Introduction to Climate

Climate Change Lesson 1: Introduction to Climate Change

Climate change is a topic we hear discussed everywhere. We read about it, watch TV programs about it, and people argue whether it's real or not. The global temperature has gone up by one degree. That may not seem like very much, but over time that one degree has created drastic changes in weather. We have hotter, dryer summers, more violent storms and some parts of the world are facing the reality that their homes may be underwater from rising sea levels in the not too distant future. Not all scientists agree however that the evidence of warmer temperatures proves global warming is caused by human activity. Some believe this is a natural cycle of warming that the planet goes through, and that natural cooling cycles will regulate the warmer temperatures over time. 

The purpose of this short lesson is to provide your class an opportunity to explore climate change, global warming, and discuss whether it is something being created by human activity, or if it's a natural phenomenon of our planet.

Activity Level:  High

Activity Time: 50 Minutes


Students will explore if climate change is a human created problem or a natural one with a classroom discussion and definition of basic vocabulary.

Students will consider their understanding of the controversy of climate change by listening to a series of statements, and choosing whether they agree or don't agree.



Lesson plan

Copies of Climate Change Facts Sheet for students

Masking tape, for the putting a line on the floor

Two signs, one that says AGREE and one that says DON'T AGREE to put up on opposite sides of the room.

Copies of concept map for students.


Teacher: Today we will talk about a topic you may have heard of before. The topic is Climate Change.

Discussion questions:
How many of you have heard of climate change?

Where have you heard about it?

What does climate change mean?
(Possible answers: The Earth is getting warmer, weather is changing, storms are getting more violent. Polar ice caps are melting.)

Someone mentioned weather. Are weather and climate the same thing?

What is the difference between weather and climate?

Teacher: Write the following words on the board -

Weather - what is happening outside for that day, ie., rain, storms, cold warm, sunny, cloudy, windy.

Climate - Weather patterns that happen over a long period of time; about 30 years.

So when you hear someone talk about climate change, are they talking about the weather for a few days, or the weather that spans over many years?

Teacher: If desired, show the BrainPop video on global warming (Note: BrainPop is a series of educational videos that are perfect for this age group. They also include interactive quizzes to go with the video. BrainPop allows some videos to be viewed for free, but to access all of their materials will require subscription).

Teacher: Pass out Climate Change Facts

Climate change facts

According to some scientists who study climate change, the temperature of the Earth has risen by one degree.  This raise in temperature is called Global Warming.

That one degree has caused drastic changes in the Earth's weather. 

The one degree rise is also responsible for the shrinking polar ice caps.

Climate change scientists say there is proof climate change is caused by pollution created by humans.

Climate change scientists believe that if people don't change some activities that contribute to the green house effect, the temperature of the Earth could rise even more.

The green house effect is where more gases like carbon dioxide are put into the atmosphere than the Earth can absorb.  The main source of carbon dioxide made by humans is car exhaust and pollution from industries.

Not everyone agrees with the theory that climate change is caused by humans.

Some scientists say the one degree temperature rise is natural, and not caused by human activity.

There are people who deny climate change is happening at all. 

Activity Intro:

Teacher: Now we will participate in an activity called Agree or Don't Agree.

Lesson Overview

Teacher: Use the masking tape to put a line in the middle of the floor space you will use for the activity. On one side there should be a sign that says AGREE and another sign that says DON'T AGREE.

Have the students stand on the masking tape line, and read each statement out loud. If they agree, they need to move to that side of the space next to the AGREE sign. If they don't agree, have them move to the other side near the DON'T AGREE sign. If they are unsure, have them stay on the line.

Climate Change Statements

  • Weather is something that happens outside to our atmosphere from day to day.

    Climate is what our weather does over a long period of time, like 30 years.
  • The rise in global temperature isn't enough for us to be concerned.

    Global warming according to some scientists is caused by people, like driving cars.
  • Everyone thinks global warming and climate change is caused by people.
  • There are some scientists who say climate change isn't happening.
  • The global rise in temperature is caused by nature.
  • Global warming and climate change will change our environment.

When finished, have students return to their seats.

Table Activity

Teacher: Pass out the concept map to the class and have them write CLIMATE CHANGE in the center circle. In the next ring of circles they need to put the main ideas:



Global Warming

Greenhouse Effect

Environment Impact

In the outer circles have the students put concepts and ideas that relate to each main idea.  They may not be able to fill each outer circle.


Not everyone agrees how global warming is happening.  Some even argue it's not even happening at all.  Scientists who have looked at the evidence of global warming claim that if our climate continues to change and we continue to see warmer temperatures, it could cause many changes to our environment.

Teacher Resource:

Climate Change Fact Sheet. This can be printed to hand out to the class or displayed on an overhead/Smart Board.

Student Resource:

Climate Change Concept Map. Use the free domain sheet file as an example of  how the concept map should look and add any graphics desired.