Pre-Visit Activities

These discussion starters and activities are designed to spark your students' interest in the exhibition and to prepare them for the concepts they'll encounter.

Grades 3-5

Discussion Starters

Weather & Climate
  • How does the temperature change during the year where we live?
  • What's your favorite weather?
  • Have you visited friends or family who live in a different climate? How would you have to adapt if you moved there?

Our Energy Use
  • Between waking up and leaving home, how many switches did you flip?
  • How many other ways did you use energy today?


Albedo Effect

Objective: To understand how surface color affects the absorption of energy.

1. Ask students: On a hot summer day, would you want to wear a dark color shirt or a light one? Would it be more comfortable to walk barefoot on dark pavement or a light sidewalk?
2. Divide students into teams. Give each team one piece of white paper, one piece of dark paper, two thermometers, and a Temperature vs. Time chart.
3. Have teams put the two sheets of paper near a sunny window or under a desk lamp, and place a thermometer under each. Ask teams to take temperature readings every minute and record their findings on the chart.
4. Have teams present and compare their results.
5. Ask students: As more and more melting sea ice is replaced by dark ocean water, how might Earth's surface temperature change?

Compare Local Weather & Climate

Objective: To understand the difference between weather and climate.

1. Over five days, distribute copies of the weather section from the newspaper or have students visit a weather website.
2. Each day, ask students to record and graph the following data for your area:
  • High and low temperatures
  • Record high and low temperatures
  • Average high and low temperatures
3. At the end of the week, have students analyze and discuss their data. Help them infer that the daily and record temperatures tell us about weather (the condition of the atmosphere at any given place or time), while the average temperatures describe climate (the typical long-term weather in a region from year to year).

Grades 6-8

Discussion Starters

Weather & Climate
  • What's the difference between weather and climate?
  • What are some recent news stories about climate change?
  • What fruits and vegetables do you eat? Why do they grow in some places but not others?
  • What tools do we use to measure weather conditions?
  • Where would you look for clues to what climate was like in the past?

Our Energy Use
  • Describe the ways that you have used energy today.
  • List the different sources of energy that are used to generate electricity in our area.
  • Where do you think the energy that heats your home or school comes from?


CO2 Removal

Objective: To understand the role of plants in the carbon cycle.

Description: In this experiment, students use their breath, a carbon dioxide indicator, and a common water plant to show how plants remove CO2 from Earth's atmosphere. Students then explore and discuss the impact of deforestation on climate change.

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Science Bulletins: Melting Ice, Rising Seas

Objective: To understand how scientists use the scientific method to investigate Earth's warming climate.

Description: Students learn about the scientific method through class discussions and an online video. The video features scientists studying geologic records in Greenland's glaciers and Florida's fossilized coral reefs in order to predict the impact of melting ice on sea level rise.

Video and Essay
Click on the "Climate Change" tab at the top right. You'll find "Melting Ice, Rising Seas" among other stories in the right column. After you select the video and press "play," look for the "Educator Resources" link in the lower left column. It includes suggested questions to guide your class discussion and an in-depth look at the scientific method.

Grades 9-12

Discussion Starters

Climate Change
  • What are some recent news stories about climate change?
  • What conditions—such as the average temperature or the amount of rainfall—change as climate changes?
  • Describe how organisms might respond to these changes.
  • How would a rise in sea level affect where we live (e.g., housing, transportation)?

Energy Use
  • Where does the energy that we use come from?
  • What are some recent news stories about energy use—locally, nationally, or globally?


How Greenhouse Gases Absorb Heat

Objective: To understand that CO2 absorbs heat in the atmosphere.

Description: In this experiment, student teams will compare the way two "atmospheres," one higher in CO2, trap heat. Materials include jars, thermometers, baking soda, vinegar, tubing, and stoppers.

Download activity

Science Bulletins: Climate Change Stories

Objective: To explore current research related to climate change.

Description: Students can choose from an array of videos, interactives, and essays that explore cutting-edge scientific research on climate change. Stories include "Bio Snapshot: Climate Change Affects Ecosystems," "Earth Feature: Melting Glaciers, Clues to Climate Change," "Human Snapshot: Did Climate Change Guide Early Migrations?," and "Earth Viz: Sea Ice 2000-2008."

Videos, Interactives, and Essays available at:
Click on the "Climate Change" tab at the top right. Select a video or interactive and press "play." In the lower left column, you'll find supporting resources such as essays, interactives, data, and/or educator resources.

Climate Change Online Educator's Guide