Crisis: Climate Change with Activities

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Today I had the pleasure of volunteering at Corvallis High School in Julie Williams’ Sustainability and Society classroom with Jillian Gregg from OSU. Jillian’s paper on “Urbanization effects on tree growth in the vicinity of New York City” made the cover of Nature magazine in 2003. These days she is researching and teaching climate change at Oregon State University and advocating for change.

Jillian had 3 stations setup for groups of students to learn about different aspect of climate change. These activities can be done with kids from 1st grade to high school as the concepts are simple to understand. 

Station 1 – Watch CO2 warm the air?!! WHAT???

How does CO2 warm the air and why it's a problem

Show how CO2 holds more energy than regular air.
Prep Time15 mins
Demo Time5 mins
Total Time20 mins
Keyword: Climate Change, Science
Yield: 1 demo
Cost: 270


  • Tape
  • Small piece of glass



  • Build O2 & N2: Assemble two atoms (red) with a rigid connection & assemble two blue atoms with a rigid connection
  • Build CO2: Take a black atom and using the flexible
  • Fill a zip lock bag by exhaling in to the bag. Zip up back to lock in some CO2 air, label it as CO2. Fill another bag with air and zip it up label it as Air.


Explain to the students that: As sunlight enters the earths atmosphere the light energy from the sun hits the surface of the earth and converts to heat energy with a low frequency. This energy is the captured by lighter bound molecules of CO2 and methane. These molecules then radiate heat back toward earth thus increasing the temperature of the earth.
Show the students how the oxygen and nitrogen molecules are rigid thus they don't absorb as much energy from the environment. Next show how the carbon dioxide molecule is flexible thus it can absorb the energy from the environment and the radiate it in all directions including back toward earth. Explain how heat causes the molecule to vibrate and that is how the energy is captured. 
Next point the infrared camera at a student and place a the small piece of glass between the camera and the student. Ask the students what they see. The glass is blocking most of the infrared heat from being captured by the camera. Now place the bag labelled air between the student and the camera. Ask them what they see and why they are seeing that. Next place the bag of CO2 between the student and the camera. Ask them what they see and why. They should see that the bag labelled CO2 let less energy through because it was absorbing the heat energy from the student. The bag labeled air absorbed less.
Additional Questions:
  • What are some sources of carbon dioxide and methane?
  • What are ways to limit carbon dioxide?
  • How can we remove carbon dioxide?

Station 2 – Albedo Effect

Albedo Effect

Show how darker object capture more energy than lighter objects.
Prep Time15 mins
Demo15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Keyword: Climate Change, Science
Cost: 20


  • Heat lamp with stand



  • Pour each of the colored sands in to the small dishes.
  • Place 3 of each color sand dishes together and away from the heat lamp.
  • Place 3 of each color sand dishes together under the heat lamp.
  • Measure the temperatures of the dishes not under the heat lamp.
  • Measure the temperatures of the dishes under the heat lamp.
  • Ask the student why they think there is a difference.

Station 3 – Acidify Water with Carbon Dioxide

Acidify water with CO2

See how CO2 is causing our water to become more acidic.
Prep Time2 mins
Demo5 mins
Total Time7 mins
Keyword: Climate Change, Science
Cost: 10



  • Fill containers with water.
  • Have students test the pH of the water and record their finding.
  • Ask students to use the straws to blow bubbles in the water.
  • Have students re-test the pH of the water and record their finding.


Ask students why they think an increase in acid in the water would be bad. Explain that acid breaks down corral reefs, and kills aquatic life. Did you know it takes 500 years for a molecule in the ocean to make its was through the entire ocean system, from surface to deep ocean and the journey around the globe?!



I'm a father and husband, who is working on bringing digital literacy to underrepresented minority groups funded by providing boutique product innovation consulting to enterprise customers. I'm passionate about family, community service, cooking, and mountain biking. Check out my LinkedIn profile to learn more.

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