Global Environmental Change: A School-Wide Program

By Gregory Paul Pavlik and Loren Hansen


  This curriculum approach was developed in a effort to help students become aware of  the many issues involved in environmental change.  Our approach will be driven by research conducted by social studies students in grades 9 - 12.   Their research will focus on the history of climate changes and effect that the climate changes had on the social, political, economic systems as well as any cultural impact of the people in the affected region. 

Science students in grades 7, 8, and 10 will use the research ideas generated by the social studies students and study the  science concepts that were involved.  For example: If a social studies student was researching the drought in the U. S. during the 1930’s,  then the science students may study normal parameters of the weather for the United States.  Students might use average annual precipitation, temperature, and wind pattern data to compare the 1930’s with a decade that had “normal” weather.  At the same time science students would be learning the component parts that play a role in environmental change. 

Our approach to promote awareness of environmental change includes secondary students using the knowledge gained, through their research and experimentation, to develop small lessons that can be used in the primary grades 3 - 6.   These lessons would follow the science and social studies curriculum objectives for those particular grades.  These lessons would be developed under teacher supervision and with the intent that the students would help in the elementary classroom when the primary teacher used it. 

This program will involve approximately 220 students in grades 3 - 12 at Osmond Community Schools. 

Educational Process and Timeline 

Phase 1: 
At the beginning of the academic year both science and social studies students will be given an overview and the expectations of the project.  In their classes, students will be introduced to the idea of climate, climate change, and global environmental change.  Students will be given out of class assignments to gather evidence that either supports or dismisses the concept of global climate change.  Teachers will provide news articles that will facilitate class discussion and help point the students in the right direction for their quest for information.  (A variation of this method would be to plan a media center day with students)  The main objective of this introduction method is to help students be able to discuss a topic, support their stance on the issue with more than “I think” arguments, and at the same time be exposed to various forms of information that they have not been exposed to before. 

Since this is a “support” approach, it is driven by the materials already found as part of the curriculum  in social studies and science programs.  Topics usually studied in the early part of the academic year will dove-tail nicely.  Some examples are as follows 

  • World History:  Early Civilizations & Movements of Peoples
  • American Government:  Historical Development of Government
  • Geography: Map making and reading & Earth History
  • Biology, Life, Environmental, & Earth Science:  Scientific Method , Weather, &       Earth History
The time-frame for this phase is the first 4.5 to 5 weeks of the academic year. 

Phase 2: 
We feel the next step in the process should be a student research into the “factors” that could cause Global Environmental Change and the effect that these “factors” have had throughout history.  Many of these “factors” could be purely scientific in nature.  For example: 

  • Drought
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Prairie Fires caused by lightning
  • Plate tectonics
Other “factors” could be human related.  For example: 
  • Ozone level reduction due to increase amounts of CFC’s released
  • Greenhouse gas levels increase as a result of pollution and fossil fuel combustion
It should be noted at this time that students in the social studies classes will be the main source for research topics in regard to migrations of people or any other historical event that an environmental change could be linked to.  In the science classes the primary source of research will come from the geologic record.  Students will look for possible events that could have caused the extinction of a species. Another path to study would be the apparent disappearance of  a certain species of  plant or animal from one region of the world while in other area the animal can still be found in the record. 

This part of the project would follow Phase 1 and be completed by the end of the 1st quarter. 

Phase 3: 
At this point the social studies and science students will follow two different agenda’s 

Social Studies: 
From the social studies  research into the historical influence the “factors” of environmental change had, students will select a research topic and write a formal report on it.  Some of the research topics may include variation upon the following themes. 

  • The population trends of the world
  • The impact on population during drought and famine when compared to “normal” years
  •  Growth / Preparation / Preservation / Storage of  food in different regions of the world
  • A comparison of political styles and climate types
  • A comparison of cultural lifestyles and climate types
  • An economic comparison of countries that share a similar latitude
  • Farming trends
  • Economic geography / crop yields
  • Historical comparison of  cities or regions that share similar geography or climate
Requirements for this paper: 
  1. Topic must be approved with instructor prior to start of  research
  2. Double spaced
  3. Typed using word processor
  4. Literature Cited
This paper will be due at the end of the second quarter. 

Science Students: 
Phase 3 of the project for the science students will center on activity preparation to be used in the primary school.  Groups of students will be given Science Link topics and Social Studies Link topics for grades 2 through 6.  The second quarter project for these students will be to prepare demonstrations and experiments that use the principles involved in environmental change.  These students will work with the primary teachers to make sure that the prepared curriculum matches the students ability and knowledge level. 
It should also be noted that the science teacher will be involved in the process.  There is plenty of material that could be adapted and I do not want my students to think that all activities must be an original, why re-invent the wheel!  The proposed agenda that we will follow next year is only a guide.  Some of the projects were adapted from  the Global Environmental Change workshop materials.  Please note the Literature Cited section at end of this paper. 

Second Grade: 

Science Link:  Demonstrate Evaporation  (Walpole, 1988) 
Demonstrate Condensations using both ice & steam   (Walpole, 1988) 

Social Studies Link: Develop a web that uses an occupational (parents) link to the environment

Third Grade: 
Science Link:  Model the Greenhouse Effect (NESEN, 1998) 
Model effect of plants and animals (Data collection) 
Model the melting of the ice caps : Ice in water vs. ice on 
continent; which would cause the level of water to rise more? 

Social Studies Link: High school students will develop a graphing assignment to compare and contrast temperature and precipitation.  Students  will use CLIMPROB to collect data of assignment

Fourth Grade: 
Science Link:  Evaporation: 
Students will make there own refrigerator (Walpole, 1988) 
This will be a data collection activity 

Social Studies Link: Dehydration project:  Students will select a fruit to dehydrate and research the area in the world that it comes from and the impact it has on the region or country

Fifth Grade: 
Science Link:  Students will build and observe an “Ecocolumn” (Ingram, 1993)  In this activity students will discuss and design variables to be used 
in their “Ecocolumn”. 

Social Studies Link: Crop Location vs. climate : a global look 
Role Play:  “Early potential for Colonization”  This Role play will be developed and written by the 11th grade American History students.

Sixth Grade: 
Science Link:  Research topic:  Does extinction happen gradually or quick? 
-Present day amphibian populations 
-Dodo Bird (parallel extinction) 
-Passenger Pigeon (Human factor) 

Social Studies Link: Impact of severe weather on local population and economy 

These projects will be due 1 week before the end of the 2nd quarter.  The final week students will demonstrate their projects and conduct them in class.  These will be critiqued by the students and teacher and revisions made prior to there use in the primary grades. 


During the third quarter students will be given an opportunity to summarize all of the information they have researched and learned during a 
This one day event would be a day for students to present there papers and discuss topics that are relevant in the area of global environmental change.  This could also be a day to bring in speakers of interest that could bring their knowledge to share with our students. 

Literature Cited

Walpole, Brenda., 1988. 175 Science Experiments to Amuse and Amaze your 
  Friends. Random House., New York, New York. p.12-14. 

Ingram, Mrill., 1993. Bottle Biology. Kendall/Hunt Publishing., Dubuque, IA. 
p. 75-80. 

Nebraska Earth Science Education Network., 1998. Global Environmental Change 
Workshop Resource Binder. NESEN., Conservation & Survey 
Division - University of Nebraska-Lincoln.