NASA Global Warming Demonstration
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
This learning activity takes less than 30 minutesLearn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»
See how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 2 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 1 Science and Engineering Practice
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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy |
- This demonstration would provide a good engaging introduction to the topic of heat capacity or climate change. While the video is meant to be used for a younger audience (Grades 3-8), the demonstration would work for all levels.
- This demonstration fits well within a sequence on climate change and can spark further discussion/inquiry on the connection between our oceans and global warming.
About the Science
- This simple demonstration using a water balloon and lighter shows the greater heat capacity of water, as opposed to air, and how Earth's oceans are absorbing most of the heat being trapped on our warming world. Further background information on the connection between the oceans' greater heat capacity and global warming or sea level rise might be helpful for classroom discussion.
- Comments from expert scientist:
- Scientific strengths: Simple, clear explanation of the GHG effect on our planet and the ocean's role in climate change.
- Concerns: I would add the molecular reason why water can hold more heat, especially for older students since this resource can accommodate up to grade level 12. Such as: "This is because for water to increase in temperature, water molecules must be made to move faster within the water; this requires breaking hydrogen bonds, and the breaking of hydrogen bonds absorbs heat. Heat capacity is the capability of water to absorb heat without undergoing an increase in temperature."
About the Pedagogy
- This demonstration could be a fun way to show how water has a higher heat capacity than air and can therefore absorb more heat. The teacher uses two balloons (one filled with air and one filled with water) and a lighter (or some sort of flame) and the students get to see how fast it takes the balloon to pop for each. This has extension opportunities and the concept can be applied to real world scenarios for advanced teaching, such as steam locomotives and the Chernobyl explosion.
- One concern is that some schools don't allow for flames indoors, so it may be difficult to use a lighter to make the demonstration work.
Technical Details/Ease of Use
- This demonstration needs to be done by the teacher since it requires use of a flame. However, it should be fairly easy to set up the demonstration.
- The simple demonstration in the video uses materials commonly found in science classroom to show the effect of global warming on our oceans. It also includes a link to extension activities.