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Human Energy Systems | Activity 2.1

Activity 2.1: Home Groups: Four Considerations for Making Sense of Large-Scale Data (30 min)

Students begin in their Home Groups and identify the task for their group. The teacher introduces the tool they will use to record evidence and identify patterns in the data sets..

Resources Provided


Print one copy of 2.1 Finding Patterns Tool for Earth Systems for every 4 students. Print one copy of 2.1 Jigsaw Cards and cut out the cards. Use the instructions on the first page of the cards to determine which cards to use with your class size. Prepare a computer with an Internet connection and a projector to display the presentation and watch the Arctic Sea Ice video.


1. Introduce students to the Activity.

Explain to students the purpose of this lesson is to examine other phenomenon in addition to arctic sea ice. In this lesson, they will look at our different data sets and try to understand them. To prepare for the lesson, they will work in “home” and “expert” groups. In this first activity, they will begin in “home” groups.

  • Give each student a jigsaw card (see instructions on the first page of the cards for how to distribute cards).
  • Tell students to form groups with people who have a similar picture on their card. For example: airplanes find other airplanes, gas tanks find other gas tanks. Note: see instructions on the first page of the cards for how to remove cards if your students do not divide evenly into groups of 4. Tell students who do not have a home group of 4 that they are “free agents” and have them choose a home group to join (each should choose a different home group).
  • Give each home group one copy of 2.1 Finding Patterns Tool for Earth Systems.
  • Have students create a name for their group (optional) and write their group name (and group members’ names) at the top of their worksheet.


A key opportunity for formative assessment in this activity is during the consensus-building discussion about the arctic sea ice column. During this discussion, encourage the students to compare and contrast each other’s ideas, with the goal of finding an answer to each box that they all agree is supported by the evidence. Use this key as a guide:

Representation Generalizability Short-term variability Long-term trends

- What variables?

- What time period?

- Which regions are included?

- What does this tell you about global patterns?

- What is the short-term variability in the data?

- Is it predictable or unpredictable?

- What is the long-term trend?

- Is it predictable or unpredictable?

The extent of Arctic Sea ice (millions of square kilometers) each October from 1979-2013 is represented on the graph.


This graph is specific to ice in the Arctic Ocean and may not be representative of patterns in ice in other bodies of water.

The extent of ice fluctuates up and down in an unpredictable way each year, but the overall trend is a decrease in sea ice extent over the period of 1979-2013.


The long-term trend shows that arctic sea ice has decreased. It is predictable. 



  • It is best not to move on to the next activity until students have a solid understanding of the “four considerations” presented in this activity.
  • Tell students to keep their jigsaw cards for the next activity.
  • The worksheet for the CO2 trend line (Group B) is the longest and most complex. Consider assigning cards labeled “B” to more advanced students when you pass out the jigsaw cards in this activity.
  • Collect and keep students’ 2.1 Finding Patterns Tool for Earth Systems in a place where they can be found easily again later. Use the 2.1 Assessing the Finding Patterns Tool for Earth Systems to assess their ideas at this stage in the unit.