& the Environment:
What Can We Do?
Global Warming/Climate Change Web (10 minutes)
Write the words "global warming/climate change" on a
piece of chart paper with a circle around it.
Ask students: What thoughts, feelings, ideas come up when you
hear those words? What do you know about it? What have you heard?
Where did you hear this? What do you want to know? What feelings
do you have? Write down all responses in a semantic web. Look
at the web together and ask for any observations.
Then give a brief description definition of global warming:
Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet
naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a
good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by
burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests
of their trees we have increased the amount of carbon dioxide
and as a result, we are trapping more heat in the earth's atmosphere.
Scientists say this will have a major effect on the climate all
around the world.
way of saying it:
sun's radiation heats up the earth.
of the radiation that warms the earth is absorbed and some goes
back into space.
of the radiation is trapped within the thin layer of atmosphere,
which is a good thing because it keeps temperatures within boundaries
thin layer is being thickened by global warming pollution-more
infrared radiation is trapped in and heats up the earth worldwide.
(When more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer and more
heat is trapped from the sun.)
vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real.
It's already happening and it is the result of our activities
and not a natural occurrence. The evidence is overwhelming and
undeniable (which we'll discuss later).
Demonstrate global warming by taking a hugg-a-planet (a stuffed
cloth globe) and put a piece of plastic wrap around it. Ask a
student to feel it and describe what it feels like. Then, put
several more layers around it (5-10 layers) and ask a few more
students to tell what that feels like. What's the difference?
that the plastic is the thin layer of atmosphere and as more and
more carbon dioxide and other gases are emitted into the environment,
that layer becomes thicker and thicker and traps the warmth in.
Some people call the carbon dioxide and other gases "greenhouse
gases" - because they build up and create a warming effect,
just like a greenhouse. Another metaphor to use is how we layer
our clothing in the winter to keep the warmth in and stay warmer
for longer periods of time.
if anyone has anything to add or has any questions.
the definition of global warming on another piece of chart paper.
Global Warming/Climate Change: Fact Finding (15 minutes)
students: What are some things you love about nature? (Example:
trees, water, animals, ice, sky, glaciers, etc) All of those things
are affected by global warming--in addition to human life. Share
some information which leads scientists to believe that global
warming exists. (Either give pairs of students one fact sheet
and have them read the facts aloud and explain in their own words,
or read the facts aloud if time is short.)
sea ice has declined by about 10 percent and has shrunk by an
area roughly the size of New York, Georgia, and Texas combined.
In 1910 when it was established, Glacier National Park had 150
glaciers; today there are fewer than 30 (and they are much smaller).
In the Himalayas, where 40% of the people in the world get their
drinking water, glaciers are melting.
10 hottest years on record occurred during the last 14 years:
1990, 1991, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004,
2005, we had Hurricane Katrina. Does anyone know what that is?
When Hurricane Katrina first hit ground in Florida, it was not
strong-it was a Category 1 hurricane. But when hurricanes move
over warm water, they get stronger - that is, the velocity of
the wind increases. At the time of Katrina, the waters in the
Gulf of Mexico were unusually warm-perhaps because of global
warming. So Katrina's soon grew to become a Category 5 hurricane.
number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has doubled in the last
average American produce 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions
the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, former vice president
Al Gore points out three ways in which climate change is leading
to what he says is a collision between the earth and civilization:
Population. The world's population was 2 billion in the
1950s. Just 50 years later, it is 6.5 billion. This creates
more pressure on the earth, since all those people need
food, water, and other natural resources, including energy.
For the last two centuries, fossil fuel, coal, oil, and
natural gas have been burned in greater and greater amounts
to generate electric power, to run factories, businesses,
cars, buses, trucks, to heat homes and offices. In the process,
we have been emitting carbon dioxide and other gases in
Science/Technology Revolution. Advances in science and technology
are often positive-such as improvements in medicine and
communications. But sometimes they create negative effects.
For example, in past we used simple tools that did not emit
"greenhouse gases." But now instead of using a
horse for transportation, we use a car or a plane. Instead
of plowing with animals, we plow with heavy-duty tractors.
Our Way of Thinking: It's hard for us as a society to notice
and take action when things gradually happen. We need a sudden
jolt to see danger. If it's gradual, we sit there and wait
for something to happen, and don't respond
In 1997, representatives from countries around the world met
in Kyoto, Japan and came up with The Kyoto Protocol, an international
treaty requiring cuts in the greenhouse gases that cause global
warming. The protocol commits industrialized nations like ours
to reduce these emissions by at least 5 percent below levels
measured in 1990. Of the world's 193 countries, 130 ratified
the Kyoto Protocol, which took effect on February 16, 2005.
The United States is responsible for one-quarter of the world's
total emissions. But the U.S. refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
The president views the concept of global warming as questionable.
Many scientists now believe the limits called for in the Kyoto
Protocol fall far short of what is needed to address the climate
Opinion Continuum (15 minutes)
On one side of the classroom, post a sign that says AGREE. On
the opposite side, post a sign that says DISAGREE. And somewhere
in between, post a sign that says NOT SURE.
that we are going to do an activity called the opinion continuum.
Ask: what is an opinion? Is an opinion the truth? The facts? Can
you have a different opinion than your friend or Mom and still
students they are going to listen to a statement and then decide
whether they agree, disagree, or aren't sure (or in between) with
a series of statements. Point out the signs around the room stating
NOT SURE. After hearing the statements,
the students should stand near the sign that matches their opinion
on the statement.
the statements below. After each statement, give students a chance
to position themselves. Then give students a minute to talk with
each other about why they are standing where they are. Then ask
each group of students to explain to the other groups why they
are standing where they are. Afterwards, give students a chance
to change their position if their view has changed.
is a better color than blue.
should wear uniforms to school.
tests are a good way to determine intelligence.
warming is a very important issue.
Kyoto Protocol should be ratified by the United States.
individual people, we can make a difference in global warming.
government should force corporations to reduce their greenhouse
warming is way too big a problem for us to solve it ourselves.
What Can We Do? (10 minutes)
the students to think about what can be done about the problem
of global warming. They've already discussed a lot today. They
are probably already doing things that help.
a sheet of chart paper, draw a quadrant in this configuration:
the class; We are going to come up with action steps we can take
in these four categories. Ask students to call out their ideas.
(including political action to get our government to do things)
students' ideas down in the appropriate quadrants. If students
don't suggest the following, you may want to add them:
electricity: turn off lights, television, computer, DVD player,
stereo, use energy efficient appliances. Unplug your cell phone
as soon as it has finished charging.
your thermostat. Moving your thermostat down just 2 degrees
in winter and up 2 degrees in summer will save about 2000 pounds
of carbon dioxide a year.
public transportation, walk, bike.
cars with higher mileage and cars that are better for the environment
by not using as much gas and don't pollute the air as much.
solar, wind power
trees. This reduces greenhouse gases because trees absorb carbon
more about the environment. Talk to family and friends.
a letter to your senator, congressperson, president, or local
officials to make urge them to pass laws aimed at curbing greenhouse
gas emissions by companies, the government, and individuals.
for leadership (locally and nationally) who have made a commitment
to solve these problems.
cans, bottles, plastic bags, and newspapers. Recycling old materials
uses less energy (and emits less greenhouse gases) than manufacturing
concept to think about is
students: ARE WE CAPABLE OF DOING GREAT THINGS EVEN IF THEY ARE
Group Project: Make a Subway Ad about Global Warming
Students will work in groups of 4. Have them count off and find
a spot in the room to work. Give each group a sheet of chart paper
and markers and show them all of the other art materials.
them they are going to talk for about 5 minutes and then work
together to create an advertisement in the subway, buses or other
public place warning people about global warming. They are going
to create a PSA (Public Service Announcement) that gives people
information about global warming and that warns them about the
dangers of it. Remind them that it should: (1) should be visually
appealing to get people's attention, (2) give information, and
(3) give people something concrete they can do.
students complete their drawings, ask then to hang them up. Give
students time to share their work with the larger group. (If there's
not enough time, have students take a few minutes to do a "gallery
walk" around the room to see each other's advertisements.)
around the room, asking everyone to say one thing they learned,
or one thing they are going to do.
lesson was written for TeachableMoment.Org, a project of Morningside
Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. We welcome
your comments. Please email website editor Laura McClure at: firstname.lastname@example.org.