College Classroom Item 10

  CaucusGo ToSearchPeopleNotebookHelpQuit
Caucus Center => College Classroom => Item 10
  You are El Nino Administrator.
Final Project

Item 10  03-APR-1998 13:15 Kristina (Tina) Bishop (tina)

Here is where you can post your final project. I am looking forward to seeing your "finished products."

10:1) 15-MAY-1998 20:52 Robert Heckerl (rheckerl)


Overview:  Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have had an impact on the earth, but the past one-hundred years have been especially hard on the earth’s environment.  You may have heard or read many recent reports on the hole in the ozone layer, on the ‘greenhouse effect’, and so on.  What have we been doing over the past five or six generations to bring on the environmental crisis?  The answers are complex, and always under debate.  Before we turn back the clock to look at ancient civilizations, I feel it is important to start in the here and now.  Once we understand where we are right now, we can retrace the journey of human civilization that has led us to our current situation.  

You may be thinking, “But this sounds like SCIENCE class!”  I agree.  But we humans have caused the trouble and must now get ourselves out of it.  You’ll find that you are doing math, science, art, music, language arts and reading IN social studies class.  Humans have made use of all of these things (and more) in developing our cultures and surviving in our many environments.  Social studies examines the relationship between humankind, culture, and environment.  

Much of the information in this unit may seem overwhelming.  By the vast majority of accounts, our environment is in trouble.  The problems we now face are very complicated.  The thing to remember, however, is that there are more people working around the world to solve these problems than ever before, with more people joining the good fight every day.  For your generation and mine, the salvation of the environment will soon become a global priority.  

Much of the following information was taken directly, for teaching purposes, from the book Earth in the Balance by Vice President Al Gore.  The Vice President obtained his information from some of the greatest environmental scientists and thinkers of our time.  The book has had a long run on the New York Time’s Best-Seller list.  We will also examine how these global changes may be affecting naturally occuring weather phenomena such as the El Nino cycle.  


In June of 1992, the leaders of almost every nation on earth gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. This conference was the first “Earth Summit”.  

The burning and clear-cutting of the tropical rainforests, the thousand-fold increase in the rate at which living species become extinct, the poisoning of our air and water, global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion - all these tragedies and more were suddenly recognized as different pieces of the same puzzle, or to put it a different way, different consequences of the collision between our worldwide civilization and the ecological system of the earth.......Our way of thinking about our relationship to the environment has changed (not for the better, unfortunately) as we have yielded to the intense modern pressures to deny responsibility for the future consequences of our present actions......But if the Earth Summit was a success for the world as a whole, it was a serious setback for our nation.  At a crucial moment in history, when the rest of the world was requesting and eagerly expecting American leadership - not to mention vision - our nation found itself embarrassed and isolated at Rio.......The Bush administration insisted that our delegation argue in favor of so many nonsensical positions that a deadlock was virtually guaranteed.......We thus became the only nation in the world to refuse to sign one of the major treaties (on carbon dioxide reductions) at the Earth Summit........The disappointment at Rio was keen when the United States not only failed to lead but actively fought against needed progress on the environment.  The mood, however, was one of astonishment and sorrow more than of anger - at least in part because of widespread recognition that the views of the Bush administration were not those of the American people......Every public opinion poll that has asked the question has found that Americans want our nation to lead the world community on the issue of the environment more than any other........Just before I left for the Earth Summit last spring, I helped organize a meeting in Washington of scientists and religious leaders to discuss the global excerpt:
Despite the seriousness of this crisis, we are hopeful.  We humans, in spite of our faults, can be intelligent, resourceful, compassionate, prudent and imaginative.  We have access to great reservoirs of moral and spiritual courage. Deep within us stirs a commitment to the health, safety and future of our children.  Understanding that the world does not belong to any one nation or generation, and sharing a spirit of utmost urgency, we dedicate ourselves to undertake bold action to cherish and protect the environment of our planetary home.  

The edifice of civilization has become astonishingly complex, but as it grows ever more elaborate, we feel increasingly distant from our roots in the earth.  In one sense, civilization itself has been on a journey from its foundations in the world of nature to an ever more contrived, controlled, and manufactured world of our own imitative and sometimes arrogant design......At some point during this journey we lost our feeling of connectedness to the rest of nature.  We now dare to wonder:  Are we so unique and powerful as to be essentially separate from the earth?  Many of us act - and think - as if the answer is yes.....Too often we are unwilling to look beyond ourselves to see the effect of our actions today on our children and grandchildren.......Many people have lost their faith in the future..... Even now, (because of near-sighted farming practices) about eight acres’ worth of topsoil floats past Memphis every hour.  The Mississippi River carries away millions of tons of topsoil from farms in the middle of America, soil that is now gone for good.  Iowa, for example, used to have an average of sixteen inches of the best topsoil in the world.  Now it is down to eight inches; most of the rest is somewhere on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.  

As it happens, some of the most disturbing images of environmental destruction can be found exactly halfway between the North and South poles - precisely at the equator in Brazil - where billowing clouds of smoke regularly blacken the sky above the immense but now threatened Amazon rainforest.  Acre by acre, the rainforest is being burned to create fast pasture for fast-food beef......There are more different species of birds in each square mile of the Amazon than exist in all of North America - which means we are silencing thousands of songs we have never even heard.  But for most of us the Amazon is a distant place, and we scarcely notice the disappearance of these and other vulnerable species.  We ignore these losses at our peril, however.  They’re like the proverbial miners’ canaries, silent alarms whose message in this case is that living species of animals and plants are now vanishing around the world one thousand times faster  than at any time in the past 65 million years.  



                    (illustration - p.24)  













All over the earth, coral reefs have suddenly started to “bleach” as warmer ocean temperatures put unaccustomed stress on the tiny organisms that normally live in the skin of the coral and give the reef its natural coloration.  As these organisms - nicknamed ‘zooks’ - leave the membrane of the coral, the coral itself becomes transparent, allowing its white limestone skeleton to shine through - hence its bleached appearance......Scientists have been shocked at the sudden occurence of extensive worldwide bleaching episodes from which increasing numbers of coral reefs have failed to recover.  

Driving in the Arlington, Virginia, neighborhood where my family and I live, I stepped on the brake to avoid hitting a large pheasant walking across the street.....Why would a pheasant, let alone such a large and beautiful mature specimen, be out for a walk in my neighborhood?  Was it (a few miles from the nation’s capitol) a much wilder place than I had noticed?.......I remembered that about three miles away, along the edge of the river, developers were bulldozing the last hundred acres of untouched forest in the entire area.  As the woods fell to make way for more concrete, more buildings, parking lots, and streets, the wild things that lived there were forced to flee.  Most of the deer were hit by cars; other creatures - like the pheasant that darted into my neighbor’s backyard - made it a little farther........We are creating a world that is hostile to wildness, that seems to prefer concrete to natural landscapes.  We are encountering these creatures on a path we have paved - one that ultimately leads to their extinction.  

On some nights, in high northern latitudes, the sky itself offers another ghostly image that signals the loss of ecological balance now in progress.  If the sky is clear after sunset - and if you are watching from a place where pollution hasn’t blotted out the night sky altogether - you can sometimes see a strange kind of cloud high in the sky.  This “noctilucent cloud” occasionally appears when the earth is first cloaked in the evening darkness; shimmering above us with a translucent whiteness, these clouds seem quite unnatural.  And they should:  noctilucent clouds have begun to appear more often because of a huge buildup of methane gas in the atmosphere......Shouldn’t it startle us that we have now put these clouds in the evening sky.....?  Or have our eyes adjusted so completely to the bright lights of civilization that we can’t see these clouds for what they are - a physical manifestation of the violent collision between human civilization and the earth?  

I thought of the three whales that had become trapped under the ice of the Beaufort Sea a couple of years earlier.  Television networks from four continents came to capture their poignant struggle for air and in the process so magnified the emotions felt around the world that soon scientists and rescue workers flocked to the scene.  After several elaborate schemes failed, a huge icebreaker from the Soviet Union cut a path through the ice for the two survivig whales.  Along with millions of others, I had been delighted to see them go free, but there on the submarine it occured to me that if we are causing 100 extinctions each day - and many scientists believe we are - approximately 2,000 living species had disappeared from the earth during the whales’ ordeal.  They disappeared forever - unnoticed........Similarly, when a little girl named Jessica McClure fell into a well in Texas, her ordeal and subsequent rescue by a legion of heroic men and women attracted hundreds of television cameras and journalists who sent the story into the homes and minds of hundreds of millions of people.  Here, too, our response seems skewed: during the three days of Jessica’s ordeal, more than 100,000 boys and girls her age or younger died of preventable causes - mostly starvation and diarrhea - due to failures of both crops and politics.  As they struggled for life, none of these children looked into a collection of television cameras, anxious to send word of their plight to a waiting world.  They died virtually unnoticed.  Why?
[Note:  Every DAY on earth, on average, over thirty-thousand children die of starvation and related factors.  This is equivalent to 100 fully loaded jumbo jets full of kids crashing every day.]  

This century has witnessed dramatic changes in two key factors that define the physical reality of our relationship to the earth: a sudden and startling surge in human population, with the addition of one China’s worth of people (about 1.5 billion) every ten years, and a sudden acceleration of the scientific and technological revolution, which has allowed an almost unimaginable magnification of our power to affect the world around us by burning, cutting, digging, moving, and transforming the physical matter that makes up the earth.  The surge in population is both a cause of the changed relationship and one of the clearest illustrations of how star
tling the change has been, especially when viewed in a historical context.  From the emergence of modern humans 200,000 years ago until Julius Caesar’s time, fewer than 250 million people walked on the face of the earth.  When Christopher Columbus set sail for the new world (1492 A.D.) 1,500 years later, there were approximately 500 million people on earth.  By the time Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the number had doubled again, to 1 billion.  By midway through this century, at the end of World War Two, the number had risen to just above 2 billion people.  

In other words, from the beginning of humanity’s appearance on earth to 1945, it took more than ten thousand generations  (200,000 years)  to reach a world population of
2 billion people.  Now, in the course of one human lifetime (80 years, from 1950 to 2030) the world population will increase from 2 billion to more than 9 billion (see graph below).  




Beginning in 1816, “the year without a summer,” widespread crop failures led to food riots in nearly every country of Europe, producing a revolutionary fervor that swept the continent for three years.....Everywhere governments struggled to maintain social order as an unprecedented crime epidemic surged in the cities.......Historians describe “swarms of beggars” clogging the roads and beseeching passersby......A traveler reported that “beggars, very numerous yesterday, have increased greatly; at every stage a crowd of women and children and of old men gathered around the carriage.”......In Switzerland, eyewitnesses said the number of beggars thronging every highway were so huge as to resemble armies.  They had desperation in their eyes and...... “the paleness of death in their cheeks.”...... As fears of revolution mounted in several countries, military force was used to control the growing crowds demanding food.  An unprecedented wave of arson began to strike in almost every country.  Ominously, the first anti-Semitic riots in the history of modern Germany broke out in the Bavarian town of Wurzburg in the summer of 1819.  

Europe was just recovering from the Napoleonic Wars and was experiencing many changes.  But although no one realized it at the time, the proximate cause of this suffering and social unrest was a change in the composition of the global atmosphere following an unusually large series of eruptions of the Tambora volcano, on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, in the spring of 1815.  Scientists estimate that 10,000 people were killed in the initial eruption and approximately 82,000 more died of starvation and disease in the following months.  However, the worst effects on the rest of the world were not felt until a year later, by which time the dust ejected into the sky had spread throughout the atmosphere and had begun to dramatically reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the surface of the earth and to force temperatures down....... From Ireland across England to the Baltics, rain fell almost continuously from May to October.  The disruption of reliable climate patterns had carefully documented social consequences: failed harvests, food riots, and the near-collapse of society throughout the British Isles and Europe.  

Records from tree rings and ice cores, along with documents left by Chinese historians, have now been combined to describe the devastating effects of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: Santorini, seventy miles north of Crete, exploded around 1600 B.C. with a force a hundred times larger than that of the well-known eruption of Krakatoa in 1883.......Five centuries later, sometime between 1150 and 1136 B.C., the Hekla 3 volcano, in Iceland, blew millions of tons of dust and particulates into the atmosphere.....According to a Chinese writer, “For ten days the sky rained ashes. The rain was gray.” .......Archaeologists found evidence of devastating consequences in the Western Hemisphere as well..... Ninety percent of the population of Scotland and northern England disappeared.  

Sometime around 209 B.C. there was a huge eruption, believed to be from a volcano in Iceland.....Two years later, according to the Chinese historian Szu-ma Ch’ien, “the harvest had failed” for reasons no one understood.  And two years after that, the Chinese historian Pan Ku wrote that a great famine killed more than half the population. “People ate each other”....... “Stars were not seen for three months.”  

Small climate changes caused by volcanic eruptions may also have played a major role in one of the modern era’s seminal events, the French Revolution...... Disastrous crop failures and poor harvests in France during the six years immediately preceding the Revolution of 1789, culminated in the bitter winter of 1788-89 and one of the coldest Mays in history before the storming of the Bastille.  That year the wine harvest was “an utter failure.”.......  Benjamin Franklin, who had been in France since December of 1776, wrote:  

During several summer months of the year 1783, when the effects of the sun’s rays to heat the earth in these northern regions should have been greatest, there existed a constant fog over all of Europe and parts of North America.  This fog was of a permanent nature; it was dry, and the rays of the sun seemed to have little effect in dissipating it as they easily do a moist fog rising from water.  They were, indeed, rendered so faint in passing through it that, when collected in the focus of a burning glass they would scarcely kindle brown paper.  Of course their summer effect in heating the earth was exceedingly diminished.  Hence the snow  remained on it unmelted, and received continual additions....Perhaps the winter of 1783-84 was more severe than any that had happened for many years.”  

Later that same year the Asama volcano in Japan registered one of the most violent eruptions in history and in all likelihood was the main source of the unusually cold years of the middle 1780s, contributing to the crop failures and social unrest preceding the French  Revolution, which decisively reshaped the modern world.......  

The effects of climate change on the political and social stability of civilization are powerful, and as we consider the possibility that humankind is now changing the climate of the entire globe to a degree far greater - and faster - than anything that has occured in human history, we would do well to examine some of the lessons provided.
.......One of the most dramatic effects of climate change on civilization has been massive migrations from one geographic area to another.....One of the greatest migrations in history - the one that introduced human beings into North America and then South America - came about as a direct result of climate change. During the last Ice Age, roughly 20,000 years ago.......sea level was about three hundred feet lower than it is today.......  Shallow ocean straits, like the Bering Strait and the Gulf of Carpintaria, were instead land bridges.  These bridges served as the migratory routes for the people now known as aborigines in Australia and the Asiatic nomads now known in North America as Native Americans and in South America as Indians....... The sea level rose again some 10,000 years ago, stranding the Native Americans and aborigines on their own continents.  

But within this larger glacial and interglacial pattern there have been significant fluctuations.  While they are quite small compared to either an ice age or to the manmade warming period now in prospect, they have nevertheless been large enough to have dramatic effects on cvilization. ...... For example, a climate shift...from 500 to 400 B.C., led to a change in wind and moisture distribution and lower temperatures across Europe that are generally credited with....spurring the Germanic invasions of southeastern Europe and Scandinavia. Less than a century later....continuing the southeastern thrust of migration, the Macedonians conquered Greece.  It was in the very next generation that Alexander the great conquered the “known world” and spread Greek civilization throughout the Mediterranean and beyond.  

This same period of relative warming cleared the Alpine passes separating Italy from the rest of Europe and corresponding to the awakening of Rome’s imperial ambition.  Moreover, the simultaneous clearing of mountain passes in Asia led to the expansion of Chinese civilization and the opening of the Silk Route. Some 750 years later, the end of this warming period corresponded to the final years of the Roman Empire.  To the many explanations of why Rome fell, climate historians add the sudden shift in global climate patterns between A.D. 450 and 500 that led to a prolonged freezing drought in central Europe which, they suspect, may have stimulated the corresponding onset of the massive migrations (from the north) that eventually became known as the barbarian invasions...... In 16th century India, the grand city of Fatepur Sikri was completely abandoned just after its completion when a sudden change in the monsoon pattern deprived it of water. The people who had planned to live there were forced to go elsewhere.  

Temperatures dropped again at the beginning of the fourteenth century, causing major problems in Europe and Asia......the transition suddenly brought repeated waves of humidity sweeping from the North Atlantic through the British Isles and across vast areas of the continent.  For almost ten years, rotted harvests and flooded rivers doomed the people of western Europe to a series of famines that reached their peak in the Great Famine of 1315-17....... (In France) crowds of pitiful, emaciated men and women were coming to the churches in terrified processions to pray for relief from the unrelenting rains........That year and the next, the European grain harvests were completely destroyed.......the summer of 1316 “was so damp there was not even enough good weather to shear the sheep.”  The repeated famines caused an unprecedented number of deaths; but worse was to come with the Black Death, thirty years later.  

Just before the Black Death, four years of poor weather and crop failures caused widespread malnutrition and increased susceptibility to disease, leading some to fear a repetition of the Great Famine.  These fears stimulated grain imports from Asia Minor, among other places, which brought diseased rats first to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey) and then to the (Meditterranean) ports of Messina and Marseilles.  From there, they and the plague they carried spread in only two years to wipe out as much as half of the population of western Europe.  [From the New American Encyclopedia:  “Originating in China, the plague was carried by flea-infested rats on vessels trading to the West. Its economic effects were far-reaching. It also fanned the flames of superstition and religious prejuidice. European Jews, accused of poisoning wells, were massacred, and the idea that the plague was punishment for sin led to a wave of fanatical penance.”]  In China.....the first reported deaths occured in 1333. One year earlier, as a result of the same global climate changes that produced constant rains in Europe, unusually heavy rainfall in China caused the repeated Yellow River floods, which had grown steadily worse since 1327.  They culminated in the largest flood of the Middle Ages in 1332, when a reported 7 million Chinese people lost their lives.  

“There can be little doubt that the waters had dislocated the habitats of wildlife as well as human settlements, including those of the plague-carrying rodents.......It is probably no coincidence that the Bubonic plague epidemic, which ultimately swept the world  as the Black death, started in 1333 in China” - the year following the great flood, in areas where decomposing human corpses had been numerous.  

One of the most important and well-documented climate fluctuations is known as the Little Ice Age (1550-1850), which was associated with significant social changes all across Europe.  People spent more time indoors, keeping warm around suddenly popular fireplaces, and partly as a result, new patterns of social relations evolved.  The exchange of ideas about subjects like science intensified.  Romantic ideals took on a new significance in the arts, as did the concept of the individual in politics.  Outdoors, however, the new climate realities were harsh for some in northern Europe.  

Imagine the shock in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1690, when an Eskimo in his kayak appeared in the River Don.  The migration of Europeans toward Greenland had long since come to a frozen halt, but the Eskimos’ favored habitat was now extending south as far as the Orkney Islands and northern Scotland.  The Scots, confronted with the failure of their cod fisheries and their crops, experienced recent famines and began to leave their homeland.  By 1691,  100,000 Scots, a tenth of the population, had settled in the part of Ireland closest to Scotland, Ulster (now known as Northern Ireland), displacing and evicting the native Irish and setting in motion the enormous problems and seemingly insoluble violence that continue to this day.  

Ireland as a whole continued to grow in population.....Between 1779 and 1841 the population increased by 172%, making Ireland the most densely populated area of Europe.  The fateful decision to rely almost exclusively on a single food crop - potatoes - for subsistence set the stage for the horrible tragedy known as the Great Potato Famine.  [Note: This famine also started the huge waves of Irish immigration to the United States]......As the Little Ice Age drew to a close, average temperatures rose slightly, enough to create the wet and warm climate conditions conducive to potato blight (rot).....The blight struck with a terrible vengeance at the one crop by which Ireland lived or died.  More than a million people died in Ireland during the next few years of starvation and diseases related to malnutrition....... However, the number of children dying of starvation on an average day in our modern world is more than forty times greater than the number who starved on an average day at the height of the famine.  

[NOTE:  The Little Ice Age even affected the lives of the people of the tropical South Pacific islands.  From The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux:  “The Little Ice Age was another factor that isolated the people......these cultures always developed after they were isolated.......there was a colder climate and rougher seas, so the people tended to stay on their islands in this period.  That produced local culture.”]  

Perhaps the largest forced migration in American history was the mass departure from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska and other Plains states during the period of the early 1930s referred to as the Dust Bowl years.  Like the Great Potato famine, the Dust Bowl resulted from unwise land use, which heightened the vulnerability of the land and its people to unexpected climate changes....... Agricultural experts mistakenly believed that the repeated plowing of land until it was smooth and pulverized made it better able to absorb and hold rainwater......After a dry winter, in March 1932 strong winds began to blow through and take some of the topsoil with them.....The big dust storms began in January 1933 and continued off and on for more than four years, devastating crops, dispiriting the people, and creating nightmarish conditions, leading many to pick up stakes for California or back east.  

We can see nothing out our windows but dirt, every time our teeth come together, you feel dirt and taste it; haven’t heard a thing for hours, my ears are full - can’t smell, my nose is full -  can’t walk, my shoes are full but not of feet....we are and have been having a dust storm.  It hasn’t been real life for two days.  Everything is covered with a little of Old Mexico or Texas or Colorado or what have you....The earth looks hard and barren - everybody has a dirty face.....But there is no way out - not even out of our front door.  We live in a dugout and slide down the steps now.  Diving out the window is fun after you get used to it.  

Of course, the history of climate change is also the history of human adaptation to climate change.  During the subsistence crisis of virtually every European country, central governments organized and distributed the scarce food supplies of food.......For the first time, large-scale public works projects were organized chiefly to provide employment in the hope of staving off the popular disturbances and food riots.  

All of these changes in climate patterns took place during temperature variations of only 1 to 2 degrees Centigrade.  Yet today, at the close of the twentieth century, we are in the process of altering global temperatures by up to three to four times that amount and causing changes in climate patterns that are likely to have enormous impacts on global civilization.  Among the most dramatic effects, if the historical record is any guide, will be massive migrations of people from areas where civilization is disrupted to other areas where they hope to find the means for survival and a better way of life - but with unpredictable consequences for those areas.  

In the course of a single generation, we are in danger of changing the makeup of the global atmosphere far more dramatically than did any volcano in history, and the effects may persist for centuries to come.  The global temperature changes for which we are responsible are likely to be five times larger than the fluctuations that produced the Little Ice Age, for example, or the global climate change that led to the Great Famine of 1315-17.  

What comes next?  The “year without a summer” in 1816 produced massive famines and helped stimulate the emergence of the administrative state.  What will global warming produce - a new worldwide bureaucracy to manage the unimaginable problems caused by massive social and political upheavals, mass migrations, and the continuing damage to the global environment by civilization itself?  Is that what we want? Wouldn’t it be better to prevent the chaos instead of scrambling to cope with it after it occurs?...... About 10 million residents of Bangladesh will lose their homes and means of sustenance because of the rising sea level, due to global warming, in the next few decades.  Where will they go?  Whom will they displace?........The story of humankind and our relationship to the earth may be seen as a continuing adventure or a tragedy shrouded in mystery.  The choice is ours.  

The answer may well depend on whether we can learn from the ancient cultures that disappeared.....If we do not, if we instead persist in our willful ignorance of the powerful changes we are setting in motion, we may ultimately leave little more than a mystery to puzzle some new human community in the distant future, trying to understand what happened to the ancient lost civilization that made such grand structures of concrete and steel and plastic so long ago.  

A Sub-Unit of Social Studies Key Unit, Humankind’s Relationship to the Earth.
Robert Heckerl, 6th Grade, Seoul American Elementary  

As we’ve learned, climate changes can have a tremendous impact on human civilization, with local, regional, and global implications, AND vice versa.  In the next part of this unit, we will learn more about the El Nino and La Nina phenomenons in relation to Social Studies issues at the sixth grade level.  In our departmentalized system, the science teacher will teach the technological and scientific aspects of same.  

Is the weather attributed to EN and LN becoming more severe due to global warming? We will examine our perceptions of these phenomena as we explore the history,
terminology, and cultural and environmental implications of EN and LN.  At the end of this particular lesson, we will revisit our ‘global warming’ knowledge base and see if we can make some predictions about the future of our planet’s weather, and what we might do to ensure a healthy global environment for ourselves and future generations.  

Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of what EN and LN are,  and how the weather changes associated with these phenomena can impact all forms of life, humans in particular, around the world. Assessment will be based on discussion, written reports, and a test created with PowerPoint software.
Students, using previously learned geography skills, will be able to engage in a project/game based on hypothetical EN/LN-based meteorological events and how they might effect the different geographical regions ‘claimed’ by cooperative groups.  This game will synthesize learning from all sub-units of Humankind’s Relationship to the Earth.  


Check prior knowldge. Have students work in groups of 3-4 to discuss and record their current ‘knowledge’ about EN.  When complete, open discussion to the whole class, validating correct assumptions and tactfully probing misconceptions.  

History, key terminology, and general effects of El Nino on our planet today.
(A video presentation geared towards kids would be excellent here - locate media sources).  After directing students’ attention to the Pacific El Nino as shown on the TOPEX Poseidon poster, give students an orientation on the recorded history of El Nino beginning with the first understanding of Peruvian fishermen on through the early research of Sir Gilbert Walker (who coined the term ‘Southern Oscillation’) and Jacob Bjerknes and continuing to the present, with a comprehensive look at the ‘97-98 ENSO phenomenon and some of the more generalized global impacts of same.  

Introduction to La Nina. Using the April 20, 1998 issue of TIME Magazine-Asian Edition (“Wild Weather: El Nino Stirred Fires in Borneo and Tempests in China. Now Asia Braces for the Unpredictable La Nina”), introduce students to the ‘other side of the coin’ - La Nina, and the potential impacts for the autumn and winter of ‘98-99.
(Make predictions for weather on the Korean peninsula, then track periodically throughout the school year).  

“Climate is what you expect.....Weather is what you get.”
Class works to compile a list of age-appropriate stories and books which have ‘wild weather’ as an important element.  (Dove, Call it Courage, The Wave.........).  Visit media center to check out these items to have in class for RD/LA.  

Using various news reports and other media sources, gain an overview of the impact of EN and LN on land and ocean life, agriculture, floods, erosion, drought, fires, etc.  Make connections to what we’ve learned in the larger unit, Humankind’s Relationship to the Earth. (Once our school FINALLY gets Net access, we can find all sorts of info).  

Seven and Beyond:
(This will be an ongoing game) Students get into teams of 3-4. Each team invents its own country, and writes down a description of agricultural activity and other means of food supply, geographic features, surrounding bodies of water, etc (brainstorm with class). This fictional country must then be placed somewhere on the face of the earth using Lat. and Long. and pretending that any present, real land masses do not exist.
Teams will draw maps of their ‘countries’, labelling and listing all of the key factors mentioned above.  Then, every now and again, the teacher will unleash a meteorological event upon the earth (random draw of lat. and long.)  Using information gleaned from the EN / LN studies, teams must determine the short-term and possible long-term impacts of this weather event on their nation.  Teams will then report their hypotheses, with class discussion to follow each report to determine the validity of the findings as best as we can using what we’ve learned in the unit.  

Robert Heckerl
6th Grade
Seoul American Elementary School

10:2) 16-MAY-1998 15:59 Kristina (Tina) Bishop (tina)

Enjoyed re-reading the parts of Gore's book that you included in  your lesson. I was fortunate to have attended the Earth Summit in Brazil and I heard Gore speak there.
I think you have created a very appropriate lesson to complement what the El Nino workshop presented.

10:3) 20-MAY-1998 17:24 Robert Heckerl (rheckerl)

I have to say, I like Al in 2000! He takes alot of hits in the media, but he's a good man for the new millennium. Anyway, the unit itself is going to rely on our school's
ability to access the Net. We're almost there. The Gore material also provides for some challenging, yet meaningful LA / RD sessions - new vocabulary, main ideas, etc. My kids
didn't want to leave this stuff behind to go on to Ancient
Greece. We're going to wrap up the year by going back to
review. Another great resource that people might want to check out is a film called BARAKA. It's not an El Nino film, but does a soul-stirring and thought-provoking job of showing humankind's relationship to the earth. The kids want to watch BARAKA again on the last day of school! Go figure!

10:4) 21-MAY-1998 10:53 Kristina (Tina) Bishop (tina)

Thanks--will try to get the film to rent at the video store.

10:5) 15-JUN-1998 07:15 Kristina (Tina) Bishop (tina)

To those of you who have not yet finished the final project for this workshop, we will be ending all work on this at the end of June. So please try to get your projects to us as soon as possible.

10:6) 05-AUG-1998 16:06 Peter Tuddenham (peter)

check out

On to College Classroom Home:  Pass