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Author

MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative

Grades

6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects

Science, Chemistry, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plan
  • Experiment
  • Worksheet
  • Podcast, 10 minutes

Regional Focus

Global

Format

PDF

Airplanes and Climate Change

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Synopsis
  • This lesson about greenhouse gases, the albedo effect, and the impact of aviation on climate includes a simple experiment, worksheet, graphing exercise, discussion questions, and a podcast.
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • The podcast includes a great outline of how contrails heat the atmosphere.
  • The experiment is easy to do and illustrates the concept well.
  • It talks about fluorinated gases, which are major greenhouse gases but are not commonly discussed.

Additional Prerequisites

  • There are student pages and teacher pages to download and print.
  • You will need thermometers, lamps, containers, and two types of soil or sand for the experiment.

Differentiation

  • At 8 minutes, 45 seconds of the podcast, Steven Barrett notes that aviation has "positive effects on society." You can use his opinion to start a discussion with your social studies or economics students.
  • Math students could use their multiplication skills, graphing expertise, and data analysis know-how to answer questions about the greenhouse gas data presented in the worksheet.
  • To explore more about the aviation industry, your students can read the following fact sheets from the Stay Grounded Network: efficiency improvements, electric flight, hydrogen flight, biofuels, and synthetic electro-fuels.
Scientist Notes
This resource includes a podcast in which an MIT expert is interviewed and describes the emissions and impacts of aviation emissions on the Earth's climate. The interview introduces observational and modeling efforts and presents the latest understanding of the total impact of the aviation industry on our changing climate. A transcript and educator's guide, along with additional resource links, are provided. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
    • 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.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-1 Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
    • PS3: Energy
      • HS-PS3-2 Develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as a combination of energy associated with the motions of particles (objects) and energy associated with the relative position of particles (objects).
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Economics
      • D2.Eco.1.6-8 Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.
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