Exploring Our Climate through the Natural Inquirer and GLOBE

Contributed by Emily Crasti and Lily Constantino, students at SUNY Fredonia

Hello, we are Emily and Lily! We are currently pursuing careers in elementary education at the State University of New York at Fredonia. We are so excited to become educators, and we find that students learn best through inquiry and making discoveries. We chose the Investi-gator (Northern Research Station) issue because we think that the topics like leaf color changing, impacts of the ozone layers on trees, and soil activity in the winter are all very relevant topics to where we live and hope to teach in western New York. We are both very passionate about our environment and think that it is important that we inspire our students to learn about their environment through their own discoveries in a way that may even inspire them to take action.

cover of the Investi-gator (Northern Research Station) issue
Investi-gator (Northern Research Station) 

This issue of the Investi-gator contains four articles and topics for students to study. These topics include the changing of leaf colors in the fall, how the chemical ozone layer affected trees in Wisconsin, how we can protect the environment with policies, and how soil activity changes in the wintertime. This is a neat resource because each article has the same activities that are organized in the same way. Each article includes the following sections: Meet the Scientist, Glossary, Thinking about Science, Thinking About the Environment, Introduction, Method, Findings, Discussion, Reflection Sections, and FACTivity. Small case studies are explained in detail with careful consideration for tuning into the interest of elementary-aged students. We are especially loving the section titled, “Who are Scientists?,” which provides answers like being curious, careful, and open-minded.

Each article could be broken up into a lesson or small series of lessons to use with students. Let’s take a look at “Out of the Penalty Box” and discuss how we might use this article in the classroom. First, we would have students explore the first few sections and learn about the scientists and the case study that discusses environmental policies. We could even do a few fun vocabulary activities with the vocabulary words emphasized in bold lettering. It would be fun to create a science word wall with these new vocabulary words! After students have explored this case study, we would have them complete the FACTivity that asks them to reflect on their own policies at school and come together in a class discussion about their findings. We love that this issue is inquiry-based and encourages students to come together to discuss their findings and provide evidence, just like a true scientist.

The GLOBE Program

The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program is a worldwide science and education program. Elementary GLOBE is just what it sounds like: K-4 modules that introduce students to various aspects of Earth's system science. Through a storybook approach, the modules engage and challenge students to extend their thinking of the natural world through observation and measurement. The Elementary GLOBE modules include a science-based fictional storybook, three learning activities, a glossary, and a teacher’s guide. The fictional storybook aids children in exploring a specific aspect of the Earth using their scientific skills. The learning activities further explore the topic and help students develop sound approaches to complex problems. The glossaries provide necessary background information to assist students. GLOBE modules are also available in various translations, so they are accessible for all learners. Elementary GLOBE covers the topics air quality, climate, clouds, and Earth as a System, seasons, soils, and water.

cover of the Elementary GLOBE storybook "What in the World is Happening to Our Climate?"
Elementary GLOBE Climate Module 

When it comes to teaching climate to students, Elementary GLOBE’s climate module is a great resource to implement alongside the Natural Inquirer. To start, the fictional storybook What in the World is Happening to Our Climate? found in the climate module touches on almost all the topics covered in the Investi-gator issue, including the increase of ozone, how to protect and make changes to climate, and snow. At the start of the climate unit in the classroom, this book should be read to introduce the students to the topic of climate and the subjects that fall under it.

GLOBE and Natural Inquirer Connections 

cover of the Natural Inquirer article "Out of the Penalty Box: Protecting the Environment Through Policies"
The first activity in the module “Weather Adds Up to Climate” connects to the Investi-gator topic of “Snowed In?” because it has students collect data about weather patterns and then conclude how those patterns are affecting parts of our Earth such as the soil. This activity could easily be co-taught with the “Snowed In?” and “Are you Red-dy to Change?” portions of the Investi-gator. The second activity “Seashores on the Move” connects with the topic “No Littering O-Zone: How Rising Ozone Levels Affect Tree Growth.” Both focus on how the rise of sea level can affect a community and an environment. The third lesson from GLOBE “We’re All Part of the Solution!” coincides with the Investi-gator article “Out of the Penalty Box: Protecting the Environment Through Policies.” The GLOBE activity is all about taking action to solve the challenges of climate, which pairs perfectly with the policies talked about in the Investi-gator under this chapter. The coloring pages can be included for extra fun in any of the lessons.

We are so excited to explore the topic of climate with our future students! These resources will be incredibly useful in helping us.            

NGSS Connections: Disciplinary Core Ideas 

When looking at the Next Generation Science Standards, many of the activities in the Investi-gator can be supported by these standards in the curriculum. Taking a look at the “Out of the Penalty Box” article again, the article discusses the importance of citizens helping to make policies for the environment. This may be supported by the science standard ESS3.C Human Impacts on the Earth System as students explore how policies are created and decided. Furthermore, in the FACTivity and discussion for this section, students are engaging in an investigation of policies in their own school and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in a class discussion to support their science and engineering practices.

From the Elementary GLOBE Teacher Implementation Guide, Disciplinary Core Ideas relevant to these activities are:

  • ESS2.C The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes

  • ESS2.D Weather and Climate

  • ESS3.A Natural Resources

  • ESS3.C Human Impacts on the Earth System

Not only are these activities related to science, but they are also interdisciplinary. Students are encouraged to complete a FACTivity extension in which they develop their own plans to get policies implemented. This activity is an example of the English Language Arts standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1 - Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Image captions (top to bottom):

  1. Cover of the Investi-gator, a science journal for elementary school students, Summer 2009 Northern Research Station edition
  2. Cover of the Elementary GLOBE storybook What in the World is Happening to Our Climate?
  3. Cover of the Natural Inquirer article "Out of the Penalty Box: Protecting the Environment Through Policies"

Acknowledgement: This material is based upon work supported by USDA Forest Service Eastern Region (Agreement no. 20-PA-11090100-026). Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA Forest Service.

This blog post is part of the GLOBE and the Natural Inquirer Crosswalk Project. Other blog posts are available on the U.S. GLOBE Teacher Resources page

Natural Inquirer issues can be downloaded and classroom sets of many issues can be ordered from their website. Find the complete list of issues available and instructions for ordering on the Natural Inquirer website

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