Greenhouse Effect Models

Models can be an effective way of teaching climate change in an age when its very existence is in denial. Guide your students through the creation of a model that will demonstrate the effect of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

This activity from Teach Engineering involves five major student-led investigations and two teacher demonstrations. These activities are all hands-on and incorporate inquiry into their design. These experiments can provide your students with a great way to explore the concepts of climate change and greenhouse gases in a way that enhances their learning.

“Students observe demonstrations, and build and evaluate simple models to understand the greenhouse effect and the role of increased greenhouse gas concentration in global warming.” – From Teach Engineering: STEM Curriculum for K-12

Grades: 6-8

Introduction to the Activity

Teach Engineering: Greenhouse Effect Models

Teach Engineering provides a great source of hands-on experiments and activities that can be a great source of experimental learning for students. In this activity, students are led through a series of classroom demonstrations and student-led investigations to discover the phenomena of the greenhouse effect and rising global temperatures.

Students complete investigations to discover the causes of rising global temperatures and create, test, and evaluate models of the greenhouse effect and global warming. This activity has a strong connection to engineering and problem solving and provides a great source of critical thinking.

Conceptual Background

Greenhouse gases refer to gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation. Increasing emissions of greenhouse gases are contributing to higher average global temperatures. The main greenhouse gases contributing to this effect include ozone, water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons.

Image result for greenhouse gases model

These gases create a “greenhouse effect” when they absorb solar radiation from the sun. While some radiation is reflected by the atmosphere, most of it is absorbed by the Earth’s surface. However, some of this radiation is absorbed by these greenhouse gases and leads to warmer surface temperatures. It becomes a problem when industrial activities emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

NGSS Connections

Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.


Disciplinary Core Ideas

ESS3.D: Global Climate Change

  • Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

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