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Greenhouse Gases Exposed

Victoria Babcock, Janet Collie, EcoHealth

In this activity, students learn about the relationship between greenhouse gases and global warming through a simple teacher demo or hands-on lab activity. Everyday materials are used: beakers, baking soda, vinegar, candle, thermometers, heat source such as a goose-necked lamp, etc. Students shine a light onto three thermometers: a control, an upside down beaker w/ a thermometer and air, and a beaker in which CO2 had been poured.

Activity takes one class period. Additional materials required.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 8 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Greenhouse effect
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2c
Climate system is subject to the same physical laws as the rest of the Universe
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5a

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Educator should plan on at least two class periods to complete activity.
  • It's important to ensure that students understand the distinction between the physical barrier of an actual greenhouse and the heat-trapping effect of CO2.
  • One has to look at the EcoHealth "Teacher" page to determine the grade level that 'Greenhouse Gases Exposed' is designed to serve – fifth through eighth graders. The grade level can be noted easily by clicking on the "Teachers" link.

About the Science

  • Students perform a controlled experiment, then record and analyze their data.
  • Activity demonstrates the heat-trapping capacity of CO2.
  • Activity reinforces misconceptions about the difference between the greenhouse effect and a actual greenhouse. In the atmosphere greenhouse gases absorb infrared (heat) emitted by the surface. A greenhouse suppresses convection to retain heat.
  • Includes a simple demonstration that carbon dioxide is heavier than air.
  • Comment from expert scientist: The Activity is well written to demonstrate the basic aspects of global warming in a simple experiment.

About the Pedagogy

  • Procedure is well laid out for educator, however, activity could benefit from background materials for teacher to understand each step scientifically and some of the limitations of these steps.
  • Variables, such as the positioning of the thermometer, the containment of air/gas, need to be standardized or limitations discussed. One problem is that one beaker is upside down making it difficult to position the thermometer and also suppresses convection, while the second beaker with the CO2is upside up, not suppressing convection and implying that the thermometer is in a different orientation.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Time suggestion for activity won't allow for much discussion or knowledge testing.
  • The "Global Warming Worksheet" is actually an informational page and not a worksheet.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

The larger curriculum explorers the connection between our changing environment and our well being and health: http://www.ecohealth101.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-ESS3-5:Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C3.1:Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

Science and Engineering Practices: 8

Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P2.2:Develop or modify a model— based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.

MS-P2.4:Develop and/or revise a model to show the relationships among variables, including those that are not observable but predict observable phenomena.

MS-P3.2:Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and/or revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation

MS-P4.4:Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

MS-P6.2:Construct an explanation using models or representations.

MS-P7.3:Construct, use, and/or present an oral and written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon or a solution to a problem.

MS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.

MS-P1.4:Ask questions to clarify and/or refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem.

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