Ask students which images come to mind when they consider the theme of global climate change. As a class, consider whether these images are local or international, their source and why they made an impact.
Show students a set of images from Climate Visuals, a Climate Outreach project. You can create a free account with Climate Visuals and select a set of images from the ‘visualising climate’ gallery. Each image comes with a brief description you can use to contextualise the image for students.
Ask students what each image tells us about climate change and why photography is a powerful way of visualising issues related to climate change.
Girls are motivated by seeing the relevance of STEM to their lives and seeing social value. By using photography as a learning hook and inviting student contribution, students can engage with a STEM topic through a context they find personally meaningful.
Photographic representations can be highly persuasive, but scientists need to find ways to communicate numeric data just as powerfully through data visualisation.
Data visualisation is the practice of translating data in a visual context, such as a map, graph, animation or infographic, to make data easier for the human brain to understand and gain insights from.
Numeric climate change data can be challenging to visualise because it occurs over time and spatial scales that are difficult for us to connect to as humans as we typically live within much smaller scales.
One way to make climate change data locally relevant is to create representations for local places over timescales that are understandable to most people.
Ask students to work in small groups to explore NASA’s Climate Time Machine. Each group should be allocated a particular indicator and demonstrate changes that occur over time, describing observed trends.
Ask students how they think we obtained the data for each visualisation and have the class brainstorm or research the data sources used over time.
As a class, discuss the timescales used in the visualisation. Questions to prompt discussion could include:
Share with students that one approach to making local climate change understandable for a broader range of people is the practice of creating colour-stripe temperature representations that are easier to visualise and locally relevant.
As a class, read this article about how Ed Hawkins at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading in the UK has created visualisations that have captured the public imagination.
STEM is often as portrayed as not creative, collaborative or for the social good. Girls need to be exposed to stories and role models that challenge these stereotypes and encouraged to bring their passions and talents to their STEM pursuits. A great example is UK artist Josie George’s temperature scarf project, which inspired a global community of knitters.Read more
Ask students to create their own climate change visualisation for a location relevant to them. Their visualisation should not only show change over a chosen timescale but should also predict three different futures.
Girls are motivated when they are given opportunities to approach projects their own way, exercising their personal preferences and creativity. By providing students with a personalised, creative purpose, they can be encouraged to engage more deeply with data science.
Students can follow these steps to develop their visualisation.
Students can present a poster showing their final product, including an explanation of their rationale for each of the possible futures.