Lesson 6 – Global Ocean Acidification Summit

Description: The purpose of the Summit is to achieve a deeper understanding of oceanic CO2 systems from the different research groups’ points of view. In the Summit, participants systematically question and examine issues and data related to the big question and articulate short- and long-term goals for oceanic CO2 concentrations.



Course:  Integrated Science, STEM, BioChem, Marine Science, Life Science

Unit:  Ocean Acidification, Ecology, Biogeochemical Cycling

See the NGSS buttons in the lefthand panel of this page for an overview of the standards addressed in this lesson.  Also, please see the documents on the Standards Addressed page for all NGSS, WA State (Science, Math and Literacy), and NOAA Ocean Literacy Education Standards connections. In particular, for this lesson, due to the variety of experiments completed within classrooms, students will learn and do a variety of activities.  Because each student completed different labs, their summit presentation will be slightly different.  This means each student will not complete all of the listed standards.  However, ideally, they will complete 1-2 sets of performance expectations.  To give you a broad, big-picture overview, in addition to the aligned objectives linked above, for this lesson, here is an overview of:

What Students Learn
  • Scientists advise and provide materials for policy makers on important issues.
  • Communicating science requires proper visualization and well researched, clear, concise arguments based on evidence.
  • Network models are based on evidence – confidence in the model is based on confidence in the data.
  • Systems thinking is a useful technique for understanding and communicating complex situations.
  • There are many actions one can take in response to environmental issues – motivating others for concerted action often has the greatest effect.
What Students Do
  • Students collaboratively present their research findings and recommendations.
  • Students use questioning techniques to participate in whole-class discussions.
  • Students critically assess their findings and the findings of others to arrive at consensus for recommended actions.
  • Students use systems thinking to consider the dynamics of ocean systems and their connected subsystems.


Pacing Guide: Three, 50 minute periods


The purpose of the Summit is to achieve a deeper understanding of oceanic CO2 systems from the different research groups’ points of view.  In the Summit, participants systematically question and examine issues and data related to the big question and articulate short- and long-term goals for oceanic CO2 concentrations. The group conversation assists participants in constructing meaning through disciplined analysis, interpretation, listening, and participation.

There are many different ways of holding a mock summit in your classroom. We have adapted the summit suggestions below from helpful sites such as The Paideia Project (http://paideia.org/), but encourage you and your students to creatively implement this lesson to suit your needs and background. More suggestions are also given in the Accommodations section of this lesson.

Advanced Prep

  • Gather images and information to show students that high level leaders participate in global summits.  They should also be able to see the types of reports that result from global summits.  We have gathered a few such items that are good examples.
  • Depending on how you would like your students to present (using butcher paper, preparing formal posters, completing One Page White Papers, or preparing powerpoint presentations), gather needed materials for students (e.g. paper, markers, computers, etc.).
  • Having students prepare lab reports or presentations can also be a good way to help students synthesize learning from multiple lessons.  However, we have found that having students record necessary items (listed below) on a poster, in addition to working through the activities below, successfully prepares students and allows for data to be easily referenced during the discussion/debate.

Lesson Plans

Day 1 – Summit Prep (One 50-minute class period with previous homework, or Two 50-minute class periods)
1.    Have students complete the warm-up questions in their lab notebook.  Warm-up questions:
  • “What is the main, big picture question of this unit?  (Answer: What effect does the increasing atmospheric CO2 have on the ocean and its subsystems?)
  • What question and subsystem did you study in your group?” (Answers vary)
2.  Now that students have been brought back to the high-level purpose of this unit, share with them the main purpose of this lesson.  Example script:
  • Now that we have begun to answer our main question, we will begin exploring what (if anything) we should do in response.  We will do this through presenting and listening during both scientific presentations and a mock global summit.
  • Before preparing for the Summit, we must ensure we are ready to work with our group. Spend time synthesizing what you have learned from your experiment(s) with what you have learned through online research.  Use this student guide and worksheet (Google Doc | Word Doc) to help you connect your research data with the big picture of this unit.  All of this will help you plan for the Summit.  (This worksheet can be completed for homework or completed individually in the computer lab.)
3.  Once students have completed the worksheet, they should join their Interest Group to prepare a large poster.  The poster should be easy to read throughout room and should contain the following information:
  • Title of their interest group and members’ names
  • Investigative question
  • Hypothesis
  • Data summary and experimental results displayed in a table and/or graphic
  • Statement of whether or not their hypothesis is supported by data (Claim – Evidence – Reasoning statements accomplish this task nicely)
  • Group recommendations for short- and long-term response/action
4.    Students should practice their presentation within their interest group prior to presenting for the entire class.  Remind students of presentation norms, such as having every group member participate (see Day 2, Lesson Specifics, below, for more information on norms and presentation guidelines).  Have the group plan on a clear and concise, 3 minute presentation.  In research we use this format often and call these presentations “lightning talks” or the “3 minute thesis.”  For a terrific demonstration of how to share a lot of science in only 3 minutes, see this article and video.

 Day 2 – Interest Groups Present Posters  (One 50-minute class period)

Advanced Prep

  • Arrange the group presentation order so that similar content and/or interest groups present in a logical order.
  • Arrange the classroom desks in a horseshoe or circle to facilitate future discussion.  Interest groups should sit together.
  • Pedagogy for facilitating whole class discussions are included below.  To learn more strategies for whole-class discussions, please visit the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research’s (NWABR) website:  https://www.nwabr.org/teacher-center/education-strategies

Lesson Specifics:

1.  If students were not able to practice their presentation yesterday, give them 3-5 minutes at the beginning of the class to practice.  Share with them the presentation order.
2.  Remind students of presentation norms if necessary.  If you do not have presentation norms, it is a good idea to have the class define them as a group.  NWABR has a terrific lesson plan on how to set up classroom discussion norms:  See their “Science and Ethics of Stem Cell Research” curriculum. Specificaly,page 143 in the Appendix provides guidelines for setting up norms for classroom bioethics discussions that could be easily adapted for this purpose.  Here is a list of example discussion norms:
  • Reference data (yours and/or others’) to support reasoning.
  • Give thoughtful consideration of the topic.
  • Provide relevant and insightful comments.
  • Speak at an appropriate level to be heard.
  • Stay on topic and focused on the discussion.
  • Talk to/with the other students (not the teacher).
  • Share “air time” equally with others.
  • Be respectful of others – listen carefully; speak to ideas, not the personality.
  • No side conversations
3.  Interest groups should next present their poster to the entire class.  Each presentation should be only 3 minutes.  Each member of the interest group should be responsible for part of the presentation.  Possible structure:
First group member to present:
1.  Title of interest group and members’ names
2.  Investigative question
3.  Hypothesis
Second group member to present:
4.  Data Summary and Experimental Results
Third group member to present:
5.  Claim – Evidence – Reasoning
Fourth group member to present:
6.  Group recommendations for short- and long-term response and/or action.
4. Audience members should either take notes in their lab book or they can use this note taking sheet for each interest group.  The audience should listen to presenters and take notes only (no class discussion during presentations).  There will be a formal round for questions at the end of all presentations.  The audience should note which questions arise in their minds during the presentation and prepare to ask after all groups have presented.  Their notes should be part of their evaluation.  A second form of evaluation is to use your class roster to keep track of students’ oral contributions.  You can define what you are looking for in column headings and use tick marks to record each student’s oral contributions during presentations, during class questions, and during the Global Summit Debate (Day 3).  Oral contributions can include but are not limited to: speaking to point, asking a question, answering another student’s question, referring to evidence, etc. You can also use this evaluation template for tracking students’ level of participation and scores/grades.
5.  Have students next complete rounds of questions. Probing questions, if used correctly, should result in all parties thinking more deeply and critically about the issues at hand. For this type of ocean systems presentation, we recommend first having the students ask “clarifying questions.”  Next students should ask probing “extension questions.”  This will help students seek more detail and achieve a higher level of understanding.  If needed, read more on how to ask good questions, so that you can model these questioning techniques with your class. The hope in this lesson is that the students are the ones asking good, probing questions.  To help you, we’ve compiled this short list of websites with examples:  Changing Minds, University of Nebraska at Lincoln – Types of Teacher Questions, Questioning Techniques for Active Learning, and the Head Guru Teacher website – examples of probing questions.
6.  To finish the day’s lesson, have the students put their posters on display in the room for tomorrow’s Summit.
Day 3 – Global Summit Debate and Resolution on Atmospheric CO2 (One 50-minute class period)

Advanced Prep

  • Consider assigning a moderator to keep the discussion on track.
  • Arrange the chairs in a horseshoe or circle to facilitate discussion.
  • Have posters from Day 2 visible on the walls.
  • Have Discussion Norms visibly posted in the classroom.
  • As stated above in item #4 from Day 2, have your evaluation tracking form/method at the ready.
  • Print out the worksheet for students to score their summit participation (one copy for each student).

Lesson Specifics:

1.  Give each group a short amount of time to re-address their short- and long-term solutions/arguments.
2.  Explain the flow of the day:
  • Each interest group has 2 minutes to persuasively argue for their short- and long-term solutions before the ‘assembly.’
  • After a round-robin of arguments, the floor is opened to further questions and counter-arguments.  Interest groups may form coalitions.
3.  Ultimately, students should adopt a resolution concerning the amount of CO2 allowable in the atmosphere.  They can decide if this will be a consensus model, population/vote count model, economic model (where the money rules), etc.  In many science classes, we have found that the students have a good deal of experience with role playing and mock summits.  Having them vote to agree on topics and methods often works best and increases students’ involvement.
4.  Allow time at the end of the period (at least 15 minutes) for student reflection and/or extension.  This can also be saved for homework.  Possible activities for this reflection include:
  • A.  Have interest groups develop a final take on the ocean CO2 network. They can complete a hand-drawn network, they can use cytoscape to create their own network, or they can use these slides.  If they use the slides they can draw the arrows showing connections with a + or – to show increasing/decreasing, strengthening/opposing, or positive/negative.  In all cases, students should be instructed to look for reinforcing or balancing loops and/or positive or negative feedback loops. Or they can use the free online tool Loopy.
    • Interest group network diagram (possible “answer” key – please note that network diagrams are often hypotheses until they move toward being workable, confident models)
    • Diatom network diagram (possible “answer” key)
  • B.  What unanswered questions do you have?  What future research or additional information is needed?  Often decisions must be made on the basis of incomplete information.
  • C.  In a perfect world, what do you believe atmospheric CO2 levels should be?   What data support your contention?
  • D.  What is the Summit-recommended atmospheric CO2 level?  Is this fair to your interest group?  Can your interest group compromise and live with the result?
  • E.  What is your role in the network?
  • F.  What actions can you take or what can you do to positively impact your network?
  • G.  Use the carbon footprint calculators and websites from Lesson 5b to try different variations on how to best impact your network.  What types of actions have the greatest impact?
  • H.  Have students write a short position paper as themselves (not in their interest group role) as a final assessment or produce an email to a government official outlining their position.
5.  Students should also complete a self-evaluation/scoring form for their performance during this project and Summit.  For a greater metacognitive evaluation, feel free to add questions and/or alter point values on this sheet.
6.  Please have students complete the module’s post-assessment.  There are hard copies available as well as an online version.  Click here to take the online survey, or share this web address with your students – https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/X8VSZJS.
We would greatly appreciate any copies of pre- and post-assessments that you are willing to share to help us update this module’s effectiveness.  Samples of student work are also helpful and inform module revisions. Please send any materials to Claudia Ludwig (cludwig@isbscience.org or 401 Terry Avenue N, Seattle, WA  98109). Or if YOU want copies of the mini-surveys gathered through the Assessment tabs, please email and we will share the information received by your class. Thank you!
You completed Instructional Activities. Please move to Assessment


How will I know they know?

  • Students’ completed notes, posters, worksheets, and lab books, along with your tracking sheets, should be able to tell you if students met the above stated and linked objectives.  Specifically, look to see if students were able to:
    • collaborate in their groups to prepare an informative poster?
    • collaborate in their groups to deliver a concise, clear presentation?
    • use claim-evidence-reason to defend their ideas?
    • participate suitably in the discussions?
    • participate in the process of a group decision on suitable recommendations and actions?
    • reflect and evaluate their findings as well as the system-level impacts and reverberating effects on this system?
    • reflect and evaluate their learning, future actions, questions and/or responses?
  • Mini-Surveys:  As part of our effort to ensure quality STEM learning experiences, we invite you to participate in short, but informative surveys. You can complete one, all or any variation between. Here is a downloadable Teacher Overview to guide you through all surveys.
    • A mini-survey is a short survey (1-3 minutes) that students and teachers will use several times over the course of the module. The questions are identical each time, so the same link can be used each time.
    • Student Mini-survey link (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OA_StudentSurvey). Please provide 2-4 minutes for students to complete the mini-survey while in class. It should take most students one minute or so, especially after the first survey or two (because the questions remain the same).
      • When prompting students to take this survey at this final timepoint (#5), please remind students that this survey covers information taught over the entirety of Lesson 6.  Here is an example prompt for students: Take this mini-survey while thinking of the lessons we completed on [Monday and Tuesday] that allowed you to plan and present your work and recommendations at a mock global summit.
    • Please complete the teacher survey while students are taking the mini-survey, or at the end of the day. Please take it on the same day the students take theirs (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OA_TeacherSurvey).
  • Retrospective Pre/Post Survey for students – This is an 8-minute survey that students will complete at the end of the module.
  • Here is the entire Survey Teacher Guide that you can use when implementing these surveys.  Thank you!



This lesson should be adapted based on your students and your class dynamics.  One option for very large classes is to complete the Day 3 Summit in two parts.  One-half of the class can present and discuss in a circle.  Meanwhile, the other half of the class would sit in chairs.  Each person in the 2nd group would be responsible for evaluating a person currently presenting in the 1st group.  The groups then swap roles halfway through the class.  This works well to encourage discussion and participation.  For more on this type of format, see Part III from Lesson 6 of NWABR’s Using Bioinformatics: Genetic Testing introductory bioinformatics curriculum for socratic seminar instructions.

Also, for students who need more tactile, clearly articulated steps for a summit of this type, the California Academy of Sciences has a terrific lesson that can be quickly adapted to fit the content in this module. Also, the SEE team worked with Brian Erickson of Oregon State University on a modified module, which also integrates a culminating summit. Download the PDF here.


Scientists who are studying ocean acidification, as well as policy makers and stakeholders, are generally very passionate and more than willing to discuss their work with interested teachers and students. Through field testing, we learned that students love having a guest speaker Skype into the classroom. We suggest searching online to find such people.  Teachers or students can find and suggest someone to the class. Emails can be sent directly to that person giving a description of who you are and what you are interested in learning about. People are happy to spend 20 minutes talking to students about their work. As mentioned in the Extension of Lesson 4, you can contact us to talk to a scientist or reach out to the many other labs that work on ocean acidification. You can also find fisherfolk and policymakers through news articles on these topics.  Generally, you can find contact information online once you know that individual’s name and affiliation.


Many teachers and scientists participated in the creation of these lessons and content. Please see above for more information and view the list of credits for this work.