Schoolyard Microclimateby: Joseph J. Fontaine, Samuel C. Stier, Melissa L. Maggio, and Karie L. Decker

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Students can gain an appreciation for the structure and function of local environments by studying the potential impacts of small changes in local microclimate on plant distribution. The concept of microclimate is easy for students to comprehend, simple to measure, exists in all schoolyards, and has important and tangible ecological implications. This article discusses an inquiry in which students learn the differences between weather and climate as well as the degree of natural variation in climate that exists across spatial scales. In this activity, students are introduced to the concept of climate and how climate varies. Students also observe and measure variation in microclimate and plant distribution throughout the schoolyard and learn to make associations between the microclimate and plant life.

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Reviews (3)
  • on Tue Aug 09, 2011 5:56 PM

In this lesson students investigate microclimates in their schoolyard and make meteorological and ecological observations to recognize trends in fauna based on climate. This activity recognizes the intricate nature of the environment and will help students become more observant. This activity could also be a nice segue into the urban heat island effect.

Angelika Fairweather  (Bradenton, FL)
Angelika Fairweather (Bradenton, FL)

  • on Tue May 24, 2011 10:48 AM

This is a great activity that helps students learn the difference between weather and climate. As students conduct school yard investigations, they get authentic practice recording and evaluating data . The article includes sample data, a list of investigation materials, defined vocabulary terms, and sample discussion questions. This activity not only gives students authentic practice in the field, but also helps students understand how the effects of climate change on our environment.

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

  • on Sat Apr 16, 2011 6:13 PM

The authors outline a way to show students how and why organisms differ due to climate by examining microclimates present in a school year setting. They suggest types of data to collect, how to help students analyse the data, and how to encourage students to take the abiotic information to design an inquiry concerning the biotic/plant communities present in the school yard. This sort of lesson could be conducted in any school yard, regardless of the availability of plants, by simply looking at the abiotic (temperature, humidity, wind, sunlight) factors making this a very flexible lesson for urban or rural school yards. And if students are asked to make predictions for areas of their choice prior to collecting data it has more of an inquiry component. I think students will be surprised at the varied microclimates they discover in a common location.

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

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