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Climate Change: Energy Budget Scientific Inquiry Lab

Grade Levels
9th - 12th, Homeschool
Formats Included
  • PDF
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13 pages
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  1. This bundle is a great opener to a larger unit on the science of climate change, which focuses specifically on NGSS ESS2-4 - Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of the Earth’s systems results in changes in climate.This bundle includes two student-directed resour
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  2. This bundle engages students in the science of climate change with inquiry, making, and project-based learning. These activities are student-centered, hands-on, and each promotes 21st-century skill-building.Before diving into the causes and impacts of climate change, have students learn about what i
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***This activity is a great opener for a unit on the science of climate change. Stay-tuned for subsequent student-directed climate change resources.***

NGSS: ESS2-4. - Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of the Earth’s systems results in changes in climate.

Activity: Students will investigate the global energy budget - the flow of solar energy through the Earth's systems - and how factors associated with the energy budget impact shifts in the climate. They will do this through student-led experimentation. Learners will make observations about the distribution of solar energy, drawing on experience and analysis of an energy budget graphic. Students will develop their own questions about the energy budget, design their own experiments to test their questions, analyze their results, and draw conclusions based on results and additional research. Students will direct the inquiry experience, you will facilitate. Modification options for beginner inquiry-based learners included in this resource.

Age group: Open inquiry in theory is appropriate for all ages because it is personalized. Students ask their own questions and design their own investigations. The guiding materials included in this resource, however, are geared toward high school students as far as language and format is concerned. Having some experience with inquiry-based learning and experimental design is helpful but not mandatory. You are there to help guide them through this activity, as are the guiding materials included in this resource.

Materials and prep: Teachers will need to provide various materials for experiments. All materials included in this resource are merely suggestions. You will need a source of energy, ideally the sun. I highly recommend doing this activity outdoors on a sunny, dry day. Prep includes gathering and setting up lab materials and printing and distributing copies of templates included in this resource.

For more tips on how to implement student-directed open inquiry activities, including helpful scaffolding questions, visit Experiential Learning Depot Blog.

This product includes:

  1. Teacher guide - background information on the solar energy budget as it relates to climate, implementation guide, introduction/discussion guide
  2. Brainstorming activity
  3. Investigation planner guide/organizer
  4. Reflection guide

If you liked this resource, check out these student-directed products as well!

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Total Pages
13 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems. Examples should include climate feedbacks, such as how an increase in greenhouse gases causes a rise in global temperatures that melts glacial ice, which reduces the amount of sunlight reflected from Earth’s surface, increasing surface temperatures and further reducing the amount of ice. Examples could also be taken from other system interactions, such as how the loss of ground vegetation causes an increase in water runoff and soil erosion; how dammed rivers increase groundwater recharge, decrease sediment transport, and increase coastal erosion; or how the loss of wetlands causes a decrease in local humidity that further reduces the wetland extent.
Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth's systems result in changes in climate. Examples of the causes of climate change differ by timescale, over 1-10 years: large volcanic eruption, ocean circulation; 10-100s of years: changes in human activity, ocean circulation, solar output; 10-100s of thousands of years: changes to Earth's orbit and the orientation of its axis; and 10-100s of millions of years: long-term changes in atmospheric composition. Assessment of the results of changes in climate is limited to changes in surface temperatures, precipitation patterns, glacial ice volumes, sea levels, and biosphere distribution.


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