Lesson Climate Change and Cars
(K-2)

(0 Ratings)

Quick Look

Grade Level: 2 (K-2)

Time Required: 45 minutes

Lesson Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Data Analysis and Probability, Earth and Space, Number and Operations, Physical Science, Science and Technology

NGSS Performance Expectations:

NGSS Three Dimensional Triangle
K-2-ETS1-1
K-ESS3-3

A screenshot from a video showing a car driving past a large pile of carbon.
How much carbon to cars send into the atmosphere?
copyright
Copyright © 2020 NOVA, Public Broadcasting Service

Summary

This lesson introduces students to the concepts of climate change and what affects it. By the end of the lesson, students should have a basic understanding of the greenhouse effect, the carbon cycle, global warming, and how transportation can contribute to global warming. Students work together to understand how various forms of transportation have costs and benefits, and which modes of transportation are better for the environment.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Understanding the negative impact gas-powered cars have on the environment empowers engineers to develop alternative modes of transportation. With the rise of electric vehicles on the market, different engineers who specialize in chemical, mechanical, and electrical engineering (and various other disciplines in engineering) can work together to design and develop car materials that are more sustainable and environmentally conscious.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students be able to:

  • Describe the greenhouse effect.
  • Recall the role carbon dioxide plays in the greenhouse effect.
  • Recognize how transportation can affect the greenhouse effect.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

K-2-ETS1-1. Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool. (Grades K - 2)

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Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This lesson focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Ask questions based on observations to find more information about the natural and/or designed world(s).

Alignment agreement:

Define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

Alignment agreement:

A situation that people want to change or create can be approached as a problem to be solved through engineering.

Alignment agreement:

Asking questions, making observations, and gathering information are helpful in thinking about problems.

Alignment agreement:

Before beginning to design a solution, it is important to clearly understand the problem.

Alignment agreement:

NGSS Performance Expectation

K-ESS3-3. Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment. (Grade K)

Do you agree with this alignment?

Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This lesson focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Communicate solutions with others in oral and/or written forms using models and/or drawings that provide detail about scientific ideas.

Alignment agreement:

Things that people do to live comfortably can affect the world around them. But they can make choices that reduce their impacts on the land, water, air, and other living things.

Alignment agreement:

Designs can be conveyed through sketches, drawings, or physical models. These representations are useful in communicating ideas for a problem's solutions to other people.

Alignment agreement:

Events have causes that generate observable patterns.

Alignment agreement:

Suggest an alignment not listed above

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Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/lessons/view/cub-2635-climate-change-cars-k-2-lesson] to print or download.

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Pre-Req Knowledge

An understanding of the atmosphere, gases, energy, and transportation.

Introduction/Motivation

It is important for us to understand how we can prevent climate change. Earth is the only planet in our solar system that supports life because it traps and releases heat at the same rate, which means that we have just enough heat to sustain life. If we release too much heat, we will become like Mars, not warm enough to sustain life. But if we trap too much heat, we will become like Venus, too hot to sustain life.

A carbon footprint is how much carbon dioxide an individual releases into the atmosphere. As people who live on this planet, our goal should be to reduce our own carbon footprints and push for industrial changes that will slow down global warming. One of the main ways an individual can reduce their carbon footprint is through the transportation they use.

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

This lesson introduces students to the concepts of climate change and how cars can contribute to it. Students learn about the basics of the greenhouse effect and the carbon cycle. They also learn how transportation affects our atmosphere. Students work together to understand how various forms of transportation have costs and benefits, and which modes of transportation are better for the environment.

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are the gases in Earth’s atmosphere that trap the heat from the sun. The process of trapping heat from the sun is called the greenhouse effect. A greenhouse is a glass building used to grow plants. It stays warm through all of the seasons because it traps heat from sunlight during the daytime and that trapped heat stays throughout the night, keeping the temperatures in the greenhouse warm enough for plants to grow. Even during the cold of winter! The Earth’s atmosphere functions similar to a greenhouse.

The burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has released more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn traps more sunlight and warms up the Earth significantly. We are at a point where we are releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the Earth can handle.

This is what we call global warming, the gradual increase of Earth’s temperature due to the excessive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—and this is what is causing our climates to change.

Climate is the overall weather conditions that are expected in a region at a particular time of year. This is different from the weather which we can think of as more of a day-to-day phenomenon. Did it rain today? Is it sunny today? Those are weather conditions and what we describe when we say “what’s the weather like today?” Climate is more long-term: “Antarctica is at the southern pole, so it will be cold all year round. We can expect it to snow there every day because we have seen that for the last 30 years.”

Procedure:

A screenshot from NASA depicting where greenhouse gases exist in the atmosphere.
How do cars affect what happens in our atmosphere?
copyright
Copyright © 2020 NASA, Public Domain

  1. Show students the following video, “What Is the Greenhouse Effect?”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN5-DnOHQmE&t=1s (2:29)
  2. Using the K-2 Climate Change and Cars Worksheet, ask the students to discuss what they learned in the video. Specifically, ask them the following questions:
    • What is the greenhouse effect?
    • Why is the greenhouse effect important to life on Earth?
  1.  Have students write out or draw their answers in section 1 of the K-2 Climate Change and Cars Worksheet.
  2. Tell the students: Tell students the following: Carbon is an element that is essential to life on Earth. Carbon is found in seawater, rocks, soil, all living organisms, and the atmosphere. When carbon is in the atmosphere it can be found in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is a gas that is naturally found on Earth.

The carbon cycle describes how carbon, including the carbon in CO2, travels from the atmosphere to the Earth and back to the atmosphere. For example, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is taken in by plants and pulled apart to make food from the carbon to grow. Eventually, animals eat plants, and the carbon is returned to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide through animal or human respiration.

A graphic showing emissions from industrial plants and cars.
What can we do to limit the release of carbon?
copyright
Copyright © 2020 NASA, Public Domain

  1. Show students the following video, “What is the carbon cycle?” - https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/carbon-cycle.html (1:16).
  2.  Ask the students what other ways carbon dioxide travels throughout the carbon cycle and have them write or draw their answer in section 2 of the K-2 Climate Change and Cars Worksheet.
  3. Tell the students the following: As the climate crisis continues, it is important to recognize how human activities are affecting the crisis. One of the biggest problems negatively contributing to the greenhouse effect is carbon emissions from transportation — cars, buses, trains, etc.
  4. Show the students the following video, “Climate Science in a Nutshell” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpazvRVh4y0 (2:48).
  5. Have the students think-pair-share to answer the following questions in section 3 of the K-2 Climate Change and Cars Worksheet.
    • In our cities and towns what adds more CO2 into the atmosphere?
    • What kind of energy causes more CO2 to enter the atmosphere?
    • In 2009, how many tons of CO2 did the average person use? How many African elephants is that equivalent to?
    • How many parts per million (ppm) of CO2 is in the atmosphere right now? What number do we want to reduce the ppm of CO2 down to?
  1. Ask students, “What are things in your house or school that use fossil fuel energy?” Ask them if they know of any better alternatives? Have the students participate in a class discussion about renewable energy.
  2. Show the students the following video, “What if Carbon Left Your Tailpipe as Solid Chunks?” - https://www.pbs.org/video/carbon-car-tailpipe-solid-chunks/ (2:12).
  3. Do another think-pair-share as a class to answer the following questions in section 4 of the K-2 Climate Change and Cars Worksheet:
    • What do they show coming out of the car’s tailpipe in the video?
    • How many car “turds” does an average car dump per year? How is that shown in the video?
  1. Have a class reflection discussion to wrap up:
    • How do you get to school? Do you take the bus? Do your parents drop you in their car? Do you walk? Do you carpool with a friend?
    • Which form of transportation do you think is cleaner?
    • Which form of transportation do you think is less clean?
    • Are there cars out there that do not have exhaust or (or “turds” like the car in the video)?
  1. Ask students, “How do you believe engineers can design better cars that produce fewer carbon emissions (car “turds”)?” Ask them if they think there is another source of energy to run cars instead of using gas. Ask students if they have heard of electric vehicles (EVs) and how they work (battery-powered electric motors, which do not release any exhaust (no emissions=no car “turds”!)

Associated Activities

  • Carbon Emissions: Carl’s Carbon! - This activity introduces students to the concepts of climate change and what affects it. Students work together to understand how various forms of transportation have costs and benefits, and which modes of transportation are better for the environment.

Lesson Closure

What did we learn from the worksheet and activity? Transportation emits a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. As the climate crisis grows bigger, engineers are trying to reduce the carbon footprints left by their designs. Now that you have learned how transportation can affect the greenhouse effect, how would you explain what you learned to your friends or family?

Vocabulary/Definitions

carbon dioxide: A greenhouse gas that comes from burning fossil fuels.

carbon footprint: The amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by a person or group.

climate: The long-term weather events of a region, such as its average rainfall or its average high/low temperatures.

emission: Gases released into the atmosphere.

gas: An air-like fluid substance that expands freely to fill up any free space, regardless of its quantity.

greenhouse gas: A gas that traps the heat in the Earth's atmosphere like carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, ozone, and nitrous oxide.

transportation: A way of moving people from one place to another like cars, buses, trains, etc.

weather: The short-term events such as a current rainstorm or temperature.

Assessment

Pre-Lesson Assessment

Discussion Questions: Ask the students and discuss as a class:

  • What is the greenhouse effect?
  • Why is Earth the only planet that supports life?
  • What is climate change?
  • Tell students they will find out more about how transportation affects the greenhouse effect.

Lesson Embedded (Formative) Assessment

Guided Worksheet: Have students work together as they complete the Climate Change and Cars Worksheet as a class, as directed in the Lesson Instructional Plan section.

Post-Lesson (Summative) Assessment

Class Reflection: Have the students reflect on their learning by asking the same questions from the pre-lesson assessment. Additionally, ask:

  • Have you heard of climate change before this lesson?
  • Did anything you learned change the ideas you had about the greenhouse effect or climate change in general?
  • How would you explain the greenhouse effect to your parents or other family members?
  • What transportation did you use to get to school today? Would you change that?

Making Sense: Have students reflect on the science concepts they explored and/or the science and engineering skills they used, plus questions or ideas they have by completing a modified Making Sense Assessment.

Additional Multimedia Support

What Is the Greenhouse Effect?

Causes | Facts – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet

Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases

What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate?

Fast Facts on Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions | US EPA

Greenhouse Effect 101

References

“The Causes of Climate Change.” NASA, NASA, 30 Aug. 2021, https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/.

“Climate Science in a Nutshell #5: Where Does Carbon Dioxide.” YouTube, Planet Nutshell, 24 Sept. 2010, www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpazvRVh4y0.

“What if Carbon Left Your Tailpipe as Solid Chunks?” PBS, Nova, 5 Feb. 2020, www.pbs.org/video/carbon-car-tailpipe-solid-chunks/.

US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What Is the Carbon Cycle?” NOAA's National Ocean Service, NOAA, 2 Apr. 2019, oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/carbon-cycle.html.

“What Is the Greenhouse Effect?” YouTube, Nasa Space Place. Accessed July 1, 2021. Published June 11, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN5-DnOHQmE&t=1s.

“What Is the Greenhouse Effect?” NASA, NASA, 2021, https://climatekids.nasa.gov/greenhouse-effect/.

“What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate?” NASA, NASA, 2021, https://climatekids.nasa.gov/weather-climate/.

Copyright

© 2022 by Regents of the University of Colorado Boulder

Contributors

Niharika Kunapuli; Jennifer Taylor

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, Pre-College Engineering Education, University of Colorado Boulder

Acknowledgements

This curriculum was developed under National Science Foundation grant number 1941524. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

This curriculum was developed with support from the AEROKATS and ROVER Education Network (AREN) (Henry/NNX16AB95A). AREN is a NASA Science Mission Directorate Science Activation (SciAct) Program.

Last modified: June 30, 2022

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