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Amazing Albedo

American Museum of Natural History and Rice University

This lesson is a lab in which students use thermometers, white and dark paper, and lamps to measure differences in albedo between the light and dark materials. Connections are made to albedo in Antarctica.

Activity takes one 45-minute 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 Disciplinary Core Idea, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 7 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1a

Energy Literacy

Other materials addressing:
1.2 Thermal energy.
Other materials addressing:
2.3 Earth's climate driven by the Sun.

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.
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

  • Have students write out their hypothesis/prediction before they begin. Let students choose other materials to determine the albedo that exist in nature, i.e. different leaf types, substrates, etc.
  • Instructors need to emphasize that color affects albedo but is not albedo. Albedo is a measure of the reflectivity of a surface.
  • Most appropriate for middle school.

About the Science

  • Students compare albedo of dark and light surfaces and relate to albedo in Antarctica.
  • Albedo impacts average global and local temperature, but sun angle (and the tilt of the Earth) is the driving force for temperature regimes in any location.
  • Other related AMNH resources complement this lesson: http://www.amnh.org/explore/curriculum-collections/antarctica/extreme-temperatures
  • Comments from expert scientist: Albedo is an incredibly important concept in understanding Earth's climate and this activity certainly highlights its importance.
  • The activity is very hands on, involves making and testing hypotheses, and asks the students to take measurements and plot their results.
  • All in all, a very productive and useful activity.

About the Pedagogy

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Very easy to use and understand.

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


Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

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