In this series of activities students investigate the effects of black carbon on snow and ice melt in the Arctic. The lesson begins with an activity that introduces students to the concept of thermal energy and how light and dark surfaces reflect and absorb radiant energy differently. To help quantify the relationship between carbon
and ice melt, the wet lab activity has students create ice samples both with and without black carbon and then compare how they respond to radiant energy while considering implications for the Arctic.
In this activity, students learn about the urban heat island effect by investigating which areas of their schoolyard have higher temperatures - trees, grass, asphalt, and other materials. Based on their results, they hypothesize how concentrations of surfaces that absorb heat might affect the temperature in cities - the urban heat island effect. Then they analyze data about the history of Los Angeles heat waves and look for patterns in the Los Angeles climate data and explore patterns.
With this carbon/temperature interactive model, students investigate the role of atmospheric carbon in the greenhouse effect using a relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature.
In this learning activity, students use a web-based carbon calculator to determine their carbon footprint on the basis of their personal and household habits and choices. Students identify which personal activities and household choices produce the most CO2 emissions, compare their carbon footprint to the U.S. and global averages, and identify lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their footprint.
In this lab activity, students use a chemical indicator (bromothymol blue) to detect the presence of carbon dioxide in animal and plant respiration and in the burning of fossil fuels and its absence in the products of plant photosynthesis. After completing the five parts of this activity, students compare the colors of the chemical indicator in each part and interpret the results in terms of the qualitative importance of carbon sinks and sources.
In this activity, students explore the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 40 years with an interactive online model. They use the model and observations to estimate present emission rates and emission growth rates. The model is then used to estimate future levels of carbon dioxide using different future emission scenarios. These different scenarios are then linked by students to climate model predictions also used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In this activity, students work in groups, plotting carbon dioxide concentrations over time on overheads and estimating the rate of change over five years. Stacked together, the overheads for the whole class show an increase on carbon dioxide over five years and annual variation driven by photosynthesis. This exercise enables students to practice basic quantitative skills and understand how important sampling intervals can be when studying changes over time. A goal is to see how small sample size may give incomplete picture of data.
Developed for Alaska Native students, this activity can be customized for other regions. Students interview elders or other long-term residents of the community to document their knowledge of local changes to the landscape and climate. Based on the information and photos they acquired from the interview, students return to photo locations to observe and record changes. Finally, they develop ideas about potential impacts of a warming climate to the ecosystem that surrounds them.
This lesson plan engages students in a real-life exploration of climate change as it is affected by greenhouse emissions from vehicles. The aim of this activity is for students to realize the impact of vehicle use in their family and to give students the opportunity to brainstorm viable alternatives to this use.