Activities on the greenhouse effect

by Stephanie Chasteen on March 22, 2011

Looking to teach about the greenhouse effect or climate change? I gathered a few of them together here. Please share your own, too!

First, there is the Exploratorium site on climate. This is a nice primer on many different aspects of climate, with some nice links. No activities, but you can find some really nice ones at the workshop on climate change that I did with Paul at the Exploratorium. Really, check out that link for some fun hands-on activities, like modeling the atmosphere with colored rice.  In a one liter jar of rice, only a few grains (I think it was like 4) represent the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere!

You can check out a program I’m involved with nowadays — the Learn More About Climate website at the University of Colorado.  We have three lesson plans — evidence for climate change, mountain pine beetle, and burning zoo poo to generate energy.  We also have links to a variety of different teacher-recommended sites for use in teaching about climate and climate change.  Look on the “for educators” link.  One particular resource that we have listed, that you should know about, is….

The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) has links to the climate literacy standards and — more importantly — a set of reviewed lesson plans from a variety of partners about many aspects of climate.  This is an amazing resource….

The Keystone Foundation has a “CSI Climate Change” lesson plan to cover two periods, with good documentation on some experiments that might be interesting to your kids.  This was recommended by a veteran teacher.  However, he says that you should try the experiments at home first, as they didn’t get clear results.  He says:

We used tennis ball containers (capable of being air tight) filled one with CO2 using straws and some smart and final containers, Left one completely open, Sealed one with air. Then tracked temperature change under a simple lamp set up.

Our results weren’t really that interesting between the “airtight CO2” container and the “airtight air container” but both were reasonably interesting when compared to the open container.

The site has the entire lab write up, and a bunch of others you might take a look at, and even a powerpoint that it designed to help explain it.

The key thing: Do this yourself and decided if under your real lab conditions it is worth doing as a three part experiment or as a two part.

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