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People and Climate

Author(s): Nancy P. Moreno, PhD, Barbara Z. Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.

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In this activity, students will learn about Earth’s major types and how they affect people’s lifestyles. Students will make observations, infer, model, use maps, and draw conclusions based on their investigations. 

  1. Darken the room and shine a flashlight at the center of a globe (or a balloon or large ball). Explain that the globe represents Earth and the flashlight represents the sun. Ask, Based on this model, which part of Earth receives the most direct light and heat from the sun? Help students to understand that the planet’s midsection (near the equator) receives light at the most direct angle from the sun. Follow by asking, Which part of Earth do you think might be warmest? Which part do you think would be coldest? Why?

  2. Distribute copies of the “Global Climate Map” page to each student or group. Help students find the equator and relate it to the central portion of the globe, balloon or ball you used for the demonstration. Next, have students identify Earth’s polar and the temperate regions. Ask, Is temperature the only important part of climate? Lead students to understand that rainfall also is an important part of weather and climate. If students are not familiar with the concepts of weather and climate, introduce them at this point. (The term “weather” refers to conditions in the atmosphere at a given time or place. We use several variables to describe weather, including temperature, rainfall, wind speed, and humidity. The term “climate” refers to a region’s normal weather patterns over long periods of time.) 

  3. Ask students, What is our climate like? Encourage a discussion of climactic characteristics in your area (winter conditions, amount of rainfall, temperatures in summer, etc.). Point out that regions with very little rainfall (deserts) also are shown on the “Global Climate Map.”

  4. Assign a climate zone and geographic area on the student page (e.g., temperate zone of North America; tropical zone of South America; tropical desert zone of Africa) to each group of students. Assign more explicit geographic locations (by country or region) to older students, and have them use outside resources to gather additional information. In all cases, explain that students will be envisioning how people in the assigned climate type might live. Have each group discuss and decide upon the types of clothing people might wear in summer and winter (or during rainy and dry seasons), what their homes might look like, and what types of food people might eat. 

  5. For helpful ideas, refer students to the cover of the Explorations mini-magazine accompanying this unit. Older students also may want to seek out resources in the library or on the Internet. Have each group write a description of the climate in its assigned region, and explain the lifestyle of people who live there. Have students illustrate their descriptions. When preparing their reports, students may want to follow a format similar to the one on this slide. Display each group’s written descriptions and pictures in the classroom.


Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932


Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education