Earth Science Learning Community

The Greenhouse Effect and the Human Impact on Climate

Lesson Plan

State Standards:

MA – Biology (H.S.) Standard 6.2 - Analyze changes in population size and biodiversity (speciation and extinction) that result from the following: natural causes, changes in climate, human activity, and the introduction of invasive, non-native species.

Essential Question:

What makes Earth hospitable to life?

Lesson Question:

What is the greenhouse effect?
Do human greenhouse gas emissions effect the climate?


Humans have had a significant impact on their environment.

In the last 150 years, advances in technology have come at a cost to the environment.

You have a choice to make:

What will you decide?

Your answer will depend upon your knowledge of the topic and your desire for solutions.


You are an inhabitant of a low-lying coastal region that will be permanently submerged if the sea-level rise predicted with the increasing global carbon dioxide emissions continues.

You will develop a scientific understanding of atmospheric greenhouse gases and how an increase in these gases now and in the future will affect the climate, oceans, and living things (including the citizens of your region).

As evidence of your knowledge, your task is to construct a poster using Glogster and you will develop a position statement to urge the Model United Nations to draft legislation that will require the protection of regions and people that are in danger of permanent disappearance due to the effects of global warming.

Lesson Experiences:

Lesson 1 (Elicit and Engage): Earth's Atmosphere

  1. You will make a word cloud of what you believe is found in the atmosphere.
  2. You will carry out the following Experiment "Greenhouse in a Beaker" (Project NEED Exploring Climate Change, Activity 4)
  3. .....Now that you have seen the effect of having a greenhouse gas added to a model greenhouse, it is time to understand the MECHANISM to explain your observations!

Lesson 2 (Explore): What Earth Emits

  1. Consider the following:
    • What is Black body radiation?
    • What is the emission spectrum of Earth?
    • Why does Earth emit infrared rays?
    Watch the following Video and Complete the Simulation.
  2. Video Explanation (use if video above is not visible)

    Click to run PhET Simulation.
    If Phet Simulation does not work, use the with PhET Blackbody Spectrum Handout.doc
    Details Download 39 KB

Lesson 3 (Explore): Light Waves Affect Molcules in our Atmosphere

  1. Molecules and Light – How do molecules behave when exposed to different waves of energy? Complete the simulation to learn how light affects the molecules in our atmosphere.

Click to Run

Molecules and Light
Click to Run

Use with PhET Simulation with molecules light handout
Details Download 314 KB

Lesson 4 (Explore): The Greenhouse Effect and The Carbon Cycle

  1. The Greenhouse Effect
    How do molecules in the atmosphere behave and affect the temperature and climate of the atmosphere?
    Complete the simulation to learn how the composition of Earth's atmosphere affects the amount of infrared radiation the atmosphere retains. Then, as a class, you will channel your inner carbon and see where carbon cycles.
    Finally. you will perform an experiment to model and to discover how carbon dioxide changes the ability of air to retain infrared radiation.

    The Carbon Cycle Activity (Project NEED Exploring Climate Change: Activity 5)

    Phet Simulation - Greenhouse Effect

    The Greenhouse Effect
    Click to Run

    Click to Run
    PhET Simulation with Greenhouse Effect.doc
    Details Download 30 KB

Lesson 5 (Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate): Create a Glogster Poster

  1. Explain how the greenhouse effect works on the Earth using the concepts given to you through the simulations, activities, and experiments you performed. Explain the role of human carbon dioxide output on the planet by elaborating upon the consequences to the air, sea, land, and biota. On your poster, answer the following questions, with creativity!!!
    • What is the mechanism that contributes to the phenomenon of radiation of infrared rays on Earth?
    • What role does carbon dioxide play in the greenhouse effect?
    • What effect does increasing the carbon dioxide have on average temperatures on Earth?
    • What effect does decreasing the carbon dioxide have on average temperatures on Earth?
    • What consequences will Earth face if the increasing trend of carbon dioxide continues?


    Exploratorium’s Global Climate Change: Research Explorer
    RealClimate Website
    NOAA Education Resources

    Here's a glogster sample poster...

  2. 4b) Take a multiple choice quiz!
  3. Did you receive a test code? View Coded Test
    Note : Use the given code to attend the test / view your results

  4. Your Glogster will summarize your new understanding of The Greenhouse Effect and Human Impact on Climate.
  5. Final Assessment 1: Glogster

    Poster Rubric-graded – see technology rubric and communication and literacy rubric being implemented at Medford High School below for scoring

Lesson 6: Extend

  1. You will learn about the possible fate of the people, land, and organisms of the Maldives, if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.
    You will reflect upon, report upon, and debate upon whether it is acceptable to allow a country to be submerged as a result of choices made to NOT reduce the production of carbon dioxide gases through the overuse of fossil fuels.
  2. Resource:

    Watch Climate Crisis on PBS. See more from NOW on PBS.
    The Maldives Video

    Final Assessment 2: Model UN Position Statement – Draft a document to be presented at Model U.N. to adopt new standards of environmental protection for countries and regions in danger of extinction due to the effects of global warming.


Congratulations, you have now learned how the greenhouse effect works and how human carbon dioxide emissions contribute to global warming. You have also demonstrated that you understand what the consequences will be for us if we continue on our current course of consumption.


1) Glogster
2) United Nations Position Statement

Technology Rubric Final from Rubric Committee 4-12.

Communications Rubric2