Not So “Good Vibrations” Molecules and Climate Change

Julie Scott McConnell, Environmental Science, AP Biology, William Amos Hough High School

Final Unit (PDF)

Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)

200 Word Synopsis

This unit provides the teacher with information beyond the basic scope of an earth science class.  I have provided background information regarding the energy balance that is necessary for a stable and livable earth environment, the chemistry of green house gases and their impact on climate change, the role of the carbon cycle, radiative forces that affect the Earth’s energy balance and information on anthropomorphic influences on global warming. Also included is background information regarding ways that students can effectively communicate their knowledge to each other and those outside of the classroom. The activities are broad in scope and involve chemistry, communication and action. One activity is a chemistry based activity in which the students create molecular models of green house gases. Other activities involve research, writing and discussing the impact of global warming. The writing lesson is designed for students to research a topic that interests them and which can be directly linked to climate change. The methodology of the case study will be utilized for the writing activity.  The students will use primary sources as a major component of their research. The idea is to guide them toward the results of scientific investigation and to have them rely on research data to tell the story of an organism or ecosystem that is affected by climate change. The teacher then facilitates a discussion that will help the students see the connections between their cases. This can be the beginning of further lessons on the topic of climate change. It is my goal that when the students present their cases to their classmates, a discussion will follow and it will lead them to conclude that they have written along a common thread:  global warming.