Jane Zeng                                                                                  Return to Earth Science Lesson Plan Menu

Seward Park H.S., Manhattan

Summer 2001


Climate Change, Global Warming, and Energy Choices for the 21st Century

Climate change and energy choices for the future are one of the major issues in the world.  In the United State nearly 85% of total energy comes from fossil fuels.  Fossil fuels include petroleum, coal, and natural gas and one of their final products of combustion is carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is one of greenhouse gases; it traps the heat from emitted earth surface and cause climate change or global warming.

Meteorology is one of major parts of an earth science curriculum.  In order to motivate students’ learning interest, address state science standards, and build the connection between current climate change science, math, technology content and other subjects, the following short-term investigation plan has been designed.


Lesson plans


Day 1:  What are the importances of climate change?


S3c:  Demonstrates an understanding of natural resource management

S4e:  Demonstrates an understanding of science’s impact

S5a:  Frames questions to distinguish cause and effect and identifies or controls variables


Activities:  Find some articles from newspaper and scientific magazines and share them with students.


Articles from the New York Times

  1. Anderson Offers Mixed Review of Bush’s Energy Plan              2001

Summery:  because of the light, motors, air conditioning, personal computers and the Internet, the use of electrical power by high-tech devices continues to grow.  Effective energy supply system and greater focus on conservation are necessary.

  1.  Let’s Clear the Air

By Bob Herbert


  1. How My Electric Car Saves the World

By Trevor Corson




Global warming is a problem we are now facing.  What causes the global warming?  Why do we have to worry about it?  How can we solve the problem?  We can have students read the articles about global warming and the energy plan in the U.S. and discuss those topics and issues.  Then we have students share their ideas, form questions and introduce the basic scientific concepts of meteorology.

1.      Have students read the articles, discuss their opinions, and form questions.

2.      Form groups of four and each group should list five basic questions and five critical thinking questions

3.      Discuss the basic scientific concept:  greenhouse gases and greenhouse effect.


Day 2:  How does climate form?


S3a:  Demonstrates an understanding of energy transfer in the atmosphere

S8a:  Demonstrates scientific competence by completing a controlled experiment

 After students begin to realize the impact of global warming in society and the importance of climate change, we can start to have students discuss the basic concepts of climate formation and the structure of the atmosphere.


1.      Review:  the composition of the atmosphere and the structure of atmosphere.

2.      Introduce the basic scientific concept:  What is climate?  What is weather?  How does climate form?



Insulation and the earth’s surface – Angles of insulation

Use three thermometers and set at equal distances from a light source.  Set the three thermometers at angles of 30 degree, 60 degree, and 90 degree.  Read the temperature level of each thermometer initially and after 15 minutes.  Record the observations in a data table and explain the relationship between angle of insulation and rate of heating.

Have students make a line graph that presents the relationship the temperate changes as the angle of insulation increases.


Day 3:  What factors affect the temperature of the atmosphere?



S3a:  Demonstrates an understanding of energy transfer in the atmosphere

S5c:  Uses evidence from reliable sources to develop explanation and models-makes appropriate adjustments.

S5e:  Identifies problems, proposes solution, and evaluates the accuracy and outcomes of investigations


1.      Have students discuss how the atmosphere is heated

2.      Basic scientific concepts:  air temperature and air pressure, energy balance in the atmosphere, greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases, solar intensity and energy balance in the atmosphere.



Have students to visit NASA climate site:  http://icp.giss.nasa.gov/education

View the section Mimi-GEEBIT Ver.A3 and B3.

According to the computer model on the site we listed above, students can collect the data of earth surface temperature changes when the concentration of greenhouse gases change.  This activity can help students better understand the affect on greenhouse gases to the climate change in the atmosphere and other basic science concepts.

By visiting the site, students should be able to use the model to describe and explain greenhouse effect and cause of global warming.


Day 4:  How do human activities affect climate changes?


S4e:  Demonstrates an understanding of science’s impact

S5f:  Works individually and in teams to collect &share data and ideas

S6d:  Acquires information from multiple sources


After students possess the basic knowledge about the climate literacy, we can go back to the questions that students made from the articles we offered at the beginning and have students begin to research those problems.


1.      Discuss America Energy System.

2.      What are fossil fuels?

3.      What is the relationship between fossil fuel and greenhouse gases?


Activities: work with students and design a lab about acid rain.


Day 6:  What is the relationship between climate changing and energy sources?


Have students work in groups of four.  Based on the students’ previous knowledge in meteorology, they are able to state the relationship between global warming, climate changing, and the use of energy sources.  Then the students can begin to set their own hypothesis about how to solve global warming problem – What strategies are you going to use to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere?

Students should search the choice of energy sources in the 21st century.  They can work on the following topics:

Topic one:  Energy conservation in residential and commercial buildings.

Topic two:  Energy efficiency in transportation.

Topic three:  Alternative vehicles and alternative fuels

Topic four:  Batteries and their usage

Topic five:  Energy efficiency in natural gas.

Topic six:  Renewable energy sources – solar energy, wind, and hydro. electric power, geothermal, nuclear.



S5e:  Identifies problems, proposes solution, and evaluates the accuracy and outcomes of investigations

S5f:  Works individually and in teams to collect and share data and ideas

S8d:  Demonstrates scientific competence by completing secondary research


Activities:  library search, Internet search, and use resources in the community



Day 7:  Use different ways to communicate


Students have the opportunity to observe the changes in the surroundings, gather data, record information, make conclusions, and present their results and thoughts in effective ways.



S6b:  Records and stores data using a variety of formats

S6c: Collects and analyzes data according to Math Standard 4

S6d:  Acquires information from multiple sources

S6e:  Recognizes and limit sources of bias in data

S7e:  Communicates in a form suited to the purpose and the audience


After students determine the strategies of reducing CO2 emission and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, teachers can guide them to form the data together, calculate how much greenhouse gases can be reduced per year, and use Excel to make tables and graphs.  Students should write a paper about their research and their result.



  1. State their research topics and hypothesis
  2. Determine their research plan and procedures
  3. List the data and present necessary graphs
  4. Draw the conclusion



  1. PowerPoint presentation, research report, bulletin board and oral presentation.
  2. Make rubric for both teachers and students and evaluate each group’s work.
  3. Have student to debate which strategy is more effective than the others.  Present reasons and supports.