Summer Research Program for Science Teachers


Jane Zeng

Seward Park H.S., Manhattan




Global Warming and Energy Choices In the 21st Century



Students will learn:

(a) the nature of global warming

(b) the causes of global warming

(c) ways to solve the problem of global warming

(d) to develop an energy plan for the future


This is a short-term research project in which students will learn the facts of climatic changes and the relationship between climatic changes, the economic, political and social impacts of these changes, and the energy choices for the future. By engaging in different activities and by doing lab experiments, students will gain an understanding of the nature of climatic changes, human activities that interact with the environment, and the impact of science on society.


While students carry out this project, they review some important scientific concepts in Meteorology, such as the greenhouse effect, the carbon cycle, and the composition of the atmosphere. This will help students to understand the causes and impact of global warming on the worldwide environment. By reading and researching more information, students will realize that the use of fossil fuels play an important part in the current world energy demand. Human activities affect the environment tremendously. In order to better understand the climatic change model, improve human health, and reduce environmental pollution, an energy revolution is necessary.


Standard A: Plan an inquiry-based science program: develop short-term goals for students.

Standard B: Guide and facilitate learning: Encourage and model skills of scientific inquiry, curiosity and openness to new ideas, and skepticism

Standard C: Ongoing assessment of teaching and student learning: Guide students in self-assessment

Standard E: Develop communities of science learners that reflect the intellectual rigor of scientific inquiry and attitudes and social values conductive to science learning.

Standard F: Actively participate in thee ongoing planning and development of the school science program: participate in decisions concerning allocation of time and other resources to the science program.

Part I: Background

(Reviewing, searching, and writing activities are included in this section)

Students should know the concepts of the greenhouse effect, the carbon cycle, and the nature of the climatic change. These are included in the Earth Science curriculum in the chapter on Meteorology.




Internet web sites:

The greenhouse effect information sites:




The carbon cycle information sites:




Have students discuss and answer the following questions:

What is the greenhouse effect?

How much do you know about the carbon cycle?

What does “energy balance in the atmosphere” mean?

Illustrate the above-mentioned concepts and describe them.

Group working activity:

* Have students discuss these questions and do more research online about these topics. * Separate the students into small groups and put their responses on paper. Discuss the result with the whole class.

* At the end of the session, each student writes a one-page response to the ‘activities’ questions. The response should also include the answers to the following questions.

·   Are these natural phenomena important?

·   If these natural phenomena didn’t exist in the planet earth’s atmosphere, what kind of weather would we have?

·   Is it possible for living things to survive on the earth without these natural phenomena?

Part II: What is global warming?

(Question forming, reading, and writing activities)

Distribute one article about global warming to students. The teacher can do a reading and writing activity.

Global warming article web sites:


(Note: These links do not lead directly to an article on Global warming)

Global warming issue information:




Reading and writing activity:


1.   Teacher provides an article about the global warming issue. The teacher can ask the students to read only the title of the article first, then the teacher can ask the students to write their prediction of what the main idea of the paper will be.

2.   Students share their responses and read the article.0

3.   Students answer the following questions:

a.   What is main point of this article?

b.   What did you learn from this article?

c.   What are the key words in the article?

d.   What questions do you have after you have read the article?

Teacher discusses the article with the students and lists and answers the questions that students have. Teacher has students write a short essay about what they have learned from this article.

After the students discuss and answer the questions, they will have a better understanding what global warming is as well as how it affects the world environment and society. Then the next question will be: What causes global warming? By discussing this question; students can make the connection between the topics of the greenhouse effect, fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, and energy choices for the future.

Students write an essay about the nature of global warming and how it affects human life. In the essay students also need to mention how human activities interact with global warming and what are the possible ways to solve the problem.

Other activities:

Activity 1:

Have students use thermometers to measure the air temperature changes in different places. In the same general area and at the same time, put two thermometers in two different places: in an open space and in a closed glass box. Students record the change of temperate and compare the difference in the rate of change in temperature. Students then explain why the temperature rises at different rates. Students are asked to give some other examples in which the same situation might happen in their everyday lives. For example, describe the experience of the inside of a car on a summer afternoon or visiting a greenhouse and then describe the environment.


In open space

Inside of the glass box

Time (minutes)

























Activity 2:

Have students examine their living environment or community. They record their observations: how human activities affect climatic changes. They list the things and items in the environment and describe how those things and activities affect climatic changes. Students make a map to describe the environment situation. Students also are encouraged to use a regular, digital or video camera to record what they observed. Students complete the following chart.





Things they observed

Natural items

Man-made items

Human activities

Cooling environment

Heating environment
















Teacher has students discuss the following questions:

What did you learn from this observation? How do human activities interact with the environment and climatic change?


Students visit the ICP education web site. Hyperlink: http://icp/. Teacher uses some of activities at the site and does the activities with students.




Part III: How do we reduce CO2 emission?

(Researching, data collecting, and graph making skills)


Fossil fuel combustion releases the greenhouse gas CO2. It is one of the major greenhouse gases which cause global warming. However, fossil fuels are the major energy sources used throughout the world. How do we reduce CO2 emission and still retain the same amount of energy?


· Have students discuss the question and share their responses.

· Distribute some articles outlining clear energy sources.

· Organize the responses and make a list of the solutions.


The followings are general ideas about reducing CO2 emission strategies:

I: Renewable energy: solar, wind, geothermal, bio-mass, hydroelectric

II: Energy Efficiency: transportation (cars and trucks), coal power plants (electrical energy generation, increasing efficiency of electricity use – residential, commercial and government, industrial.

III: New Technology: sequestration of CO2, transportation reform, nuclear power, fuel switching (coal à gas), and hydrogen.


Get the relative information from the following sites:



(Note: These links did not lead directly to an article on Global warming)


Students are encouraged to do their research online. They answer the following questions:

· What are the strategies that are used to solve the global warming problem?

· Have you seen action taken in your community or in the country? Explain.

· What is the purpose of taking these actions?

· Explain the relationship between science, policymaking, and society changes?


Other Activities:

Activity 1:

Have students write a short essay about global warming and the action taken to combat global warming. Separate students into different groups. Each group chooses a topic (such as solar energy, hydroelectric power, fuel cell …etc.) and does one week of research. Students are encouraged to use the Internet, magazines, newspapers, or videotapes as references. Students use their data to make a graph.


Activity 2:

Excel software practice.

How do renewable energy, energy efficiency, and technology reduce CO2 emission?

How much CO2 can be reduced by using different strategies, such as using renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency, and developing new energy sources of hydrogen?

Introduce the ICPs (Institute of Climate on Planet) CO2 model and teach the students to calculate how much CO2 can be reduced by using different strategies.

CO2 reduction model web site:



Have students share their research result and use the data to make a table as follows:

Energy Source


Fossil fuel


Nuclear power


Renewable energy



CO2 Emission without any action


Decrease in CO2 emission by using moderate actions

Decrease in CO2 emission by suing strong actions


Using Renewable

Energy to replace fossil fuels




Increasing energy production efficiency




Improving technology




By using the data, teacher guides students to use the Excel software to make a bar graph, a line graph and a pie graph. By interpreting the graph, students compare how much CO2 will be emitted if we don’t take any actions after twenty years. If we take moderate actions, how much will CO2 emission be reduced? Students calculate the reduction percentage. If we take strong actions, how much CO2 can be reduced? Students indicate which action should be chosen and the reasons for their choices.

The reasons must include:

· Costs

· Pros and Cons

· Environmental issues

· Current technology and future plans





Part IV: Conclusion

(Writing, organizing, and communication skills are included)


After students finish the short-term investigation, students present their conclusion which includes the following:

What did you learn from this research?

Why do we need to learn science?

Do you think society guides science or science changes society? Why do you think as you do?

When you were doing this research, what kinds of skills did you need?

Do you think science is isolated from other subjects? Why or why not?

Why do we change our society in certain ways?

Do you think science is important or not? Why do we need science?

Review the activities that we have done from the beginning. What is the procedure to solve a real problem? What is the procedure required to conduct scientific research?

If you are a policy maker, what are you doing to plan for future energy sources? Why do you think this is the best plan for the future? Explain your decisions.



Put all the work together and follow the procedure:

1.   Define the problem in the form of a question.

2.   Determine the research method and do the research

3.   Collect, organize, and analyze the data

4.   Discuss the finding and draw a conclusion

5.   Put all the work together and present it to others (The final project can be a bulletin broad, a PowerPoint presentation, a research folder, or a scientific paper).



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