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Author

American Museum of Natural History and Rice University

Grades

6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th

Subjects

Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Experiments
  • Worksheets
  • Activity - Outdoors

Regional Focus

Global, Polar Regions

Format

PDF

Amazing Albedo

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Synopsis
  • This simple, hands-on experiment demonstrates the powerful effect of albedo, allowing students to hypothesize what will happen, run the experiment, collect the data, and analyze their results.
  • Students will learn how albedo affects regional and global temperatures through the reflection and absorption of light energy.
  • This resource is also included in the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network's (CLEAN) collection.
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • This is a simple experiment showing the importance of albedo on Earth.
  • The worksheet includes a place for students to illustrate their conclusions about solar radiation and albedo.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Each group will need 2 thermometers, black construction paper, white paper, scissors, a stapler, a heat lamp or sunlight, graph paper, and a stopwatch or timer.
  • Teachers may want to remind students to be careful with the heat lamps, which can get very hot.

Differentiation

  • Science classes can use this experiment in a lesson about the electromagnetic spectrum or heat.
  • Students can have different jobs in their groups. The worksheet suggests that each group should have a captain and a note-taker.
  • After the experiment, teachers can show this video on the feedback loop that occurs when higher global temperatures cause ocean waters to warm and melt the ice. Then have students think about how to increase albedo in locations around the world as a climate solution.
  • As an extension, consider using this TED-Ed video on how the loss of albedo in the Arctic will cause global climate problems and this NASA experiment about how different colors absorb different wavelengths of light. 
Scientist Notes

Albedo is an important mechanism for reflecting solar radiation. The resource is suitable, as students will learn the techniques of measuring temperature from different surfaces, testing their assumptions, and plotting the results. This is recommended for teaching.


Standards

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-6. Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.
    • PS3: Energy
      • MS-PS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
    • PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
      • MS-PS4-2. Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
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