Teaching Lesson 1

In this lesson students will engage in discussion on climate change and greenhouse gases, stimulated by a video and an online activity. The short video will serve to provide discussion points and introduce key concepts related to climate change. In the online activity, students will use an online carbon footprint calculator to investigate ways of reducing their carbon footprint. Finally, students will be introduced to the Greenhouse Gas base computer model and how to run it.

Review the activities from Lesson 1 as well as the material below. Reflect on how you would teach this in your class. Post your reflection to your portfolio in "Pedagogy->Module 2" under the heading Lesson 1.

Lesson Objectives

The student will:
  • Differentiate between climate and weather [LO1]
  • Identify climate as a complex system [LO2]
  • Learn the importance of greenhouse gases for our survival [LO3]
  • Be able to identify the role of human activity in the form of carbon dioxide emissions in climate change [LO4]
  • Identify what behaviors can reduce their carbon footprints [LO5]
  • Learn that models are important for climate change predictions [LO6]
  • Identify what aspects of climate are included in the Greenhouse Gas base model [LO7]

Teaching Summary

    Getting Started: Climate Change overview – 15 minutes
  1. Watch and discuss the EPA video
  2. Climate vs. weather
  3. Climate as a complex system
  4. Evidence for climate change
    Activity #1: Carbon Footprint Calculator – 15 minutes

        5.     Online calculation of carbon footprint
        6.     What activities help reduce the carbon footprint?
    Activity #2: Previewing the Greenhouse Gas model – 15 minutes

        7.     Introduce StarLogo Nova Greenhouse Gas base model
        8.     Run the model and discuss the temperature fluctuations

     Wrap Up – 5 minutes

        9.   How can modeling help us understand climate change?

Assessment questions (suggested):
  • Explain how the Earth would be different without the greenhouse effect [LO3].
  • Compare and contrast climate and weather [LO1].
  • List two characteristics of global climate that show it is a complex system [LO2].
  • List three factors that are contributing to global warming, using what you learned from the short video and the carbon footprint activity [LO4].
  • Explain three things that will help you reduce your carbon footprint [LO5].
  • Why are modeling and simulation useful in climate science? [LO6]
  • Describe how solar radiation behaves in the Greenhouse Gas base model [LO7].

NGSS Performance Expectations
Earth and Human Activity
MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

NRC Disciplinary Core Ideas
ESS2.D. Weather and Climate
Complex interactions determine local weather patterns and influence climate, including the role of the ocean. [Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms and living things.  These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.  Because these patterns are so complex, weather can only be predicted probabilistically.]

ESS3.C. Human Impacts on Earth Systems
Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.
Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.

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.

NRC Scientific and Engineering Practices
Practice 1. Asking questions and defining problems
1A: Ask questions to identify and clarify evidence of an argument.
1B: Ask question to identify and/or clarify evidence and/or the premise(s) of an argument

Practice 4. Analyzing and interpreting data
4A: Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.
4B: Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.
4D: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.
4G: Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.

Practice 6: Constructing explanations and designing solutions
6A: Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

Practice 7. Engaging in argument from evidence
7C: Construct an oral and written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon or a solution to a problem.

NRC Crosscutting Concepts
1B: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems.
1C: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.
1D: Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

Cause and Effect
2B: Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.
2C: Phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
3A: Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

Systems and Systems Models
4A: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

Energy and Matter
5B: Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter
5D: The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

Stability and Change
7B: Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part
7C: Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.
7D: Systems in dynamic equilibrium are stable due to a balance of feedback mechanisms

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards


Modeling & simulation


Interact with content-specific models and simulations to support learning and research.


Modeling & simulation


Analyze the degree to which a computer model accurately represents the real world.


Modeling & simulation


Use modeling and simulation to represent and understand phenomena.