When it comes to winter, those of us who reside in chilly regions welcome snow days as a break from reality. After snow falls, the world is transformed into a different place. When snow covers everything, nothing seems dirty, nothing seems disturbed.
But underneath it all, something is disturbed. Climate change impacts where and when snowfall happens, and also where snow accumulates and stays for long periods of time. Regions where snow used to cover the land for months at a time have seen the scope of their winter snow dwindle. And that means fewer snow days.
Whether you live in an area that gets a lot of snowfall or in an area that’s never had a snow day at all, take a moment to celebrate snow with your students as an examination of the effects of climate change.
1. How do winter temperatures from nearly a decade ago compare to what your area is experiencing this year?
Check out the MapMaker Interactive map below to view average winter temperatures between 2007 and 2008.
- What’s the temperature in your school’s playground today, and how does it compare?
- Based on your findings, do your students feel that climate change is making an impact on your community?
2. How does disappearing snow affect animals?
Humans around the world may have different opinions about snow, but sometimes a snowy climate provides the only environment an animal thrives in. Check out this clip on tracking snow leopards in Afghanistan.
- How is global warming affecting snow leopards?
- Do your students know of other animals that are affected by similar circumstances?
3. How does snow impact jobs and careers?
- How did the thick Sierra snowpack impact his ability to deliver mail?
- What job responsibilities require similar characteristics of endurance and ingenuity?
4. How does snow define an entire landscape?
Zoom in on our map of Greenland without its iconic ice sheet. Have students discuss the hidden landscape.
- What physical features are hidden by the Greenland ice sheet?
- Would a melting ice sheet make Greenland more “green”?
5. How are snow and ice integrated into the cultures of countries around the world?
- Why does Queen Elsa’s Scandinavian home make her comfortable with so much ice and snow?
- Where would a queen isolate herself in the unsnowy landscapes in the tropics?
Does the snow bother you (or your students), anyway?
As snow falls or doesn’t fall in your area this winter, challenge your students to think about what would happen if snow disappeared altogether. How would a world without snow be different than the one we have now? Perhaps the threat of zero snow days to come will light the fire your students need to try to make a difference in future efforts to slow climate change.
More related resources from National Geographic Education
Resource Library: Climate Change
Video Study Guide: How to Track a Snow Leopard in Afghanistan
Article with Vocabulary List: Snow Bound
Map: Vanishing Ice
Study Guide: ‘Let it Go’ Goes Global