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MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences, English Language Arts

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Podcasts, 14 minutes, 35 seconds
  • Experiments
  • Interactive Media
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus



Google Docs, PDF

Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change

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  • In this comprehensive lesson plan, students will explore the issues and circumstances surrounding the causes of climate change through hands-on demonstrations, modeling, listening to a podcast, and answering discussion questions.
  • Students will evaluate the accuracy of greenhouse effect models, determine their preferred metaphor for this effect, and understand what makes a gas a greenhouse gas.
Teaching Tips


  • Each section of the overall lesson has a timing guideline, a brief description, a materials list (if necessary), discussion questions, and specific steps for students.
  • There are links for related teacher guides at the bottom of the web page. 
  • There is a helpful sidebar with links to several support resources.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The resource includes a downloadable educator guide with links to a climate primer (climate knowledge for everyone), a series of climate explainers, and an online help desk. There is also information about using podcasts and discussing climate change in the classroom.
  • Teachers will need to purchase hands-on materials for two demonstrations.  There is a materials list in the educator guide.
  • The podcast episode with a transcript is available here.


  • Math teachers can also utilize this resource, specifically the activities "Greenhouse Effect In A Beaker" and "DIY Spectrophotometer and Carbon Dioxide" since students must complete a graph and table and analyze the data for each activity.
  • Students in English classes read the one-page Explainers and then create objective summaries and subjective opinion paragraphs. 
  • Students can create artistic visualizations of the analogies used in the lesson to describe the greenhouse effect and infrared.
  • Language arts students can discuss the purpose and evaluate the use of metaphors and similes in scientific explanations.
Scientist Notes

Two physical realities make the greenhouse effect possible: the molecular structure of gases in the atmosphere and the nature of electromagnetic radiation. This podcast episode and accompanying lesson plan explain how these shape climate change as we know it. Information in the resource is scientifically accurate. This resource is recommended for teaching.


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

  • Mathematics
    • Statistics & Probability: Interpreting Categorical & Quantitative Data (9-12)
      • HSS.ID.A.1 Represent data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots).
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • HS-ESS2-4. Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
      • MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
      • HS-ESS3-6. Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.
  • English Language Arts
    • Language (K-12)
      • L.VI.9–10.4 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings, including connotative meanings.
  • Related Resources


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