Climate Change: Cross-Curricular Math, English, Science Lesson

Lesson Focus and Instructional Purpose

Students analyze the melting of the polar ice caps and its effects on the Earth and humanity

Unifying Essential Question(s)

How fast are the polar ice caps melting, and why is this rate important to human life on Earth?

Subject Area Question(s)

Subject Supporting Questions
Math What type of function is best to predict the rate of melting of the polar ice caps?
Math When will the polar ice caps be gone, and what effect will this have on the Earth and humanity?
Science Why is the Arctic sea ice melting at an exponential rate?
Science What are the potential outcomes for the biosphere if the polar sea ice continues to melt?
Science Is there an evidence-based relationship between the amounts of greenhouse gases to the annual temperature change?
English What are the existing perspectives on climate change and global warming?

Collaborative Learning Objective(s)

Students will analyze the cause and/or effect of the melting of the polar ice caps over the last 40 years and determine if and when it will have a significant effect on the Earth and humanity.

Standards Addressed

 Mathematics  ELA/Literacy  Social Studies
 CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP3  CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1  NCES. Bio.2.2.1 - Infer how human activities (including population growth, pollution, global warming, burning of fossil fuels, habitat destruction and introduction of nonnative species) may impact the environment.
 F.BF.1 Write a function that describes a relationship between two quantities.  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.  NCES.Bio.2.2.2 - Explain how the use, protection and conservation of natural resources by huma ns impact the environment from one generation to the next.
 F.LE.4 For exponential models, express as a logarithm the solution to abct=d where a, c, and d are numbers and the base is 2, 10, or e; evaluate the logarithm using technology.  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1.a Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.  NGSS.HS.LS.2.7 - Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impact s of human activities on the environment and biodiversity. *

Close Reading Text Set

Anchor Text

Arctic Sea Ice Decline

Supporting Texts

Subject Title of Supporting Text URL of Supporting Text
Math Earth Underwater video

Science The Great Melt - BBC
Science Did Climate Change Kill the Hoosier Butterfly?
English Marc Morano and Bill Nye debate on climate change:

Organized Text Set

Text Title Learning Objective
1. Math - Earth Underwater video Introduction to the ice cap situation
2. Math - Arctic Sea Ice Decline SWBAT create and solve linear, quadratic, exponential, and cubic functions from given data on the polar ice caps. SWBAT evaluate functions to assess their accuracy on when the polar ice caps will melt.
3. Science - The Great Melt - BBC Video Intro Video
4. Science - Primary Text - Arctic Sea Ice Decline SWBAT examine the impact of the melting icecaps on the biosphere by completing research and a one-page reflection.
5. Science - Did Climate Change Kill the Hoosier Butterfly? SWBAT examine the impact of climate change to the biosphere by participating in the discussion.
6. English - Marc Morano and Bill Nye Debate on Climate Change SWBAT construct an argument (claim, evidence, reasoning) for their perspective on climate change in relation to global warming, and specifically on Arctic Sea ice decline by citing evidence from the primary text and the Marc Morano/Bill Nye debate.
7. Science - Relationship between Polar Bear and decline of Icecaps SWBAT examine the impact of climate change to the biosphere by participating in the discussion.

Student Activities and Tasks


  • Begin with discussion of article: Why is the ice melt an issue? What has led to the problem? Do you believe that it’s an issue? Where in the article did you see math that could relate to determining the problem? Why is this important?
  • Then, getting to the math functions from the graph: What functions can we calculate that relate the values from the graph to predict when the ice will be completely gone? Ultimately, what function best predicts the ice melt?
  • On Day 2, as students solve functions algebraically: Do you still believe that your function best predicts the ice melt? Why or why not? Also, why will the exponential function never predict that the ice levels are 0?


  • After the hook video, ask: What may be causing the ice caps to melt more now than previously? We will share out & create a list. Students will repeat a turn & talk: What are the potential consequences on increased melting of the arctic ice? - We will share out and add to the list. (This list will be used to generate our conversations the next two lessons)
  • Key questions to gather from text: What factors play a role in the melting of Arctic sea ice? (paragraph 3) How is the amount of ice present directly to the Earth’s climate? (P4) Difference between “new ice” and “multi-year” (or old) ice? (P5) Why is paragraph 10 titled “A Man made Problem”? Students will be asked to pay close attention to the impacts of disappearing ice, as these will lay the foundation for our task today (p 15 – 20)


  • Teacher will begin inquiry through a post-video discussion on the implications of global warming and climate change. 
  • Teacher will then introduce perspectives on the debate through texts and also provide evidence through the primary text. 

Text-Dependent Questions:

  • What are the existing perspectives on the issue of global warming and climate change?
  • What is some specific evidence to support given perspectives?
  • What kind of diction or persuasive techniques are used to support given perspectives?
  • What is your perspective on the issue, and how can you support it using relevant evidence?

Formative Assessment Strategies and Tasks


  • Teacher uses cold call and higher-level questioning during whole-class instruction, and observes group discussion and responses on activity sheet during guided/independent practice. 
  • Furthermore, teacher will collect and evaluate responses after Day 1 to determine depth of Day 2 whole-class vs. group instruction.


  • Sharing out on text dependent questions after allotted time of reading, using cold-call and volunteer responses
  • Students annotations of text, including summaries
  • Circulation and conversation during the research portion of the independent practice
  • Use day one's discussion to drive instruction on day two. 


  • Teacher facilitates Socratic Seminar on the debate in which students will come prepared with notes, claims, evidence.
  • Completed graphic organizer with claim statement, and three reasons/evidence to support thesis in preparation for the argumentative essay on climate change.

Culminating Assessment


Students will write a letter to their Congressman/Congresswoman explaining why it is so important to take action to prevent the melting of the polar ice caps, based on their math. The letter will include the algebraic and graphical solutions to the function the student decided is best, an explanation of why that is the best function, an explanation of when the ice caps will melt completely, and what this could mean for the Earth and humanity.


In order to assess my students on the Arctic Sea Ice decline, students will be responsible for writing a one page assignment. Students will review the five impacts of disappearing sea ice noted in the article. Students will utilize the article and online resources to research their specific impact. Students will write a one page reflection based on the two main aspects of today’s lesson: 1) identifying causes of sea ice disappearance 2) specific description of their chosen impact of loss of sea ice – including the potential consequences if the sea ice continues to disappear.


Students will utilize all notes, annotations, and collection of claim statements, reasoning, and evidence gathered from the texts and refined through discussion and the Socratic Seminar to develop their own thesis statement and at least 3 pieces of evidence to support their claim statement. The summative assessment will be an argumentative essay in which they use gathered evidence from texts to support their claim on global warming. This task will assess their skills with articulating an argument in a formal essay

Background Knowledge and Prerequisite Skills

Pre-requisite Learning

  • Students will need to be able to graph functions on a calculator and adjust scale to see values.
  • Students will need to understand solving equations as a means of isolating a variable to find a value. 
  • Students will need to be able to interpret a graph, including the meaning of the x/y axis and scale, to determine values and gather data in a given situation.
  • Students will need to be able to evaluate a text for claim, reasons, and evidence to support the claim, and also be aware of persuasive techniques in writing and speaking

Pre-assessment of Readiness for Learning


Informal assessment through cold call, whole-class questioning, and observing extensive group work will determine need for mini-lessons in math.
After Day 1, collection of sheets will allow teacher to assess readiness for Day 2 solving functions.


Informal assessment through cold call, whole-class questioning, review aligned questions from diagnostic test (students averaged 68% in obj 2.2.1 and 74% in 2.2.2)
Students have prior knowledge in these objectives from previous science classes, and from the consistent exposure to the topic - this allows for more student led, teacher facilitated instruction


Students will have prior exposure to argumentative and persuasive writing through practice articles and online writing workshops aligned to the English 10 Holt McDougal textbook

Organization of Instructional Activities


Lesson Plan:

Activity Sheet:

Math Day 1

  • Video/Text Reading and Analysis (20-25 min, questions on activity sheet)
  • Whole-class discussion of issue and math relationships (15-20 min)
  • Students write and graph functions using TI-83 or higher regression capabilities. Then, use to evaluate for given years. (20-30 min, depending on level of students and necessity for skills review, questions/resources on activity sheet)

Math Day 2

  • Students predict when ice level will reach 0. (5 min, based on closing question from Day 1)
  • Teacher introduction, students calculate algebraically and graphically solutions = 0 for all four functions (30-50 minutes, depending on level of students)
  • Students analyze functions and begin summative assessment - letter to Congressman/Congresswoman (30 - 40 minutes)


Lesson plan:

Day 1:

  • warm up 
  • video & discussion
  • reading & annotating text
  • class discussion to analyze text
  • research & reflection on consequences
  • wrap-up

Day 2:

  • warm up
  • instructional notes (relating ozone layer, greenhouse gases to temperature change discussed yesterday)
  • students calculate own carbon footprint
  • students create and analyze graphs to determine relationship between gases and temperature
  • philosophical chairs - Do you think the United States should adapt policies to regulate greenhouse emissions?
  • closure


English Day 1 

  • Teacher introduces the topic if global warming and climate change through a short video.
    Will show up to minute 3:40 to leave at the question: “is rising sea level (melting polar ice) myth or reality?” This question will engage students and open them up for further investigation through debate and texts. 
  • Teacher shows students the Marc Morano and Bill Nye Debate on climate change. While watching, students must take Cornell notes on evidence from both sides of the argument.
  • Students (broken up by reading level) will read and annotate the primary text.

English Day 2

  • Teacher will instruct students to take out their primary text articles that were annotated and analyzed for evidence, along with their Cornell notes on the climate change debate video.
  • Teacher then organizes students into a Socratic seminar to engage in a discussion about climate change with a focus on the Arctic Ice melting. 
  • Students use their notes and annotated texts to share and listen through discussion. Students in the inner circle will do most of the discussing and sharing of textual evidence to support their claims, while students on the outer circle will take notes they might have missed, or articulate their thoughts and reactions in writing.

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