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50 Years of Change

Activity Information: 

In this lesson, your students will explore the topic of Climate Change over a 50-year period in your local region of the province.

Grade Appropriate Level: 8-12
Duration: Approximately 2 -3 80-minute periods

  1. Average Annual Temperatures for the last 50 years – locally (list of suggested websites and contact information provided in the content section of this lesson)

  2. Computer access (with a word processing program and Internet)

  3. Climate Change weblinks list (enclosed in this package)

  4. Expository essay writing information available at:

  5. One large piece of chart paper per student group


The climate is the weather averaged over a long period of time. A descriptive saying is that "climate is what you expect, weather is what you get". Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the “average weather”, or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years. These quantities are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind.

In the most general sense, climate change can be taken to mean changes over all timescales and in all of the components of climate (precipitation, clouds, temperature). Climate changes can be caused both by natural forces and by human activities. However, in recent usage, especially in the context of environmental policy, it refers more specifically to changes being studied in the present, including an average rise in surface temperature, or climate change.

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  • Knowledge – The students will be able to describe climate as it affects them in their local region and in accordance with the definition given above. For simplicity’s sake, temperature will be the sole focus of this lesson. As an extension or enrichment, students could research precipitation and/or wind statistics, among other topics.

  • Skills – The students will become familiar with various sources of geographic information: almanacs, public library-government documents and online sources (see suggested information links below). Students will be able to use these sources to research their hypothesis and to cite in defense of their findings. Expository essay writing skills will be developed to complete this assignment.

  • Affective – The students will have the opportunity to develop group skills through researching collaboratively.

Prescribed Learning Outcomes:

  • Extract information from given graphs of discrete or continuous data, using: time series, continuous data and/or contour lines

  • design different ways of presenting data and analyzing results, by focusing on the truthful display of data and the clarity of presentation

  • describe methods of obtaining, visualizing, and analyzing local and regional information about the earth

  • demonstrate an awareness that decisions made today will influence the future of society

  • evaluate how human activity affects climate, including ozone depletion, global warming, and acid rain

  • demonstrate the ability to use the Internet to access

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        information from a variety of sources, academic, government, corporate, NGOs

  • compose or create works of communication for specific audiences and purposes, including to entertain, persuade, or inform

  • locate, access, and select relevant information from a variety of sources (including technological sources) for defined purposes

Suggested Instructional Strategies:

  1. Discuss the terms “climate” and “climate change”. See what definitions the students can provide for these terms and then provide them with the definition we will be using in this lesson.

  2. As a whole class or in small groups, have the students brainstorm ideas regarding where they might obtain data on climate. Hint: Try your local Environment Canada office, BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection or the Weather Network, local media and non-profit groups

  3. Instruct students to collaboratively obtain the average annual temperatures for their local community over the last 50 years.

  4. Have the groups assess the data and choose an appropriate and effective means to graph and display their findings. As a guide, students can assess declines in average rainfall, higher temperatures, lower snowpacks etc. (group members’ names in sub-title).

  5. Each group member then individually writes a one-page expository essay which discusses the findings their group came up with. Groups are encouraged to share ideas and assist one another in creating high-quality essays. See assessment criteria below.

  6. Provide students with a list of project grading and assessment criteria prior to beginning research work. Students should be aware that each essay will be graded individually, but group members will receive a grade reflecting the average mark for the groups’ essays. In this way, individuals are motivated to help the groups achieve its best outcomes in this lesson.

Extension Activities:

  • Invite discussion and possible solutions to Climate Change within your own school or community. How can students take individual action to reduce their own climate change emissions? Have students conduct an experiment that charts their attempts to reduce emissions and measure their progress, using the EPA climate change calculator at

  • Canadian site here: 

  • Global carbon footprint calculator:


  • In addition to multiple reports about melting polar ice caps melting, what other predictions about climate can students find and research from the last 50 or so years?  Acid rain, global warming, global cooling, population bomb, etc. Encourage students to look at research from various sides to see how these topics have numerous scientific opinions and data. Is the topic black and white or do students see conflicting opinions, and impacts associated with taking a particular “side” in their research?  Here are a few sites below to get started:

  • “Driving the criticism of The Population Bomb (1968) were its arresting, graphic descriptions of the potential consequences of overpopulation: famine, pollution, social and ecological collapse. Ehrlich says he saw these as “scenarios,” illustrations of possible outcomes, and he expresses frustration that they are instead “continually quoted as predictions”—as stark inevitabilities. If he had the ability to go back in time, he said, he would not put them in the book.” (Smithsonian Magazine Jan 2018)

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Lesson plan prepared by Sandra Ulmer – Education Services Coordinator, FORED BC

Essay Grading Criteria:

Download Essay Grading Criteria below!

50 years - Essay grading preview

Download the PDF version of

50 Years of Change Activity below:

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