This is a sequence of 5 classroom activities focusing on the El NiÃo climate variability. The activities increase in complexity and student-directedness. The focus of the activities is on accessing and manipulating real data to help students understand El NiÃo as an interaction of Earth systems.

This hands-on activity is a kinesthetic game illustrating the dynamics of the carbon cycle. Acting as carbon atoms, students travel from one carbon reservoir to another; at each reservoir they determine, by rolling dice, how long they stay in the reservoir or how likely it is that they will move to another carbon reservoir.

In this activity students download satellite images displaying land surface temperature, snow cover, and reflected short wave radiation data from the NASA Earth Observation (NEO) Web site. They then explore and animate these images using the free tool ImageJ and utilize the Web-based analysis tools built into NEO to observe, graph, and analyze the relationships among these three variables.

In this mock mission, students become members of a research team and conduct a series of tasks to audit Earth's radiative budget. They use a Java Applet/visual viewer to access satellite data sets, calculate the balance of incoming and outgoing solar radiation, and defend their answers to a number of science questions.

This three-part, hands-on investigation explores how sunlight's angle of incidence at Earth's surface impacts the amount of solar radiation received in a given area. The activity is supported by PowerPoint slides and background information.

In this classroom activity, students analyze visualizations and graphs that show the annual cycle of plant growth and decline. They explore patterns of annual change for the globe and several regions in each hemisphere that have different land cover and will match graphs that show annual green-up and green-down patterns with a specific land cover type.

Student teams design and build solar water heating devices that mimic those used in residences to capture energy in the form of solar radiation and convert it to thermal energy. In this activity, students gain a better understanding of the three different types of heat transfer, each of which plays a role in the solar water heater design. Once the model devices are constructed, students perform efficiency calculations and compare designs.

In this activity, students research various topics about ocean health, e.g. overfishing, habitat destruction, invasive species, climate change, pollution, and ocean acidification. An optional extension activity has them creating an aquatic biosphere in a bottle experiment in which they can manipulate variables.

This activity introduces students to global climate patterns by having each student collect information about the climate in a particular region of the globe. After collecting information, students share data through posters in class and consider factors that lead to differences in climate in different parts of the world. Finally, students synthesize the information to see how climate varies around the world.

In this hands-on engineering activity, students will build a tabletop wind turbine. Students get acquainted with the basics of wind energy and power production by fabricating and testing various blade designs for table-top windmills constructed from one-inch PVC pipe and balsa wood (or recycled materials). The activity includes lots of good media and Web resources supporting the science content.

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