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Photo by Jill Pelto

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Jill Pelto Gallery


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts

Resource Type

  • Artwork

Regional Focus


"Proxies for the Past"

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  • In this watercolor and colored pencil piece, scientist and artist Jill Pelto, depicts tree rings, ice cores, and lichens, all of which help scientists reconstruct past climates. 
  • The artwork introduces students to paleoclimatology, the study of the Earth's past climate and average global temperature using natural materials, fossils, or elements. 
Teaching Tips


  • This watercolor and colored pencil piece will show students the importance of reconstructing past climates so that scientists understand how the environment responds to climate variability.
  • The red line depicting the average global temperature is a simple and effective visual for the recent rapid increase in global temperature.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with proxy data and their function in determining past climates.


  • Earth science classes could read the reference article about how proxies are used to infer past climate and then have a class discussion on climate proxies.
  • Students could conduct a research project on the different kinds of proxies that can be used to estimate past temperatures on Earth.
  • Other resources on this topic include this activity on using ice cores to learn about past climates and this lesson on analyzing tree rings to learn about past climate conditions.
Scientist Notes
The resource underpins evidence of our climate history using samples from tree rings and ice cores to hindcast past climates. This is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
      • HS-ESS3-1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • National Core Arts Standards
    • Visual Arts: Standard 6 - Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.
      • VA:Pr6.1.8a Analyze why and how an exhibition or collection may influence ideas, beliefs, and experiences.
    • Visual Arts: Standard 7 - Perceive and analyze artistic work.
      • VA:Re7.2.Ia Analyze how one’s understanding of the world is affected by experiencing visual imagery.
    • Visual Arts: Standard 8 - Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
      • VA:Re8.1.Ia Interpret an artwork or collection of works, supported by relevant and sufficient evidence found in the work and its various contexts.
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