The following activities may be reproduced around the world to bring the problems posed by climate change to the foreground in educational and social forums, and introduce the issues to children at an early age. They may serve as a resource to teachers and students who wish to illustrate some of the problems of climate change and may be easily integrated into lesson plans or interactive workshops:
Activity #1: Sustainable Living and Engagement
This activity aims to illustrate the importance of multilateral commitments to protect the earth. Any single party’s failure to honor this commitment jeopardises the climactic stability of the earth. The resulting changes and climate will affect all the parties equally, including those who have honored their commitment and those who have not.
This activity requires the participation of eight students, but can be adapted to accommodate more or less. It also requires an introductory or concluding discussion by the instructor about the each country’s greenhouse gas emissions, our carbon footprints, and countries that have been identified as polluters.
- Assemble seven students in a tight circle, each supporting another student standing on one foot in the center of the circle. The student in the center will represent homeostasis, while the other students will represent the seven continents.
- Have two students representing continents supporting homeostasis leave the circle. Without this necessary support, the student in the center will become unstable and find it difficult to balance on one foot.
- The students should then commence a discussion about the importance of multilateral international commitment to protect the earth.
All seven continents must work together to protect the earth. Even if only one of the continents does not honor its commitment to protecting the earth, the earth and all of its inhabitants will face severe consequences and instability.
Activity #2 Greenhouse Gases
This activity aims to illustrate the danger and destructive potential of greenhouse gases.
he instructor should preface the activity with an introductory 10 minute explanation of greenhouse gases relating to the daily lives of the students as such:
A greenhouse is a special building that is used for growing tropical plants in (colder/cold) areas where they wouldn't normally grow. Greenhouses can be as big as a football field, or as small as a kitchen table. Some greenhouses have all see-through walls and a ceiling which are usually made of glass or a special plastic called "polyethylene". Plants are grown inside these building with clear walls and ceiling. The clear walls and ceiling allow the sunlight to pass through (which plants need to make their food in a process called "photosynthesis" while keeping out cold air. The gases in the air inside the greenhouse such as CO2 are warmed by the heat from hot interior surfaces are retained in the building by the roof and wall creating the greenhouse effect which is somewhat of a 'hot air concentration mechanism'. Due to such a 'hot air concentration mechanism' a greenhouse could even allow someone to grow tropical flowers in an Alaskan winter!
- empty plastic bottle (one or two-liter size) with a feting cap. Estimated Cost: FREE
- nail (or other equivalent perforating device). Estimated Cost: $0.25
- Two thermometers (outdoor thermometers are preferred). Estimated Cost: $20
Objective of the experiment
To illustrate that a translucent cover (the plastic bottle in this case) traps heat similar to the process by which gases in the atmosphere trap heat like a greenhouse. Hence, these gases are referred to as “greenhouse gasses”.
Experiment Procedure: ( approximately 20 mins)
- Both the thermometers and bottle should be outdoors on the ground in full sunlight.
- Make a hole using the nail near the top of the plastic bottle. Place one of the thermometers in the hole.
- Place the other thermometer outside the bottle, next to it on the ground. Make sure that both thermometers are receiving the same amount of sunlight.
Observation/discussion Q&As: (20 mins)
Q: What happens?
A: We notice a change in the temperature registered by the two thermometers.
Q: Do both thermometers register the same temperature?
A:No, the inside thermometer will register temperatures much higher then the outside thermometer.
Q: If, both thermometers do not register the same temperature, why is that?
A: See the introduction on what is a greenhouse.
Activity #3 Global Warming and the Ozone Layer
Activity #3 Global Warming and the Ozone Layer
This activity seeks to explain climate change through first hand visual demonstrations of global warming, the ozone layer, and ozone degeneration.
sprouts, bowls, heat lamp OR nail polish remover, or candles and coal
- Grow a bean sprout over night. This plant is found world-wide and provides food to all humans.
- Place the plant under a heating light with a heat insulating shield between the plant and the light. The shield represents the ozone layer, while the heat light represents the sun and ultraviolet rays. While the insulating shield separates the plant and the light, the plant will go unaffected. The children will observe that the plant survives with the protective shield layer.
- Emerge the shield in water, and both the shield and plant will remain intact.
- Subsequently, paint nail polish or another substance containing acetone on the shield. Observe that the coating on the insulated shield subsides. Once the coating on the shield disintegrates, the plant is directly exposed to the heat light and will subsequently die or deteriorate quickly. The disintegrating shield represents the damaged ozone layer, and the wilting plant represents the scorched earth.
Procedure Tailored For Areas Where Such Materials Cannot Be Obtained
- Take children to the nearest vegetation site
- Find some transparent material such as cling film or a piece of glass, and observe how there is no change to the plants
Direct sunlight onto the plants with the use of a mirror or other reflective surface and observe how the plants begin to wither and brown. If there are no reflective materials, then go to an area where the earth has been scorched or the plants are browned and withered and explain how this is produced by the lack of ozone layer.
Activity #4 Carbon Emissions
Calculate carbon emissions for the following and compare and contrast their values to promote green lifestyles that use less carbon, possibly with the aid of the Carbon Footprint website :
- Cars per day compared to per year
- A bus
- A train
- Airplane flights
- Air conditioning
- Computers on / on sleep
Calculate individual carbon footprints
Discuss changes in lifestyles that would be energy efficient. What do you need to change?
Activity #5 Photosynthesis
With children of the younger grades, explain the process of photosynthesis by bringing in a green leaf and explaining that it emits oxygen that we breathe when it hits the sun, and show the importance of saving and planting more trees. Allow them to touch the leaf and pass it around.
Activity #6 Product Labels
This activity aims to encourage youth to read product labels and avoid dangerous ingredients.
- List dangerous ingredients in every day products.
- How the composition of harmful common products used every-day by dissembling them in front of the classroom.
Encourage lifestyle changes, such as: shutting lights, not leaving computers on each night. Show that small changes done by a large group can make a difference. Transmit the message of looking within yourself to change your life. They have the power to tell their neighbors and friends.
Activity #7 Green Quiz
This activity aims to test students on their knowledge of climate change facts or statistics in the form of friendly competition or game.
- Provide list of facts/statistics phrased as questions.
- The teacher/moderator will have the answers.
- A question should be posed to [two] teams.
- The teams then discuss the question and present their guesses.
- Whichever team is closest obtains one point.
- Whichever team accumulates the most points may be presented as the winner and team members may obtain a prize as specified by the teacher. Prizes may include extra-credit among other possibilities.
Questions May Include The Following Topics:
- Define sustainability
- Define “green”
- Define Carbon neutrality
- Define organic define genetically modified
- Define pesticides
- Tips for everyday around the house green living – (list)
- Green building/ construction
- Alternative fuel
- Solar, wind, geothermal energy
- Water conservation
- Green products
- Local products
- Green products (light bulbs, low-flow toilets, etc)
Activity #8 Advocacy Promotion
This activity aims to promote advocacy and students joining NGOs.
This part of the activity aims to illustrate that small changes made by a large number of people make a big difference.
- Go to a grassy area, and form two teams (a small one of 1 or 2 students, and another group two or three times the size of the small one).
- Plant small balls or other safe objects onto the ground and instruct both teams to collect the objects to clean the ground.
The team with the most people will pick up more objects in a time efficient fashion, while the smaller team will struggle, demonstrating that a few people with the same goal can make a big difference than a small population struggling to accomplish a goal.
The Chain Effect
The second part of the activity aims to promote advocacy and demonstrate the great potential of NGOs in effectuating change.
- Assemble two teams of students. One team may be comprised of three students holding hands in a line. The other can be a team consisting of one person.
- Balls should be placed on the ground one yard apart.
- Instruct the team of three students to pick up the balls closest to them, and then take one step and together pick up more balls.
- Instruct the team of one person to pick up the balls closest to them, and then to take another step and pick up the balls closest to them again.
When the unit of 3 students takes one step, they can pick up more balls than the unit of one, saving time and energy. The balls could represent carbon, and the groups of students retrieving the balls can represent volunteers of NGOs seeking to clean the earth and remove the carbon.
Recommended Practices for Youth
The following is a list of recommended practices for high school students to promote green living and raise awareness among their peers. Educators are also encouraged to disseminate this list. What High School Students Can Do? Practices to Promote Green Living and Raise Awareness Get involved! Make a difference by:
- Parks: Volunteer for your local parks departments;
- Green Clubs: Form “green clubs” in which climate change issues may be discussed, a list of best practices for living green and being environmental conscious in your local area may be formulated and disseminated, social and philosophical issues surrounding climate change may be presented, videos relating to the issue may be screened, books and articles relating to the issue may be distributed and discussed, and engage students in volunteer activities such as tree counting (see below). Partnering with a teacher to help oversee the club is highly recommended;
- Think global, buy local: Purchase goods produced locally. Even organic goods are not worth it if they require extensive travel and energy use. Avoid buying imported goods that require massive amounts of fuel for shipment. Focus on the local.
- Tree Count: Travel around your neighborhood and document all the areas in which trees are missing, particularly empty tree planters. Submit tabulated statistics to local parks departments.
- Read product labels: purchase products that contain less harmful substances.
- Talk to your friends, family, neighbors, and other social groups about climate change issues. Discussion will lead to understanding, which will prompt changes in lifestyles and the development of an environmental conscience.
Suggested topics for discussion within a club or classroom:
- Global warming and activities that accelerate it
- Scientific clarification between the ozone layer and greenhouse gases
- The Kyoto protocol and its effectiveness
- Efforts of the international community to mitigate the problems of climate change
- The economics of climate change and the cost effectiveness of green living
- Preserving park and open spaces
- Volunteering and becoming involved
- The role of local business and organisations in climate change
- How our everyday actions impact the process of climate change and the environment
- The nature of your local environment and how you can protect it
- What changes in the environment have occurred in the last century versus the past decade
- Chain effects of actions accelerating climate change and those mitigating its effects
- Statistics of temperature rising, sea level rising, etc...
- The efforts of various faith and cultural groups along with their respective philosophies in combating climate change, and how culture may play a role in the issue; Geo-engineering and the impact of military activities with their weapons on the environment
- The effect of climate change on the lifestyles and welfare of indigenous peoples
- The future of small island nations such as Tuvalu that are currently sinking
- Environmental ethics and the development of an environmental consciousness integral for a greener lifestyle