After learning about global warming yesterday, we did an experiment today that simulated the process. Students worked in groups of four and each group was the owner of two clear, plastic boxes. Each box represented an Earth, complete with land, water, ice caps, and a thermometer to measure the Earth’s temperature. We also used a light to simulate the sun and we kept track of the temperature of each Earth as time passed.
Every two minutes, students would read one of the lab’s event cards, do what it said, and then wait for the temperature of their Earths to adjust. Then they would read the thermometer and move on to the next event card. At first, the two Earth’s showed the same pattern; students put the the lid on, began to cover some of the holes with tape, and the temperature of the boxes rose. But toward the end of the lab, the path of Earth #2 diverged. They stopped covering the holes with tape. They prevented the melting of the ice caps. They stopped polluting. And Earth #2 had a different ending. It actually cooled down! I’m hoping this lab gave students a more hopeful outlook after yesterday’s doom and gloom. But at the very least, it is a nice simulation of the greenhouse effect. Let us hope that we’re living on Earth #2.
*If you don’t have access to clear, plastic boxes, try a cardboard box. You can cut some large holes on one side and cover the top in saran wrap (to let the light in).