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Climate: A Balancing Act
https://explainingclimatechange.com/lesson4/lesson4.html

The King's Center for Visualization in Science

In this activity students learn how Earth’s energy balance is regulating climate. This activity is lesson 4 in the nine-lesson module Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change.

Activity takes about 1-2 class periods, depending on age and background of students.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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

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

  • The activity would benefit from educator interaction and group discussion at intervals to pose and answer questions, clarify visualizations, etc.
  • Educator could assign the activity for homework and use class time to focus on exploring the full capability of the applets.

About the Science

  • The main concept addressed with this activity is the energy balance and four main factors that affect Earth's energy balance and thus, global climate: incoming solar radiation, the albedo effect, the greenhouse effect, and outgoing radiation. The activity utilizes an applet that adjusts the four factors to explore the energy balance.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The interactive web tools for this activity are fun. For example the Planet builder. This will help students understand the Earth's radiation balance at a basic level. There are some concerns, specifically when the resource states that aerosols coalesce into raindrops. Aerosols can serve as CCN, around which water molecules can gather form cloud droplets, which are reflective in the visible spectrum.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is a carefully constructed, self-paced activity that walks students through Earth's energy balance using short text passages, pictures, graphs, two interactive applets, and questions.
  • The "Earth's Radiation Balance" applet is a useful tool that allows students to adjust parameters that affect the radiation balance, enabling students to understand how changing the parameters changes temperature at Earth's surface. There are questions built into the activity to assess students' understanding.
  • A teacher guide would be helpful, with responses to the questions posed to students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The activity is easy to follow.
  • The video quality (video provided in the introduction) is poor.
  • Though the applets are easy to follow, adjusting the parameters in the "Earth's Radiation Balance" applet can be difficult to get the right numbers, which may be frustrating for students.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:


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