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The activity follows a progression that examines the CO2 content of various gases, explores the changes in the atmospheric levels of CO2 from 1958 to 2000 from the Mauna Loa Keeling curve, and the relationship between CO2 and temperature over the past 160,000 years. This provides a foundation for examining individuals' input of CO2 to the atmosphere and how to reduce it.

Activity takes three to four class periods. Technology to show videos and additional materials are needed.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching Principle 6
Other materials addressing 6a

Energy Literacy

Other materials addressing:
7.3 Environmental quality.
Other materials addressing:
6.3 Demand for energy is increasing.
Other materials addressing:
6.8 Calculating and monitoring energy use.
Other materials addressing:
2.6 Greenhouse gases affect energy flow.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
4. Personal and Civic Responsibility:C) Recognizing efficacy
Other materials addressing:
C) Recognizing efficacy.
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:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
Other materials addressing:
A) Human/environment interactions.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:B) Sorting out the consequences of issues
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B) Sorting out the consequences of issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action
Other materials addressing:
C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.2 Decision-Making and Citizenship Skills:B) Evaluating the need for citizen action
Other materials addressing:
B) Evaluating the need for citizen action.

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

  • In the first activity, the chemistry that indicates the presence of CO2 is not described. This is not critical for the activity. However, students may want to know what is happening chemically to accept that the experiment is showing what is described. Educator should clarify this point.
  • The extension activity refers to how much the temperature has changed since the beginning of the 20th century. Since time is moving on, that number will change depending on when the activity is used. The educator should check the IPCC report for the latest information about how much temperature has changed since 1900.
  • Collecting of car exhaust may be difficult and may not be allowed in a high school class.

About the Science

  • The activity addresses the issue that human emissions produce global warming in a fairly indirect way. The statement could be stronger.
  • This activity is data-rich and has excellent media resources. This is a robust lesson that allows for serious discussion of the topic.
  • In Part I, step 3 directs the user to some text titled Global Warming: Graphs Tell the Story. The user should click on the "View" button to get to an article called "Stories in the Ice, Nature's Time Machine." This examines climate change on longer time scales. In particular, there is a graph of the climate record in the Vostok ice core that shows the relationship between temperature and both CO2 and CH4 (methane). It shows that over the geologic record, temperature and greenhouse gases change together, although it is not always clear which occurs first. While this is an area of research, the point is that they change in the same direction over geologic time.
  • The Vostok climate records graph does not have a key for the colored lines. The blue line is the CO2, the red line is the temperature, and the green line is methane.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity provides a progression that builds student learning about the greenhouse effect. It can lead to more complex understanding of the topic, including human impacts and how to reduce them.
  • As the resource uses a variety of data types, different learning styles are potentially addressed.
  • Students will benefit from working in groups.
  • There are multiple methods in the various components of this activity. This might make the information more accessible to learners with various learning styles.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

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