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Greenhouse Effect

Connecticut Energy Education

This activity is a greenhouse-effect-in-a-bottle experiment. The lesson includes readings from NEED.org and an inquiry lab measuring the effect of carbon dioxide and temperature change in an enclosed environment.

This activity takes about two class periods. Additional material required.

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Educator should have some background knowledge of basic chemistry.
  • The aerosol activity could be done separately if desired.
  • Educator should talk about variables and controlled experiments before students begin this activity.
  • Educator may want to extend the questions to help students more critically address the objectives.

About the Science

  • An inquiry approach to the greenhouse bottle model. The inquiry nature of the lab is good but using this type of experiment to model the greenhouse effect may reinforce misconceptions.
  • The second inquiry lab on aerosols also has science concerns. "Aerosols" are spray painted on the side of the bottle that the sun shines through. This might represent aerosols, but they are not aerosols in the bottle with the atmospheric gases and thus is a poor model.
  • Comment from expert scientist: It allows students to design their own experiment, and act like scientists themselves. It allows students to think about using models (a soda bottle) to describe a complex system (the atmosphere) and process (the greenhouse effect).

About the Pedagogy

  • A good effort at an inquiry-based activity in which students devise their own experiment to test the effect of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Students read an article first–not a very exciting way to engage them in the activity. Good assessment questions and scaffolding for the student inquiry investigation.
  • Activity assumes that students understand the dynamics of a controlled experiment, which is not necessarily true.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Instructors will need to create an account to access the materials; the account is free to set up and the materials are free to use.

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