Earth's Albedo

This engaging activity introduces students to the concept of albedo and how albedo relates to Earth's energy balance.

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Environmental Literacy Framework

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Positive and negative aspects of the model should be discussed beforehand with students. In particular, what do the popcorn kernels represent? Why are there 100 of them per trial? The text says "energy packets," which isn't concrete enough for students to grasp. In fact, each kernel represents 1% (which is why there are 100 kernels) of incoming solar radiation that will be reflected and absorbed by each type of land surface. How many kernels fall on each type of surface depends on its extent (area). Teachers might ask
students to predict which land surface type they think will have the most corn kernels landing on it? Which will have the fewest?

Have maps and containers with 100 popcorn kernels prepared before students do the activity. Explain to students what the kernels represent.