In this experiment, students create their own mini greenhouses in beakers. It is a wonderful enrichment lab for studying the atmosphere, earth science, energy, electromagnetic waves, sustainability, heat transfer, and more.
I ran this lab in my Earth Science class over the course of 2 days. However, I included another copy of the lab that is written for one class period. Approximately 60 minutes are needed to build the greenhouses and run the lab. In addition, before starting the lab I talked with my classes about establishing a settlement on Mars. This really excited my students, and I got lots of fantastic questions about the Martian atmosphere and feasibility of growing food there.
I also include in this download a Class Data Table where students can add their results to an Excel document. This allows students to compare and contrast designs and see which groups had the most successful little greenhouses. I added some conditional formatting with red and green icons, as well as a formula to calculate the average temperature for each group.
A possible extension to this lab is to have students modify their designs based on the results of classmates and retest. If you have time this is a powerful exercise for highlighting the engineering and design process. Communicating results and fixing mistakes is a wonderful way to learn.
Extension 2: Students can grow little bean plants in their beakers. Raising seeds teaches responsibility and my students love to see their little plants grow.