What Is the "Greenhouse Effect"?

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Enough talk about the Greenhouse Effect—let's actually look at it! Junior climatologists engage in a simple thermodynamics experiment on a cold winter's day to examine global warming. The activity simulates rising carbon dioxide levels using layers of clothing to show participants how heat is trapped in the atmosphere.

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CCSS: Adaptable
NGSS: Adaptable
Instructional Ideas

  • Incorporate the activity into a further study of energy transfer or climate change
  • Pair pupils and ask them to create other scenarios that illustrate global warming that could be investigated with the infrared thermometer
Classroom Considerations

  • The lab requires an infrared thermometer, so plan to borrow or purchase one well in advance of the lesson
  • Try to take temperature readings in the same location on the test subject's body each time for better accuracy
Pros

  • The demonstration is simple to execute but very effective in illustrating thermodynamics
  • Lab contains additional demonstrations to help students understand how heat is both transferred and trapped between objects, depending upon their compositions
Cons

  • None
Common Core