Climate Change Concept Map

Climate Change Concept Map
Greta Stacy

Teacher Author

Greta Stacy is a high school science teacher in Doha, Qatar. She has previously taught in Ecuador and the United States.

Where Should Teachers Begin?

The ability to make connections is an imperative step in achieving deep learning. This series of lessons, focused on climate change concept maps, is designed to help students do just that. The creation of concept maps or mind maps can be a useful skill in and of itself, allowing students to organize information in a way that facilitates their own understanding. These climate change concept maps will allow students to transfer skills across disciplines and gain a deeper understanding of the material in the process.  

These lessons can be used in a range of disciplines, including economics, world languages, history, social studies, math, ELA, and civics. The following lessons provide interdisciplinary opportunities to teach about climate change in grades K–12, including AP, and these resources are sure to get students asking questions and making connections between your subject and climate change.  


Supply Chains

Supply Chains Lesson Plan

Grades 9-12

After listening to a podcast on cleaning up clean tech, students make concept maps to connect five to six UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) via a concept discussed in the podcast. For example, Goal #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth could connect to Goal #13 Climate Action through the concept of green jobs. Students share their voices by making connections between the UN SDGs and their own interests. Then, students learn about supply chains and make a possible supply chain for a solar panel. By making connections between human systems and natural systems with the climate change concept map, students can construct their own meaning and develop a deeper understanding of what really makes tech “clean.”  

The focus on supply chains makes this lesson an easy addition to an economics class. By analyzing how human systems are impacted by mining and other activities in the supply chain, the connections between climate change and the humanities become clear. This lesson could also be used to introduce concepts like cost-benefit analysis, market-based solutions, and the role of green jobs in economic growth. The guide includes information on different forms of green energy that could be analyzed, the role of market-based solutions in addressing environmental challenges, and the potential for job creation in the clean energy sector. 

Combating Global Warming Mind Map

This colorful mind map contains text and illustrations.

Combating Global Warming Mind Map

Grades 6-12

This resource is a mind map about how an individual can reduce their carbon footprint. While individual action is important, make sure to emphasize the importance of structural change as well when using this resource in the classroom.  

The mind map is available in German, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Italian, Japanese, French, Persian, and Arabic. This climate change concept map can be used in your world language classroom to help students build vocabulary to discuss issues that are important to them. Some of the solutions (e.g., having no more than two children) may spark strong emotions for students. This can be a chance for them to practice speaking or writing persuasively in their language of study. 

Additionally, students could be tasked with creating their own mind maps using a template based on this example. Different climate topics could be assigned depending on the vocabulary the teacher wishes to target. According to their language of study, students could identify a climate issue in a country with the same spoken language in order to explore specific advantages they may have or barriers they may face in combating climate change.

The Global Carbon Cycle

This interactive diagram of the carbon cycle explores the short-term and long-term carbon fluxes that occur in the water, the land, and the atmosphere.

The Global Carbon Cycle

Grades 6-12

This resource is a climate change concept map focused on the carbon cycle. Each step is interactive and clickable so that students can learn more by reading. By providing a visual representation of carbon’s movement through different reservoirs on Earth, students can better understand the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. Students can explore the carbon cycle at their own pace or in small groups.

This resource could be used in a high school history or social studies class to better understand how human activity impacts the environment. Students can click on Human Contribution, Ocean Cycle (Ocean-Atmosphere Interaction), and Short-Term Cycle (Land Use Change) to understand the disruptions humans have caused to the cycle. The explanations are simple so that they can be understood outside the context of a science classroom. 

This could be done as part of a unit on the Industrial Revolution, for example. Giving students the chance to explore the carbon cycle here would allow them to make connections between advancements in technology and the negative impacts of burning fossil fuels. Or, students could construct a timeline of the Anthropocene and our impact on the Earth’s systems over time. This would allow students to focus on other periods of history as well. 

A Good Life For All Within Planetary Boundaries

This interactive resource on the University of Leeds website provides graphs, data, maps, links to additional information, and a comprehensive analysis of social indicators and planetary impacts of individual countries.

A Good Life For All Within Planetary Boundaries

Grades 9-12

This resource uses data to show that, over the past 30 years, no country has met the basic needs of its residents with a globally sustainable level of resource use. The tool for looking at the data allows students to compare different countries to each other, or look at trends in one country over time. 

This is a great resource for math classes. Students can practice reading and interpreting different kinds of graphs, then download the data to make their own analyses. There is sufficient data here for students to practice statistics and analyze trends. Students can use the data to create climate concept maps in order to show the mathematical relationship between different factors such as land use change and nutrition. 

This resource could also be used in a high school social studies class to discuss challenges faced by different countries in terms of their biophysical boundaries and resources needed to reach social thresholds. Students could use the data to make climate change concept maps that connect historical and social factors (e.g., colonization, lack of education for women) with current global climate change challenges (e.g., land use change). 

Climate Change, Food Production, and Food Security Unit

This unit plan encourages students to think about their food choices and where their food comes from.

Climate Change, Food Production, and Food Security Unit

Grades 9-12

This unit is six lessons long. Over the course of the unit, students learn about where their food comes from, how food production affects the planet, how climate change affects food production, how farmers are responding to climate change, and food insecurity. While the first three lessons have more of a focus on science, the final three lessons address social studies and ELA standards. 

The final lesson in particular is well-suited for an ELA class, both as part of the unit or as a stand-alone lesson. At this point, students will synthesize their learning with a climate change concept map. After watching a video about the complexities of the global food system and its connection to climate change, students will create their climate change concept map to connect these two ideas. The teacher slideshow gives concrete examples of how to start this concept map, so middle school students will understand clearly what to do. 

Making this climate change concept map will require students to do some research and draw from multiple sources. The teacher can provide students with resources from earlier in the unit so that they have reliable and relevant sources on which to initially focus their research. This scaffolded approach could be helpful for introducing students to these literacy skills in order for them to conduct their own short research projects in the future.  

Word Web Activity

Students can create their own words to see even more cause and effect relationships that are relevant to them.

More or Less

Grades K-5

In this lesson, students construct a climate change concept map to show the possible cause-and-effect relationships of a growing population. For example, more cars mean less clean air. While the lesson provides some words for students to connect, the teacher and students can also add their own words based on what they are studying or what is relevant to their experiences of climate change.  

This elementary ELA lesson is a great introduction to cause and effect for students. Students will need to use their critical thinking skills to identify these interconnections between human activity, resources, and climate change. This activity could also be used as an introduction to a wide variety of interdisciplinary science and social studies units, in which students could investigate anything from recycling to what constitutes an ecosystem.

Mind Mapping

This quick activity will get students thinking about the assets in their communities and what they can do to help the people, animals, and environment around them.

Mind Mapping

Grades 3-8

In this lesson, students consider the assets and resources in their communities as well as steps that could be taken to further help people, animals, and the environment. The guide contains examples of assets in these three areas that the teacher can use to guide student thinking if necessary. This initial climate change concept map can be the final product of this quick brainstorming activity, or it could be used as a jumping-off point for students to learn more about their communities and take sustainable action.

In an elementary or middle school civics class, this lesson could be focused on how human systems impact and interact with animals and the environment. Understanding how community assets can be leveraged to meet community needs is important as students consider development work, activism, and policy-making that is both meaningful and sustainable. This guide provides links to extension activities that will empower students to put their plans into action.   

Final Thoughts

These climate change concept maps will help you bring climate change into your classroom, no matter what subject or grade you teach. Students will build their critical thinking skills, learn to organize ideas to construct their own meaning, and transfer skills across disciplines. These rich learning opportunities are sure to engage your students! Be sure to check out the SubjectToClimate database to find even more climate change resources with concept maps

All resources can be used for your educational purposes with proper attribution to the content provider.