Students will explore various factors that have caused climate change in the past, analyze carbon dioxide levels over time, and construct a claim, supported with evidence and reasoning.
Note: Before doing the Explore portion of the activity, students should know that seasons are caused by the orientation of the Earth’s axis in relation to its orbit around the sun. You may want to introduce or refresh their understanding of this concept by modeling it with a lamp and a globe.
- Students will summarize past causes of global climate change in Earth’s history.
- Students will analyze data trends and interpret evidence of the factors that have caused the recent rise in global temperatures.
- Students will create a claim substantiated by evidence and reasoning.
- Climate Change Stations teacher page, printed on cardstock
- Copies of Changes in Earth’s Climate, Causes of Climate Change, and Constructing an Argument student pages, one per student
- Copies of Mauna Loa Data student page (optional)
- Materials for stations: spinning top, rulers, globe on a stand (12-inch or similar), 2 flashlights (with a directed beam, such as LED flashlight or smartphone flashlight), 1/2 inch (1 cm) wedge, small mirror, piece of translucent plastic (such as a plastic cutting board or a take-out container lid), battery-operated flickering candle, cardboard box (large enough to hold candle), two clear 2-liter bottles, 2 thermometers (long enough to fit in 2-liter bottles), utility knife, plastic wrap, soil, light source (optional), tape, 2 large rubber bands
- Double balance scale (optional)
- Cardboard scraps (optional)
- Getting Ready: 60 minutes
- Doing the Activity: Three to five 50-minute periods
- Evaluate: Varies, depending on option selected
- Make copies of the teacher page and student pages.
- Using the suggested list in the Additional Resources for this activity, identify suitable websites for students to get current data on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. You may want all students to use one source or have them use different sources to see fluctuations by geographic area.
- Set up each of six stations as follows. Note that, depending on your class, you may choose to do the stations as demonstrations.
- Station 1: Place the station card and the spinning top at the station.
- Station 2: Place the station card, the globe on a stand, one ruler, one of the flashlights, and the wedge at the station.
- Station 3: Place the station card, the globe on a stand, one of the flashlights, and the wedge at the station.
- Station 4: Place the station card, small mirror, piece of translucent plastic, and the other flashlight at the station.
- Station 5: Place the station card, battery-operated flickering candle, and cardboard box at the station. Depending on the box, cut a hole if needed so that students can observe the candle in the box. (The box simply provides a dark area for observing the candle flame.)
- Station 6: Place the station card at the station. Create two different greenhouses for the station as in the illustration below.
- Cut the tops off each bottle with the utility knife and fill them with equal amounts of soil.
- Set a thermometer inside each bottle where it can be easily read, then tape the thermometer to the inside of the bottle, facing out (you may need to use some small scraps of cardboard to help keep the thermometer steady). Each thermometer bulb should be about an inch above the soil.
- At least an hour before class, cover one of the bottle openings with plastic wrap, securing it with a rubber band. Partially cover the other bottle with plastic wrap and secure it with another rubber band, and place both bottles in intense sunlight (or near a light with a high wattage bulb).
- See Additional Resources to find other supports for teaching this activity.
PLT Conceptual Framework
- 3.11. Effective decision-making involves a careful study of all sides of the issues, along with the ability to differentiate between honest, factually accurate information and propaganda.
- 5.0. Structures and systems may be stable and yet change over various periods of time.
- 5.3. Ecosystems change over time through patterns of growth and succession. They are also affected by other phenomena, such as disease, insects, fire, weather, climate, and human intervention.
See Standards Connections in the Appendices for a list of standards addressed in this activity.