Learning Module

Ticks, Disease, and Climate

How is climate change affecting ticks and the diseases that are spread by ticks? What can we do about it? Lyme disease and other diseases carried by ticks have been on the rise in the United States, and in Northern New England in particular. Research suggests that warming temperatures and increased precipitation are allowing ticks to thrive in places in places and at times that had been unsuitable. In this module, students will draw together information on the tick life cycle, changing climate, and trends in tick-borne diseases to develop action plans to protect their community from the impacts of this climate-driven phenomenon.


Learning Outcomes

Students will build understanding around the following themes:

Climate and Changing Ecosystems (Climate change is driving changes here!)

  • Changes in Maine’s ecosystems are local instances of global patterns of change.
  • Changes in ecosystems have impacts on the species within those ecosystems -- some populations thrive, some move, some decline.

Nature of Science (Science is collaborative!)

  • There are many different ways to participate in science and being a scientist can involve a broad range of activities, skills and people.
  • Investigating changes in ecosystems often is a collaborative effort between professional scientists and members of local communities.

Data and Scientific Inquiry (This is the work that scientists do!)

  • Data helps us understand a problem or phenomenon
  • Data can be used as evidence to support scientific claims.
  • We represent data in a combination of graphs and maps to show ecosystem change in both time and space, and we use models to think into the future.
  • Data can be represented and organized in different ways in order to answer different questions or reveal new information.
  • Using data to understand a phenomenon involves being able to read and make sense of data representations (tables, graphs, maps, etc.) and models.

Time Estimate
4 to 10 class periods


Learning Space

In this module, students will investigate increases in tick-borne diseases driven by climate change. First, they will share and listen to accounts of tick activity and tick-borne disease in the Northeast and learn to identify common ticks in the Northeast. Next, they will take on the role of a tick moving through its various life stages to learn about how different conditions can affect tick behavior. Students will dive deeper into the connection between climate and ticks by analyzing maps showing simultaneous shifts in populations, Lyme disease, temperature, and precipitation. Finally, students will create their own plan for putting their knowledge into meaningful action.

This module has students study changes that are driven by climate change. To build students’ understanding of current climate trends, use the two lessons from Preparing for LabVenture: Exploring Global and Regional Climate Trends sequence. Whether or not your students will attend LabVenture, the climate data and background information from these lessons will prepare students for engaging with the local impacts of climate change.

Lesson 1: Know your ticks!

In this lesson, students will build background on the problem of ticks and Lyme disease by sharing existing knowledge and reading/listening to a short article. Then, they will use a memory game to learn to distinguish between deer, dog, and lone star ticks.

Estimated time: 50 to 70 minutes

Learning objectives: Students will be able to...

  • Articulate problems posed by ticks
  • Find personal connection to the problem of ticks and Lyme disease
  • Distinguish between deer, dog, and lone star ticks
  • Explain how knowing about ticks and disease can help keep students safe

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Class Slides | Maine Public Article | Tick ID Guides | Tick Memory Cards

Lesson 2: The Life of a Tick

In this lesson, students play an interactive game modeling the tick life cycle to identify factors that contribute to higher rates of Lyme disease.

Estimated time: 60 minutes

Learning objectives: Students will be able to...

  • Describe life stages of ticks and environmental factors that contribute to survival at those stages.
  • Identify multiple factors that may affect rates of Lyme disease

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Class Slides | Tick Life Cycle Activity Station Instructions

Lesson 3: Explore Data

In this lesson, students will learn about how changing climate may be affecting the spread of tick borne disease. Then, they will analyze a series of maps looking for relationships between changes in tick range, Lyme disease, temperature, and precipitation.

Estimated time: Approximately 60 to 75 minutes

Learning objectives: Students will be able to...

  • Interpret maps to identify areas of more significant change
  • Find patterns across maps to form ideas about drivers of that change

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Class Slides | Tick Disease Climate Question Cards | Tick and Climate Maps

Lesson 4: Take Action!

In this lesson, students will play an adapted version of the tick lifecycle activity from the “Life of a Tick” lesson to test ideas about how warmer and wetter conditions might affect ticks. Then, they will pull together their learning from across the module to inform the community about the dangers posed by ticks.

Learning objectives: Students will be able to...

  • Apply learning to create a plan to protect from diseases spread by ticks

Estimated time: Approximately 55 minutes or more depending on action plans

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Class Slides | Tick Life Cycle Activity Stations - Climate Change Variation | Action Plan Rubric