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Greenhouse Gases Exposed
http://www.ecohealth101.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=180%3Ateachers-lp-greenhouse-article&catid=130&Itemid=272

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.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

The amount of solar energy absorbed or radiated by Earth is modulated by the atmosphere and depends on its composition. Greenhouse gases—such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane—occur naturally in small amounts and absorb and release heat energy more efficiently than abundant atmospheric gases like nitrogen and oxygen. Small increases in carbon dioxide concentration have a large effect on the climate system.
About Teaching Principle 2
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The components and processes of Earth’s climate system are subject to the same physical laws as the rest of the Universe. Therefore, the behavior of the climate system can be understood and predicted through careful, systematic study.
About Teaching Principle 5
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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
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Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, are transparent to much of the incoming sunlight but not to the infrared light from the warmed surface of the earth. When greenhouse gases increase, more thermal energy is trapped in the atmosphere, and the temperature of the earth increases the light energy radiated into space until it again equals the light energy absorbed from the sun.
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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

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