Lesson Title: Analyzing Geoscience Data to Understand Feedback Loops in Earth Systems

NGSS Standards addressed: HS-ESS2-5, HS-ESS3-1, HS-ESS3-3

Objective: Students will be able to analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.


  • Access to geoscience data (e.g. satellite imagery, topographic maps, temperature data)
  • Computers or tablets for students to access data and complete analysis
  • Graph paper, calculators (optional)

Warm-Up (10 minutes):

  • Ask students to brainstorm examples of changes to Earth's surface that could impact other Earth systems. Record their responses on the board.
  • Ask students if they think these changes could create feedback loops, where the change to one system causes further changes to that system or others.

Direct Instruction (15 minutes):

  • Introduce the concept of feedback loops in Earth systems. Explain that feedback loops occur when a change in one system causes a change in another system, which then causes further changes in the first system.
  • Provide examples of feedback loops in Earth systems, such as the carbon cycle (where burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which causes warming, which then releases more carbon from sinks such as oceans and permafrost).

Guided Practice (30 minutes):

  • Divide students into groups and provide each group with access to a different set of geoscience data (e.g. satellite imagery showing land use changes, topographic maps showing changes in elevation, temperature data showing changes over time).
  • Have students analyze the data and identify any potential feedback loops that may be occurring.
  • Have students present their findings to the class and discuss as a group.

Independent Practice (20 minutes):

  • Provide students with an additional set of geoscience data to analyze on their own.
  • Have them use the data to make a claim about the presence of a feedback loop in an Earth system.
  • Have students write a short paragraph explaining their claim and supporting it with evidence from the data.

Conclusion (5 minutes):

  • Review the concept of feedback loops in Earth systems and the importance of understanding these loops in order to make informed decisions about human activities that may impact the environment.
  • Ask students to reflect on their own understanding of the concept and any questions they still have.


  • Formative assessment will occur through participation in class discussions and group work.
  • Summative assessment will occur through the written paragraph explaining a claim about a feedback loop in an Earth system.

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