- gain a basic knowledge of climate change, global warming, the greenhouse effect, and other related themes;
- conduct research using various resources, including the Internet, to examine different perspectives on climate change and its impacts on ocean life;
- devise criteria for judging the quality, balance, and fairness of information;
- analyse and synthesize information representing contrary points of view; and
- develop informed opinions based on their own research and analysis.
access to library and Internet resources, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, video documentaries, and other media concerning climate change and its ecological impacts, art materials (markers, poster paper, display boards), video or still cameras (optional)
Some scientists question whether climate change is fact or fantasy, natural or caused by human actions, harmful or harmless to the life inhabiting our waters and lands. This uncertainty often results in conflict, with believers and sceptics positioned on either side of the climate change debate.
Firm believers see warming temperatures, rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, and intensifying storms as definite proof that climate change is real and is cause for concern. Ironclad sceptics regard such signs as doubtful and little to worry about. Believers use computerized global circulation models to forecast climatic impacts. sceptics say that these models are unscientific and cannot be trusted.
The message we get from both believers and sceptics in newspapers, magazines, books, television, the Internet, and other media is often one-sided. Its purpose is more to indoctrinate than to educate. Both camps are selective in the data they reveal, presenting a narrow view of the issues to strengthen their claims about climate change.
The science of climate change is still evolving. Like any field of inquiry, its goals include objectivity. Yet, all things are subjective, or subject to an individual's views. Even in the world of scientific inquiry, pure objectivity without any influence from the observer may be out of reach. How can climate change experts, let alone students, hope to attain this elusive goal?
One way of developing objectivity is to become more discerning about the quality, balance, and fairness of information. Becoming discerning involves asking the right questions. When someone presents information on climate change, is that person describing the topic as a whole? Is he or she merely describing a personal point of view? Does that person acknowledge that there are different points of view? Is he or she presenting factual data or, rather, opinion as if it were factually based?
The purpose of this activity is for students to gain a basic understanding of climate change, its possible impacts, and the debate surrounding it. The bulk of knowledge is left for students to discover for themselves. It is hoped that, by developing their own criteria to evaluate information on climate change, they can make up their own minds about the issues.
- Begin with a concept-mapping exercise to find out what students know, or think they know, about the causes and effects of climate change. Concept mapping is a visually rich way to externalize, organize, and communicate knowledge of concepts, while forming a foundation for subsequent learning.
- Hold a brainstorming session in which students generate statements about climate change in relation to oceans. Encourage individuals to express what they know and to ask for clarification of unfamiliar terms. It may help to pose questions, such as: "What is the greenhouse effect? What is the difference between global warming and climate change? What human activities cause climate change? How does climate change impact on oceans?" Record the statements on a blackboard or flip-chart.
- Have each student organize the statements by printing them on separate cards and grouping cards of similar meaning in piles. Each student should make as many or as few piles as he or she wishes.
- Now, work as a class to create a concept map, in which each statement is represented as a separate point. Statements grouped together by more students should end up closer on the map, indicating their degree of relatedness. Statements strongly related to each other are then partitioned into clusters representing conceptual domains. All students should recognize relationships among the clustered statements and get a clearer picture of the meaning of climate change in connection with oceans.
- Does the information cite or list facts? What are they?
- Does the information make claims? Are they supported by facts or evidence? Describe the claims and list supporting facts and evidence.
- Does the information base its claims on science or technology? Are scientific laws or principles used to support these claims? If so, what are they? Is a scientist or engineer cited as an authority? Who is he or she and how is his or her expertise confirmed? Which fields of science or engineering are employed?
- Have data or facts been used selectively to support a particular point of view? Does the information attempt to persuade the public or does it encourage people to make up their own minds?
- Does the information acknowledge that there are different points of view about the topic?
- Is there any indication that the author or publisher of the information stands behind its accuracy or validity?
- How could you verify the claims?
- What is your overall assessment of the accuracy of the information? Highly accurate? Somewhat accurate? Unsure? Somewhat inaccurate? Highly inaccurate?
- Have each pair or group review one or more informational items and answer the questions on the sheet. Also encourage them to ask and answer questions of their own.
- Ask each pair or group to report on its findings. Students can summarize their findings by rating the information according to categories from "highly accurate" to "highly inaccurate." What do they think about the quality of the information? Do they trust the accuracy of the facts or agree with the opinions expressed? Why or why not? Ask them to support their evaluations with evidence and reasons for their views.
- Discuss as a class whether it is possible to be forceful and effective in expressing one's views without being untruthful, unfair, or biased; and whether it is possible to separate one's personal viewpoint from a publicly neutral position. Are government agencies, industries, environmental groups, and individuals responsible for acknowledging other points of view?
- Now have the whole class work as a team to develop a checklist that students can use to evaluate Internet, television, print, and other informational items. What, in their view, should be the criteria for quality, balance, and fairness in these media? Post the check-list in a visible place in the classroom. Also provide each student with a copy of the check-list for personal use.
- Have groups of students develop their own informational items, such as pamphlets, newspaper articles, advertisements, mini-documentaries, and public service announcements, expressing views about the causes and effects of climate change in connection with oceans. Then, have the rest of the class evaluate each item's quality, balance, and fairness by applying the criteria from the checklist and suggesting improvements.
- Hold a debate about climate change, with the class divided into two sides — believers and sceptics.
- Have your students write essays from the viewpoint of environmentalists who believe climate change is a cause for concern or industrialists who are sceptical about climate change.
- Poll your students before and after the lesson to see how many believe climate change is a serious problem and how many have doubts about it.
Evaluate students on the basis of their participation in the class discussion, informational items they produce, and application of the criteria from the checklist.
© Canadian Wildlife Federation
All rights reserved. Web site content may be electronically copied or printed for classroom, personal and non-commercial use. All other users must receive written permission.