In this lesson, students will be introduced to the basics of climate change.
Important points to communicate include:
• The greenhouse effect is a natural process that makes the earth habitable.
• The earth’s atmosphere that surrounds our planet is made up of gases called
greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous
oxide and water vapor.
• Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the planet. They allow heat from
the sun to enter the atmosphere. Some of this heat is absorbed and some of it is
reflected back. Some of the heat is reflected into space, and greenhouse gases
hold some of it in. A simple example of the greenhouse effect is when heat enters
a car through its windshield and gets trapped inside, causing the car to heat up.
• The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) has increased from 280 parts per million
before 1870 and the industrial revolution, to over 390 parts per million today. This
information was determined by researchers by taking ice cores from Antarctica.
The researchers measured the amounts of carbon dioxide trapped in air bubbles at
different heights on the core which corresponded to periods of time. Since 1958,
carbon dioxide measurements have been taken from on top of Mauna Loa, a Hawaiian
• The burning of fossil fuels, as well as land use changes from deforestation and land
clearing, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Fossil fuels are burned
in the process of electricity production, industrial processes and the driving of
vehicles. Fossil fuels include natural gas, oil and coal.
• Throughout the history of the planet Earth, there have been increases and
decreases in global average temperature. Although there have been periods of
natural warming in the past, scientists are especially concerned about what is
happening today because there is a change in temperature that has been rapid
within the last 100 years, rather than over hundreds or thousands of years.
• This increase in temperature has an affect on Minnesota’s climate as a whole, and
has enormous implications for Minnesota. The results have been and continue to
be experienced across Minnesota’s biomes in all living communities of organisms,
• There are climate change solutions and students can be part of the solution.
Later in this unit students will have the opportunity to learn about and develop
their own solutions.
• Students will explain the causes of climate change.
• Students will explain the implications of climate change.
• Students will predict how climate change might impact or is impacting the area where they live.
• Students will describe five key climate change implications for Minnesotans.
ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION AND TEACHING MATERIALS
Download pdf >> Lessons 1 - 6
TEACHING NOTES / CONTEXT FOR USE
1. Ask students to look back in their journals at the definition they wrote of climate.
Thinking about their definition of climate, ask students to write or draw what
comes to mind when they hear “climate change.”
2. Discuss as a class what they wrote or drew.
Assessment is at the discretion of the educator as to how the resource is used and what they intend to gain from using it.
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES