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Mass Balance Model

Robert MacKay, Science Education Resource Center, Starting Point Collection

In this JAVA-based interactive modeling activity, students are introduced to the concepts of mass balance, flow rates, and equilibrium using a simple water bucket model. Students can vary flow rate into the bucket, initial water level in the bucket, and residence time of water in the bucket. After running the model, the bucket's water level as a function of time is presented graphically and in tabular form.

Activity takes about one class period.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
Other materials addressing:
G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
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.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:F) Working with models and simulations
Other materials addressing:
F) Working with models and simulations.
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:B) Changes in matter
Other materials addressing:
B) Changes in matter.

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

About the Content

  • This activity introduces students to the science of how mass balance works.
  • Concepts in this activity are essential to understanding climate topics such as how much CO2 is in the atmosphere.
  • The mass balance concept is also applicable to energy concepts like oil reserves or energy loss from a home, which is one of the examples provided.
  • This activity can also be used to introduce very basic concepts of climate modeling.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Good, clear explanation of mass balance, and CFC / CO2 related activities offer good real-life (and up-to-date) examples of its use.

About the Pedagogy

  • This activity is very thorough and contains all the elements needed to present to a college class.
  • The activity contains simple models that run in a browser, plus question sheets, answer key, and follow-on activities.
  • As many students are put off by math, this activity does an effective job of walking them through the concepts in a user-friendly, non-intimidating manner.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • All the needed elements are supplied. Student activity is presented in three formats: online, PDF, and Word.

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

The activity contains a related lesson plan that may be of interest: Using Mass Balance to Understand Atmospheric CFCs
Entered the Collection: January 2013 Last Reviewed: November 2016

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