Climate Change Activities

Activities are organized by topic.  Activity downloads contain a teacher overview, student guide, and answer key (if applicable). Some activities include additional materials such as Google Earth files, differentiated student guides, and more. All activities are aligned to NOAA's Climate Literacy Standards.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration

"Capturing Carbon: Where Do We Put It and Why?" - In this activity, students conduct a lab experiment to investigate the properties of carbon dioxide gas then complete an interactive, online activity that introduces different methods of carbon capture. Assessment takes the form of a persusasive essay about the student's preferred form of carbon capture.
Subject: chemistry
Grade Level: 10-12
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"Carbon Capture and Sequestration" - In these activities, students will learn about Carbon Capture and Sequestration. Students will learn about available technologies and some of the challenges of these technologies face.
Subject: earth/ environmental science
Grade Level: 9-12
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Paleoclimatatology and the importance of proxy data

"Climate Data Detectives" - These activities provide students with opportunities to analyze different climate archive data sets (ice core carbon dioxide concentration and temperature change data, pollen samples from past sediment deposits, and tree rings) in order to confirm or deny whether climate change has occurred over time.   The data sets will be presented to the students in the form of differentiated, small group lab activities.
Subject: earth systems/ environmental science
Grade Level: 11-12
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"Research with Leaf Stoma Proxy Data" - The purpose of this activity is to analyze the role of proxy data in predicting climate change.  This will be accomplished through the study of leaf stoma as proxy data.
Subject: biolgogy, environmental science
Grade Level: 9-12
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"Using Chironomids to Track Climate Change in the Arctic" - In this lesson students will consider climate change data from several perspectives and sources in a variety of formats. Students will gain an understanding of Milankovitch cycles, some of the challenges geoscientists face in collecting samples of lake sediments from Arctic lakes, identification of chironomids from Arctic lake sediments, the use of Arctic lake sediments in determining the temperature history of the Arctic, and an overall temperature history of the Arctic.
Subject: earth systems, environmental, or climate science, or physical geology/geoscience
Grade Level: 11-14
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Climate Change Policy and Alternative Energy

"Climate Change Causes and Alternative Energy Solutions" - The main goal of this project is to get students to better understand the current energy crisis and options available to help mitigate the problem. Students will gain knowledge on why curbing and controlling the damage is so difficult financially and socially. Also, by studying the cause and effects of climate change, the hope is that students will realize changes they can make in their own lives, no matter how small, to help decrease their carbon footprint.
Subject: general science
Grade Level: 9-12
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"Carbon and Climate: Lessons from the Past, Solutions for the Future" - As a method to drive scientific decisions, students find modeling mysterious. The goal of this activity is to help students construct a basic model in order to calculate a crude estimation of a carbon tax that would make alternative energy sources more cost competitive with coal energy sources.
Subject: physics, chemistry, or environmental science
Grade Level: 9-12
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"Sustainable Cities" - Allowing students time to explore and debate the issues surrounding climate change at this stage in their education is important for their future.  It is a pertinent extension topic and activity as students are learning about renewable and non-renewable energy resources in their middle grades earth science curriculum. Students will research “sustainable cities” and compare and contrast what cities are currently doing to increase their sustainability. Students will learn how cities need to adapt to changing climates.
Subject: earth science
Grade Level: 6
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Biological Processes and a Changing Climate

"Exploring the Relationship between CO2 and Temperature using Brassica Plants" - In this exercise students are given the opportunity to directly measure the effect of temperature on CO2 and the effect that CO2 has on temperature. Over a period of 21 days students will measure both temperature and CO2 levels on a daily basis. During days 8-14 of the experiment students will insert a large amount of CO2 into the system and then directly measure the effect this added CO2 has on the temperature. Once completed students will then be able to analyze the data and use this data to support their conclusion in a formal report.
Subject: earth/environmental science
Grade Level: 9-12
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"How does global warming affect the success of organisms?" - The purpose of this activity is for students to see how variations in temperature and pH caused by global climate change can affect the success of enzymes within organisms. This lab is a way for students to gain an understanding of how environmental conditions impede or facilitate the activity on enzymes, while also being involved in the process of developing and testing hypotheses.  It also is intended to emphasize the importance of enzymes in different aspects of organisms’ growth and survival.  Finally, the lab will do this in the context of the effects that climate change has on environmental conditions and how they can affect life. 
Subject: AP biology
Grade Level: 10-12
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"When will the Arctic Ice Cap Disappear?" - Due to the increase in atmospheric temperature that has occurred over the last half century there is less and less sea ice at the end of each Arctic summer. Students will use a linear regression to predict what year the Arctic sea ice might disappear. The data that will be used in this activity were collected by scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado which has been tracking polar sea ice extent since 1978. When using the regression model for prediction, it is important to consider the reliability of the data collected and any assumptions that were made by the scientists who created the model. Such assumptions may include considerations like whether or not the rate of sea ice melt, solar output, or atmospheric warming are constant.
Subjects: Environmental Studies, Statistics, Math
Grade Level: 11-12
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"The Solubility of Calcium Carbonate" - The purpose of the following activity is to calculate the solubility of a substance under a variety of temperatures and to construct a solubility curve based on experimental data. A major factor affecting the solubility of a substance, that is, how much solute can be dissolved in a solvent, is temperature. A solubility curve demonstrates how the solubility of a substance varies with temperature. By determining the mass of solute that can be dissolved in a volume of solvent under a variety of temperatures, a solubility curve can be developed. In this lab exercise a solubility curve will be created for calcium carbonate, CaCO3.
Subjects: Environmental Studies, Chemistry
Grade Level: 10-12
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For more information about climate education initiatives at OSEP, please contact m-waldron [at] northwestern [dot] edu (Maggie Waldron).