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Alaska Seas and Rivers Curriculum
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Investigation 4 - Changes in Our Local Environment

Class Time Required


9-11 class periods

Materials Needed

  • Science notebooks

Teacher Preparation

One hour to read through the investigation and choose videos. Copy worksheet. Additional time required to enlist volunteers and scan photos if necessary.

Prior Student Knowledge

Experience with photo comparison (Investigation 2)

Vocabulary

none
Science GLEs Addressed

6th Grade: SA1.1, SA1.2, SA3.1

7th Grade: SA1.1, SA1.2, SA3.1, SF1.1-SF3.1

8th Grade: SA1.1, SA1.2, SF1.1-SF3.1

Selected by CLEANThis investigation has been selected as an NSF-funded Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) educational resource.


map Overview: Students interview elders or other long-term residents of the community to document their knowledge of local changes to the landscape and climate. Based on the information and photos they acquired from the interview, students return to photo locations to observe and record changes. Finally, they develop ideas about potential impacts of a warming climate to the ecosystem that surrounds them.

Focus Questions:

What changes in our local environment have taken place over the last 50 years?
What are the major changes occurring in our local environment?
How do physical changes affect our local environment?


Activity 4A: The Old Days

Focus Question:
What changes in our local environment have taken place over the last 50 years?

Engagement: (20-25 minutes)

Show students one or more of the following videos of Native Alaskans talking about changes in their communities.

Saving a Community: Shishmaref, Alaska

Orville Huntington, “It’s a Changing Thing”

Richard Glenn, At Home in Two Worlds

Lead a discussion with your students about changes they have noticed in weather patterns. Was this winter longer or shorter than last year? Was there more or less snow? Was it colder, or colder for longer stretches of time? Did it rain more during the summer? Explain the difference between weather and climate and the need for observations over long periods of time to determine climate patterns.


Exploration: (15-20 minutes + 20-40 minutes for interview)

Each student or pair of students will interview someone who has lived in the community for a long time.

Develop a set of questions that students can use in interviewing long-term residents of the community or area. These could be their parents or grandparents, elders, people who have hunted or fished, birdwatchers, naturalists, or government biologists. Review these examples of questions from the following Web sites to compile a questionnaire:

Observing Locally, Connecting Globally Sample Interview Questions for Grades K-12

Student Led Weather Interview for Grades 7-12

Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op Comprehensive Environmental Monitoring Interview

Interview Questions from Climate Change North

Discuss interview strategies with the students:

  • Be friendly, respectful, and polite.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Allow the speaker plenty of time to answer a question.
  • If the person seems to be getting off topic, listen carefully to what they may be trying to tell you. They may be telling a story in answer to your question.
  • After you have finished asking all your questions, ask them if there is anything else they might want to tell you.
  • Ask permission before you take photos.

Students will need to arrange for the interview, following these steps:

  • Contact the person and arrange a time and place for the interview. Try to arrange for the interview location to be at the school.
  • Explain the purpose of the interview, if they will be filming or recording the interview, and about how long the interview will take.
  • Ask the person to bring any old outdoor photographs taken in or around the community. Photos showing landscape and/or vegetation are preferred.
  • Inform the person of what will be done with the information (presentation, report, possible newspaper, etc.)

If some interviews cannot take place at the school, arrange for parents or volunteers to take the student to the residence and wait for them to complete the interview.

At the interview:
Obtain permission to publish the interview and/or the results of the interview. Students need to have necessary materials for the interview, including:

  • Pens (bring an extra one) and paper.
  • Tape recorder (optional), cassettes, and extra batteries.
  • Camera (optional), film or disk, extra batteries.
  • Clip board or hard book to write on if the interview is not at the school (optional).
  • Blank paper on hand as well, and encourage interviewees to draw maps or sketch animals, tracks, trails, trap sets, etc.
  • Stress the importance for gathering as much information about photos as possible from the person that took the photo. For example, time of year will be critical when comparing historical photos with photos from today.

Xerox or scan any photos that are brought in. They will be used in the next activity. Document when and where they were taken, if possible.


Explanation: (45-60 minutes)

Discuss the interviews and ask students to share information on the types of changes that have happened. List them on the board or chart paper. Ask students to write a 2-3 page report or essay that summarizes the interview and highlights the most significant changes observed by the person they interviewed.


Elaboration: (2-3 class periods)

Students can create a newspaper to share with the community highlighting the changes observed by long-time residents.

Evaluation:

Student reports will provide evidence that the students understood the assignment and followed basic expectations and requirements for the interview.


Activity 4B: Using Photographs to Document Change

Focus Questions:
What are the major changes occurring in our local environment?
How do physical changes affect our local environment?

Engagement: (15-20 minutes)

Remind students of the activity comparing photos of Alaska glaciers. Discuss the types of changes they were able to observe by looking at the photos. Tell students they will try to use local photos to document change.

Display the photos collected from the interviews. Ask the students to analyze the photos for landscape and/or vegetation scenes or backgrounds.
If there is not a good supply of photos, students can ask family and relatives for old photos. If there is a local newspaper, museum, or agency that might have old photos, students can try to obtain more from one of these sources. Alaska’s Digital Archives may also have historic photos of your community and surrounding areas.


Exploration: (2-3 class periods)

Enlist volunteers to assist with the field portion of this activity. Students will need to go to the area where the photo was taken and try to determine exactly where the photographer was standing when they took the photo. Students can take a photo in the same place or as close as possible. If cameras are not available, students can make a sketch or drawing of the area in the photo. Date and location of each site should be recorded.


Explanation: (1-2 class periods)

Print all photos taken by the students. Place the new photos side by side with the old photos, and ask students to analyze them for changes, using the Photo Comparison Worksheet , similar to the one used in Investigation 2. This worksheet is a Venn diagram. Explain that students should complete the section at the top, then list the common features of each photo in the middle, and note the differences in each of corresponding sections. Finally, they should note the major changes at the bottom of the page. For each photo, they should determine what caused the change.

For example, in some photos, the only change might be that the trees and bushes are larger and/or taller. The reason is that they grew over time. If a change shows a river with a different path, erosion or a flood might be the cause of the change. Caution students not to automatically conclude that any of the changes are due to a changing climate. This may be a good opportunity to review the earlier discussion about how weather is different than climate.


Elaboration: (1 class period)

Ask students to choose a set of photos. If there are not enough photo sets for each student to have one, group students in pairs.
Ask them to predict how a photo taken in the same location 50 years from now might look. Ask them to either sketch this future scene, or describe it in detail on paper. They must state possible reasons for the changes.

Evaluation:

If your photos revealed significant changes, you might share these with the community, allowing students to describe the process, and the possible reasons for the changes.

Ask students to respond to the following questions in their science notebooks:

  • What changes in our local environment have taken place over the last 50 years?

  • How are these changes affecting our local environment?

  • How do changes in our physical environment affect our ecosystems?


Teacher Preparation

Tips from Teachers

No tips are currently available.

Read through the investigation and explore the Web site resources listed.

Copy the Photo Comparison Worksheet.

Help students with arranging interviews if necessary.
Enlist volunteers for photo excursions.
Scan photos provided by community members and arrange for students to download and print these photos and others they have taken.


Curricular Connections

Language Arts.
Write a letter: Write a thank-you letter to your interviewee and give them a copy of the report any transcript, photos, etc., that came out of their interview.

Technology: Internet research, PowerPoint

Ideas for adapting to different local environment or context:

For Interior schools, it might help to make a connection to the ways in which the effects of climate change in the ocean affect salmon in rivers.
Presentations can be adapted depending on technology available: PowerPoint, Posters, Overheads, Videos, Podcasts, Blog, Radio Program, etc.

Materials Needed for Investigation 4:

Student Handouts
Items for Group Display

One or more of the following videos:

Saving a Community: Shishmaref, Alaska

Orville Huntington, “It’s a Changing Thing”

Richard Glenn, At Home in Two Worlds

Material Items
  • Video cameras or digital cameras for interview and photos
  • Tape recorders for interview
  • Pens or pencils
  • Paper
  • Clipboard
  • Blank paper
  • Any old outdoor photographs of your community that you can find
Facility/Equipment Requirements

Computers and software to download photos, create newspaper.

Printer or quick photo processing service

Alaska Science Standards and Grade Level Expectations Addressed:

6th Grade:
The student demonstrates an understanding of the processes of science by
SA1.1 asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring, and communicating.*
SA1.2 collaborating to design and conduct simple repeatable investigations. (L)

The student demonstrates an understanding that interactions with the environment provide an opportunity for understanding scientific concepts by
SA3.1 gathering data to build a knowledge base that contributes to the development of questions about the local environment (e.g., moose browsing, trail usage, river erosion). (L)

7th Grade:
The student demonstrates an understanding of the processes of science by
SA1.1 asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring, and communicating.*
SA1.2 collaborating to design and conduct simple repeatable investigations, in order to record, analyze (i.e., range, mean, median, mode), interpret data, and present findings. (L)

The student demonstrates an understanding that interactions with the environment provide an opportunity for understanding scientific concepts by
SA3.1 designing and conducting a simple investigation about the local environment. (L)

The student demonstrates an understanding of the dynamic relationships among scientific, cultural, social, and personal perspectives by
SF1.1-SF3.1 investigating the basis of local knowledge (e.g., describing and predicting weather) and sharing that information. (L)

8th Grade:
The student demonstrates an understanding of the processes of science by:
SA1.1 asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring and communicating.*
SA1.2 collaborating to design and conduct repeatable investigations, in order to record, analyze (i.e., range, mean, median, mode), interpret data, and present findings. (L)*

The student demonstrates an understanding of the dynamic relationships among scientific, cultural, social, and personal perspectives by
SF1.1-SF3.1 describing how local knowledge, culture, and the technologies of various activities (e.g., hunting, fishing, subsistence) influence the development of scientific knowledge. (L)

Essential Questions:

  • How do changes in physical environment affect our ecosystem?
  • What impacts will climate change have on Alaska seas and rivers?

Enduring Understandings:

  • Climate patterns cause physical changes in the environment.
  • Physical changes in the environment can change the conditions for life.
  • Science and technology can be used to detect and solve problems.
 
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