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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History


6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Biology, Mathematics, Computer Science

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Games
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus

Polar Regions



Changes Ahoof: Could Climate Change Affect Arctic Caribou?

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  • 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.
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      • 7.RP.A.2 Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities in tables, graphs, equations, diagrams, and verbal descriptions of proportional relationships. Identify the constant of proportionality (unit rate) within various representations.
  • Science
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      • 7.LS2.2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
      • 7.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
      • 8.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.
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