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This lesson plan engages students in a real-life exploration of climate change as it is affected by greenhouse emissions from vehicles. The aim of this activity is for students to realize the impact of vehicle use in their family and to give students the opportunity to brainstorm viable alternatives to this use.

Activity takes two 45-minute lesson periods one week apart

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 7 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 9 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPg

Energy Literacy

Other materials addressing:
6.2 Conserving energy.
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6.6 Behavior and design.
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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.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
E) Organizing information.
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:E) Environmental Issues
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E) Environmental Issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:A) Identifying and investigating issues
Other materials addressing:
A) Identifying and investigating issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:B) Sorting out the consequences of issues
Other materials addressing:
B) Sorting out the consequences of issues.

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

  • Give students a data table to use to collect their data.
  • Provide students with written directions for the calculations.

About the Science

  • Students gather data about their family's car and calculate the total emissions per year. The class then discusses ways to reduce emissions.
  • Emissions data come from http://www.fueleconomy.gov/
  • Comments from expert scientist: This is a nice activity to connect personal choices to increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. It is a great example of calculating quantities from varying rates and conversion factors, such as tons/year, pounds/ton, etc.

About the Pedagogy

  • The background content portion of activity is lecture-delivered.
  • Students research emissions and perform calculations for their family's vehicles.
  • This lesson presents a good opportunity for students to discuss their own use of vehicles and the impact of the choices they and others make on the environment. Focusing on cars and driving behaviors may prove to be motivational at the high school level.
  • It will be important for the teacher to implement meaningful, connected activities in the week between data collection.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Low tech; easy to use.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:


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