2. Using your data, calculate the mean monthly temperature for your location.
  3. Using the classroom scale, construct a graph from your calculated data.  (HINT: The temperature should go along the y axis and the month should go along the x axis)
  4. Compare your results with another student who graphed the same set of data.
  5. Are there any discrepancies in your data? ___________.  If so, give reasons for those discrepancies.
  6. Your teacher will place you into a group with students who have graphed data from the other locations.  With these students, compare your graphs.  Discuss and list four discrepancies you have found.

On a separate sheet of paper, answer the following questions in complete sentences.  You must have 150 words or more.

  1. Based on your data, do you believe that global warming is occurring?
  2. Give two reasons to support your answer.
  3. Are there any non-climatic circumstances that need to be taken into consideration when examining the issue of global warming?
  4. Give two examples to support your answer.

Day 4 Worksheet


Manipulating Data

  1. Based on the discussion of misleading graphs, as a group, create a graph that would better support your position on global warming.  You will use the graph later during a debate.
  2. How did you change the presentation of your data? 
  3. Is this an effective way to convince someone of your position?  Give two detailed arguments that you would use to convince someone of your position in a debate.
  4. Give three examples why someone would want to present data in a misleading form. 

Day 5 Worksheet

NAME ___________________________

Designing an Experiment to Test Discrepancies

  1. Using your data from “Graphing Data” choose one discrepancy which interests you.
  2. Design an experiment to test this discrepancy.
  3. Use the following form to plan your experiment.  Hand this in to your teacher before the end of the class period. 

Problem – What discrepancy did you choose?  Put this in the form of a question. 

  1. Hypothesis – What is your educated guess regarding the question from Part A? Remember you must be able to test your hypothesis. 
  2. Experiment – How will you test your hypothesis?  Provide detailed steps.  Anyone should be able to carry out this experiment using your directions.
  3. Materials – List all materials you will need for your experiment on an index card.

Day 6 Worksheet

Experimentation Lab Report

  • Purpose:
  • Hypothesis:
  • Materials:
  • Procedure:
  • Conclusions: