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Regional Focus

Global, Polar Regions

Amazing Albedo

Author: American Museum of Natural History and Rice University
Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Subjects: Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences
Format: PDF
Resource Types:
  • Worksheet
  • Experiment
  • This simple experiment teaches students how albedo affects the temperature in places, like Antarctica, which are covered in ice.
  • Students will make a hypothesis about heat absorption and reflection, perform an experiment using black and white construction paper, a heat lamp, and thermometers, record their data, and analyze their results. 
Teaching Tips


  • This is a simple experiment showing the importance of albedo on Earth.
  • The worksheet includes a place for students to illustrate their conclusions about solar radiation and albedo.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Each group will need black construction paper, white construction paper, scissors, a stapler, a heat lamp, graph paper, a ruler, and a stopwatch.
  • Teachers may want to remind students to be careful with the heat lamps, which can get very hot.
  • Students can have different jobs in their groups. The worksheet suggests that each group should have a captain and a note-taker.


  • Physics classes could use this experiment in a lesson on light waves and color.
  • After the experiment, teachers could show this video on the feedback loop that occurs when higher global temperatures cause ocean waters to warm and melt the ice, which in turn lowers the albedo effect and allows more solar radiation to be absorbed, warming the water even more.
  • Other resources on albedo include this TED-Ed video on how the loss of albedo in the Arctic will cause global climate problems and this NASA experiment on how different colors absorb light. 
Scientist Notes

Albedo is an important mechanism for reflecting solar radiation. Different surfaces have their albedo (reflectivity of solar radiation incident on a point). The resource is suitable as students will learn the techniques in measuring temperature from a unit surface, testing the assumptions, and plotting results. This is recommended for teaching.

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • PS3: Energy
      • MS-PS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
    • PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
      • MS-PS4-2 Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.
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