Resource Type
Completion Time
Less than a week
Middle School and Up
Download, Share, and Remix
Kevin McMahon
PowerPoint slide show for Introduction
Student handout (includes a rubric)
Website links for student research
Internet for research
Earth Science
Tools and Methods
Climate Change
Polar Science
General Polar Science
Climate Change


Humans are creative. They try to solve problems in original ways. For example, some scientists are thinking of ways to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases in the air. Other scientists are thinking of ways to limit the amount of sun that reaches Earth so that the Earth won’t get so warm. Like most ideas, there are pros (good things) and cons (bad things). Students will explore one creative solution to climate change and share their findings with the class.


Students should be able to list the pros and cons of one geoengineering solution to climate change and give their opinion as to whether humans should pursue this solution.

Lesson Preparation

Students should already have a prior understanding of climate change and the greenhouse effect before doing this lesson. They should already be able to define climate change and understand that climate change is a result of both natural causes and human activities. They also should already be able to draw and label a diagram of the greenhouse effect and explain how greenhouse gases influence Earth’s climate. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s web site listed below is a good resource for students and teachers.



(Whole Class). The teacher will spend about 10 minutes introducing the different ways that humans are trying to deal with climate change. The purpose of this introduction is to expose the students to the different geoengineering ideas that have been proposed without going into too much detail. The attached PowerPoint slideshow could be used as a starting point.

The geoengineering proposals can be put into 3 categories:

  1. Solutions that limit some of the sunlight from reaching earth. (Examples: space mirrors, artificial volcanoes, cloud-making ships, white roofs, and painting mountains white)
  2. Solutions that attempt to remove large amounts of greenhouse gases that are already in the air. (Examples: artificial trees (or other air scrubbers), biochar, seaweed farms, dumping iron into the ocean, greening the desert, and storing carbon dioxide underground or in the ocean)
  3. Solutions that attempt to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that humans put into the air. (Examples: switching to one or more types of renewable energy, switching to the fuel that cars use (hydrogen, electricity, compressed air, sunlight) or saving energy at home or at school)


Individual students or pairs of students choose a solution to research and create a product to share with the class. The requirements of the project and the suggested rubric are attached. The student handout offers some suggested ways for the students to present their findings and the requirements.

The challenging part of this assignment will be for the students to list the pros and cons of their solution. The students may not be able to find much information from the research but encourage the students to use their common sense. For example, if one country attempts to do something, will the effect be limited to that country only?

As the teacher, you will be impressed by their ability to point out potential pitfalls or concerns.


Students share their findings with the class.


After presentations, the students could have a class conference to discuss what solution or solutions would be the best to pursue.

In addition, the teacher may wish to give the students a broader choice of products during the “explore” stage of this lesson. For instance, instead of posters or slideshows, students might be able to create one of these other types of products:

  1. a model of their solution (with a written manual explaining how it would work)
  2. a comic book
  3. a movie
  4. a website


See attached list of web sites.


The student products will be assessed. The rubric attached to the student handout was designed to assess the “Communication in Science” criterion for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme. It is scored on a 0 to 6 scale. You may wish to adapt the rubric to fit your needs.


Kevin McMahon, 2011 PolarTREC teacher, kmcmahon [at]


5-8 Content Standard D: Earth and Space Science: Content Standard E: Science and Technology: Content Standard F: Science In Personal and Social Perspectives: a. Structure of the earth system a. Abilities of technological design b. Understandings about science and technology d. Risks and benefits e. Science and technology in society

Standards Other

Georgia Standards:

S6CS5. Students will use the ideas of system, model, change, and scale in exploring scientific and technological matters.
S6E6. Students will describe various sources of energy and with their uses and conservation.
a. Explain the role of the sun as the major source of energy and its relationship to wind and water energy.
b. Identify renewable and nonrenewable resources.