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Climate Change


3rd, 4th, 5th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences


45 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Sheets


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

What Are Carbon Emissions? (Green Transportation #1)

Created By Teachers:
Last Updated:
Feb 28, 2024
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This lesson introduces carbon emissions and the idea of carbon and ecological footprints to students. 

Step 1 - Inquire: Students reflect on what they know about photosynthesis and how plants transform carbon dioxide into oxygen. 

Step 2 - Investigate: Students learn about the greenhouse effect and calculate their ecological footprint. 

Step 3 - Inspire: Students generate ideas on how to reduce their carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson connects to science standards and the understanding of the relationship between human activities and Earth.
  • Students will develop a strong connection to self and the environment.
  • This lesson features interaction with technology and digital literacy.
  • This lesson features excellent vocabulary development.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This is lesson 1 of 6 in our 3rd-5th grade Green Transportation unit.
  • If students do not have a prior understanding of photosynthesis, it may be best to do a mini lesson on photosynthesis.


  • Definitions can be broken down for friendlier understanding.
  • You can pause the videos to check for understanding and explain new ideas.
  • Questions on the ecological footprint calculator quiz can be read aloud to students and taken as a whole class.
Scientist Notes

Students understand key greenhouse gases that cause global warming, explain the greenhouse effect, identify carbon sources from the various transportation modes, and explore ways to reduce their individual carbon footprint from the transportation sector. All materials are well-sourced. As a result, this lesson has passed the science credibility process and is recommended for teaching.


Primary Standards

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 4-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and that their uses affect the environment.
      • 4-ESS3-2 Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.
Green Transportation Unit Lesson Plans


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