Climate Change and Infrared Thermometer Experiment

Placing their hands on the carpet to show their body heat

Molly taught an in depth lesson about climate change this past week at McKay. The first step was to get the kids thinking about the topic in a creative way. Molly brought a tool to do just that. One of the hinge components of her lesson is the relationship of heat and light. We can see light but we can’t really see heat. With the help of her thermal camera, she showed the kids that heat isn’t just some abstract thing that makes you want to swim in the summer! With the visual aid, they were better able to grasp the relationship between light entering the atmosphere and heat being trapped by it.

Wowed by how hot the carpet was from just their hands!

The kids have a good knowledge base (as evidenced by Jeopardy! the week before) because we incorporate climate change in a lot of our lessons but Friday was an entire class period dedicated to it. I love Molly’s teaching style because she allows for a lot of group and partner discussion after a main section, allowing the kids to see if their inklings are headed in the right direction. She discussed the nuanced dynamic of carbon dioxide and the atmosphere. The kids had a hard time at first because they had to realize that CO2 isn’t inherently detrimental. In fact, they learned we need it, and that it’s the over saturation of CO2 that causes problems. We want the right balance between being too cold with too little atmospheric blanket and too much blanket and creating a hot, Venus-like planet.

Making a model explaining carbon dioxide’s role in climate change

After the explanation of the greenhouse effect, the kids drew models demonstrating some sort of climate change from something they were familiar with. Most chose car and factory emissions as a leading cause, while others got creative with their favorite characters cutting down trees and reducing the number of natural carbon sinks available to sequester the carbon already in circulation.

Very Dr. Seuss-like
Simple, yet effective

The kids found this topic kind of scary, and it is. But in one of the group discussions an interesting question came up: What can we do as kids to stop the Earth from getting too hot for humans? I let the other children in the group brainstorm ideas and one quickly answered with, “We can start a protest saying plant more trees.” Not all hope is lost.


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