Greenhouse Gas Tag. background: Objectives: vocabulary: TEACHING CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH NATIONAL PARKS

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1 Grade Level: 4th grade and up Activity Time: min. Subject Area: Science-Climate Change Objectives: Students will: Understand the greenhouse effect. Understand the role greenhouse gases play within the atmosphere. Understand humans have increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Know they can positively affect the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. background: Greenhouse gases like water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) along with non-greenhouse gases like nitrogen (N3), oxygen (O2) form the majority of the Earth s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases both protect a planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun and trap the heat that radiates from the planet. The sun emits not only visible light that we sense with our eyes, but also non-visible radiation, including the skin-damaging ultraviolet radiation and infrared radiation which we feel as heat. This infrared radiation both warms the Earth and radiates back into space. Greenhouse gases trap some of the long-wave infrared radiation that is radiating back into space warming our planet just like a greenhouse allows light to enter, but traps heat with insulating windows. vocabulary: Atmosphere, Greenhouse gases, Climate Change, Water Vapor, Molecule, Carbon Dioxide materials (per group): Whiteboard Marker Rope Students backpacks Set of CO2 cards (cards that add CO2 and cards that will remove CO2) Greenhouse gases make our planet a habitable place where liquid water exists and temperatures are stable. The moon has virtually no atmosphere and does not have any insulating greenhouse gases making it uninhabitable to life. Venus has an atmosphere with 1

2 a high concentration of greenhouse gases (96% carbon dioxide), yet is uninhabitable because of, among other things, extreme surface temperatures. Due to the greenhouse effect on Venus, surface temperatures are much hotter than Mercury, which is much, much closer to the sun. Greenhouse gases, due to their chemical structure, are activated by infrared radiation and bounce this radiation back toward the Earth, warming the planet. Even though we call it the greenhouse effect, this process is different than what occurs in an actual greenhouse, where the glass actually prevents rising hot air from escaping. Gases like oxygen (O2) and nitrogen (N3) are not activated by infrared radiation and allow it to pass freely. As we increase the concentration of greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane, we are warming the planet by trapping more of this radiation in the atmosphere. Overtime, these greenhouse gases are kept in check by biological, geological and chemical processes. Yet, the current additions of greenhouse gases have overwhelmed these natural cycles. introduction: 1. Ask students what they already know about greenhouse gases what are they, what do they do, where do they come from etc. Ask students to describe a greenhouse used in nurseries what does it do, how does it feel inside versus outside. Why might understanding a greenhouse for plants help us to understand the greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases? 2. Draw a picture of the earth with the atmosphere surrounding it. Explain how our atmosphere, in particular the greenhouse gases, acts like a blanket around the earth creating the greenhouse effect. Without greenhouse gases no warmth would be kept in and our earth would quickly freeze. (see example diagram on last page) 3. Add the sun to your drawing and explain how energy in the form of light and heat travel from the sun and enter our atmosphere. For the most part heat energy enters the atmosphere, bounces off the surface of the earth and exits our atmosphere. It is only when the greenhouse gases come in contact with the heat that they are able to hold onto it and keep it in the atmosphere. With this heat trapped in the blanket, or atmosphere, we are able to have a planet that is warm enough to support life. 4. Ask students what may affect the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere? What do they think happens when the number of greenhouse gases decreases? What happens when they increase? 2

3 2. Atmosphere Brainstorm with students what makes up most of our air or atmosphere. Answers could include: nitrogen (approximately 78%) and oxygen (approximately 21%) and greenhouse gases. Lay down webbing or draw a circle in the sand or dirt to represent the atmosphere. There should be about five seven feet of space between the Earth and atmosphere. 3. Ask students what is a greenhouse gas. The greenhouse gases are the remaining trace gases and include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor and ozone. Each of these gases are involved in the Earth s natural greenhouse effect. Procedure: Set-up: 1. Earth set up backpacks in a tight circle that will simulate the Earth. 2. Sun take about 30 steps away and set up webbing or draw a circle in the sand/ dirt to represent the sun. Directions for Round 1: 1. Students will all be sun s rays. When the instructor says, the sun is out or suns rays shine or another phrase, the students will run or power walk directly out from the sun and to the earth. 2. Student s will enter the atmosphere of the earth and tag the earth, then bounce off and reenter the atmosphere and then back into space. 3. Without any greenhouse gases all heat is lost. Debrief Round 1: 1. Ask students to describe what happened. Was any heat kept close to the earth? What would the climate of the earth be at this point? Round 2: 1. Introduce one or two greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases will capture heat that enters the atmosphere. When the instructor says the magic phrase the sun s rays with enter the atmosphere, tag the earth and run out. During this time the greenhouse gases will try and tag one ray when it is in the atmosphere. Debrief Round 2: 1. Graph how many greenhouse gases were in the atmosphere and how much heat was captured. 2. Invite the students to stand within the planet earth and have a student draw a carbon dioxide card. Due to the reason read on the card more CO2 will be added to the atmosphere. Additional Rounds: Continue to play rounds with the sun s rays entering the atmosphere and bouncing off the earth. As more CO2 is added each round there will be more heat trapped in the atmosphere. After a few rounds ask the students what they hypothesize would happen with increased greenhouse gases and heat. Ask students what can be done to decrease the amount of CO2 produced. Is there anything they can do? 3

4 Continue to play, but this time draw from the cards that remove CO2 to demonstrate how students can make a difference. Discussion and Debrief: Ask students what was unrealistic about the game. Answers might include: CO2 doesn t chase heat, the sun s rays don t try and escape, the sun is much farther away etc. There is obviously a lot that is unrealistic. Now ask students what was realistic. CO2 does trap in heat, more CO2 equals more heat (point out the graph if you have been graphing the change in CO2 and heat). Small things we do at home can affect the CO2 in the atmosphere and can affect the increasing temperature. Ask students what this increase in greenhouse gases and increase in temperate is called Global Warming or Global Climate Change. From the cards or from what students already know, how might they positively affect the atmosphere at home or at school? resources: Images climatechange/images/01.gif inconvenient_truth/greenhouse_effect.jpg features/912_liftoff_atm.html schmidt_05/ The National Park Foundation is the national charitable partner of the National Park Service. Extension activity: Ask students to write down ways they can positively affect the atmosphere at home or at school. Ask students to choose one of their ideas and make an atmosphere promise. Create a bulletin board with these promises. Play carbon cycle relay or carbon cycle journey so students can see the impact that an increase in carbon has on different parts of Earth. 4

5 Electricity is wasted when lights are left on and appliances are left plugged in. Over 80% of the electricity used in the world is produced by burning fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Energy is wasted by appliances and lights that are left on. Things like TV s, stereos, and cell phone chargers use electricity when they re plugged in, even if they re not turned on. Add 1 CO2 Forests are cut down for wood and to make room for farms. Carbon is in every living thing on earth, including every plant and animal (even you!). Vegetation and soil on the earth contain almost as much carbon as the atmosphere. When forests are cut down and burned, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released. About 20% of greenhouse gas emissions that come from human actions are a result of deforestation. Add 1 CO2 Cars are being used more around the world. Each year in the United States, people drive about 3 trillion miles and the average car emits more than 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide in that time. There are nearly 1 billion cars in the world, and more are being produced all the time. Ground transportation makes up about 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Add 1 CO2 The Earth s population is growing and using more resources. There are nearly 7 billion people on the planet and they all need resources in order to survive. Because of the increasing amount of resources used for food, transportation, and electricity, carbon emissions are increasing. Add 2 CO2 5

6 It takes lots of greenhouse gas emissions to make the stuff we use. In the United States, a study showed that 44% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the production, packaging, and transportation of stuff that we buy. This contributes to the United States having one of the highest carbon dioxide emissions rates in the world. Add 2 CO2 You start buying less stuff, and when you do buy stuff, you buy things that have been used. Everything you buy needs to be manufactured, packaged, and then transported to you; these processes take a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. You use the same water bottle instead of using plastic water bottles. Americans throw out about 40 million plastic water bottles a day (only about 12% get recycled). These water bottles are made from fossil fuels and transported long distances to get to you using MORE fossil fuels. Using a refillable water bottle is one step better than recycling and saves energy, resources and money. You work hard to not waste paper, and recycle it when you re done. The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor of greenhouse emissions in the United States and paper makes up about 25% of landfill waste. Recycled paper uses 44% less energy, produces 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, and 100% less wood! 6

7 You plant trees in your community Trees take carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases out of the air. Trees planted in urban communities make the air much cleaner and safer for people to breathe. You reduce your food waste at home and at school By only taking what you can eat, you can prevent a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. Not only does food take a lot of resources to grow and transport, but in the landfill, this food decomposes without oxygen, creating methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. You unplug your appliances (like your TV) when you re not using them. By unplugging your electrical appliances when not in use, you keep them from using electricity called phantom loads that can account for about 10% of a household s energy bills (that s $3 billion of energy that could be saved each year in the US!). You can unplug your kitchen appliances, like your microwaves and toasters, and TVs and VCRs too--simply plug them in only when you use them. You walk or ride your bike to nearby places instead of riding in a car. Replacing a drive by biking or walking to places just a few times a week can prevent hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere. 7

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