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Regional Focus

Polar Regions

Changes Ahoof: Could Climate Change Affect Arctic Caribou?

Author: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th
Subjects: Science, Biology, Math, Computer Science & Design Thinking
Format: PDF
Resource Types:
  • Lesson Plan
  • Activity
  • Game
  • Worksheet
  • In this lesson, students explore how climate change is impacting populations of caribou in the Arctic. 
  • Students will run a computer model, analyze the results, engage in a discussion, and create a board game to demonstrate their learning.  
Teaching Tips
  • The student activity sheet is well-constructed and easy to use.
  • The educator references show a sample data output as well as the results of all nine variable combinations.
  • Students create a board game to share with their classmates!
Additional Prerequisites
  • Be sure to review the background information with students so they understand how the two variables in the simulation affect caribou populations.
  • Students will need to know how to do a percent increase/decrease calculation.


Scientist Notes
This simple model allows students to analyze how two factors, snow depth and insect activity, could affect the population of caribou in the Arctic. This activity will show students one example of how climate change impacts different species. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
      • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
    • LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
      • MS-LS4-6 Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Statistics & Probability (6-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.B.5 Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context.
    • Ratios & Proportional Relationships (6-7)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.RP.A.2 Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities.
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