Grades 5-6, Unit 1

Climate Change in My Backyard Unit Descriptions

Unit 1: The Earth as a System

In Unit 1, students assess their current knowledge of and beliefs about climate change. They then explore the various earth systems that create climate including Earth’s energy balance and the greenhouse effect. They learn what the natural and human cause are of greenhouse gas emissions and explore how the Sun’s energy, greenhouse gasses and Earth’s surface interact to moderate global average temperature. They use a NASA data analysis tool to model different energy and greenhouse gas scenarios.

Activity 1.1: Accessing Prior Knowledge: Global Climate Change Survey
Students identify the natural and human factors that they feel are causing global climate change. They provide possible solutions for mitigating climate change including a plan to reduce the impact their personal activities have on the environment. At the end of the curriculum, students take the survey again and compare their results with the results from their first survey.

Activity 1.2: Understanding the Greenhouse Effect

  1. Greenhouse Effect Lab: Students complete a lab activity that models the greenhouse effect and then discuss the natural vs. human induced-changes in greenhouse gas concentrations.
  2. The Earth's Energy Balance: Students create a diagram of Earth’s energy balance, answer opinion questions and perform a skit to understand earth's energy balance. Students learn that all energy on earth originates from the sun and what happens to the energy once it reaches Earth’s atmosphere. Students are introduced to the concept of greenhouse gasses.

Activity 1.3: Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Natural & Human Causes
Students dig deeper into the greenhouse effect and explore natural and human caused greenhouse gas emissions. Students brainstorm and then research factors that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. They use the energy balance diagram they completed in Activity 1.2 as the basis for a new diagram that incorporates natural and human causes of greenhouse gas emissions. Students also brainstorm how they can reduce their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

Activity 1.4: Albedo and Reflectivity
Students will explore how color impacts reflectivity and heat absorption. Using black and white construction paper, students will measure heat absorption and make connections between the reflectivity (albedo) of different materials, the amount of heat absorbed by these materials, and the temperature of Earth.

Activity 1.5: Micro-GEEBITT (Global Equilibrium Energy Balance Interactive Tinker Toy)
Students use the NASA Micro-GEEBITT climate modeling tool to explore how changing variables in earth systems impact global average temperature. Students model the effects of changes in surface reflectivity and greenhouse gasses in different climate and emissions scenarios.