Climate Change Causes and Effects: Drawing a Scientific Model with Young Learners

This post was written by educator Milica Alice.

In the last few years, my perspective on environmental education changed significantly. Before starting, I was focused on pollution and spreading awareness. Now, when it comes to climate change, my main focus shifted to deforestation as a cause for many other effects related to climate change, and I often discuss climate change with my young learners.

Scientific modeling helped me organize my thoughts and schematically put together the evidence learned through the years. Of course, additional research helped me realize many things, but the scientific modeling showed some connections which were harder to see with the naked eye.

All of this didn’t change my practice since my instruction already revolved around environmental education. Still, I was able to deepen my knowledge and gain better tools to develop my curriculum.

The most considerable influence it had on me is deepening the need to analyze the situation in my own country. It also helped me brainstorm possible solutions. My ideas ranged from reforestation of dry land to fighting the pollution inside our concrete cities.

Causes and Effects of Irregular Season Changes and Temperatures in Serbia

Initial scientific model

I believe that drawing models help young learners (and all learners in general) easily explain complex issues.

Describe the local phenomenon related to climate change that you chose. Is it an effect or is it a cause?

Milica Alice

When it comes to spring frost in Serbia, I have always struggled to explain it to children, but it looks logical, easy, and connected after the scientific model. So I played with the design, and I made it messy on purpose. I just loved the combination of writing and adding photos to make a collage.

Initial scientific model example.

The local phenomenons related to climate change in this model represent two effects and one cause. I worked in a mixed group, which is why I have pictures (for the learners who can’t read except sight words) and explanations for the 1st graders to be peer teachers and explain.

1. Temperatures in Serbia in summer go up to 44 degrees Celsius, and they are growing every year. As a result, it’s impossible to play outside, and people have health issues, which children notice.

2. Because of this, we have irregular snow patterns, and some years we don’t get to play in the snow at all. The winter is short, the temperatures go below -20 degrees Celsius, and then the snow quickly melts.

3. Because of the irregular snow patterns, sometimes we have spring frost in February, March, or even May, which is a big problem for crops and other food.

All of these changes are something that children can see and feel by themselves, and this is why it is appropriate to introduce climate change with these issues at such a young age.

Revised scientific model
Revised scientific model example.
Final scientific model
Final scientific model example.

Constructing an Evidence-Based Explanation: Why are seasons and temperatures in Serbia irregular?

Explanation of the Phenomenon

The main reason behind our fluctuating temperatures is deforestation. However, this is a starting point that creates other aspects of climate change in our region. By cutting down trees, a tremendous amount of carbon is released, and it stays trapped in the lower layers of the atmosphere, creating the greenhouse effect, which is even more noticeable in concrete cities. This is the main reason for the heatwave we are experiencing this year.

The primary evidence we should consider is the number of forest fires constantly happening around the world. Deforestation is happening as we speak, and the scientists’ prognosis is that many rainforest ecosystems will cascade soon if we don’t do something about it. This continues as the greenhouse gases increase, melting the ice on land and causing the sea levels to rise. As a result, many coastlines are sinking, and at the same time, ocean acidification impacts marine ecosystems, especially corals, which are experiencing bleaching.

All the large, urban cities are the reason behind our local climate change. Deforestation, even cutting down and destroying the last pieces of greenery in our cities, is the main reason for the constant temperature rise. European heatwave in 2019 reached almost 50 degrees Celsius! With no trees to lower the level of greenhouse gases and Greenland melting to the level it should have reached in 2070, and it’s no wonder we have immersive floods every other year. All of this causes extensive heat and the irregular winters with almost no snow. The concrete cities make a good starting layer for ice, and the winter sometimes comes back in March, causing spring frosts.

Milica explains her lesson for an audience of both educators and students in this video.

The modeling was a great experience, and I will use it in my future lessons. I already love using mind maps, so I think this will be a great new skill. When it comes to climate change and my young learners, I felt that anything could be explained through a drawing, which never happened before.

Milica Alice is a 29 years old English teacher with a B.Ed and M.Ed. with a double minor (English teaching methodology for young learners and Serbian language teaching methodology). She is also a published academic researcher, materials designer, and an online ESL teacher for children in her own school, ELLoquent. She is passionate about teaching young and very young learners, environmental education, storytelling & drama, and distance learning. Last but not least, she is a mother of an autistic toddler with SPD. This post was originally published on Milica Alice’s professional website. 

Learn more from Milica Alice by exploring her blog.

Lead Image Credit: Manu San Félix.

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