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American Museum of Natural History


6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type

  • Videos, 3 minutes, 38 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - West

Keeling's Curve: The Story of CO2

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  • This short video explains the discovery of the rise in global CO2 concentrations by George Keeling.
  • The video works chronologically through the discovery of a pattern in CO2 concentrations, examining those findings, analyzing the seasonal variation and causation, and ending with future projections.
Teaching Tips


  • This video is an easy-to-understand way to learn about one of the most important discoveries in climate science.
  • The video is engaging, making use of a variety of graphics, charts, and images.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The video does not include narration and requires students to read the text on the screen.
  • Students should be able to read graphs and identify patterns before watching the video.
  • Students should understand the difference between CO2 emissions and CO2 concentrations.


  • It may be best to pause the video at times to give students a chance to analyze the graphs themselves.
  • This video can easily connect to lessons about photosynthesis, decomposition, seasons, and the carbon cycle.
  • Social studies and history students can connect this video to other current events happening in 1958 and think about which activities and industries contributed the most to the increase in carbon dioxide since then.
  • As a follow-up activity, have students compare the ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere at the time of Keeling's discovery, the year they were born, and today.
  • Have students reflect on the implications of Keeling's discovery, researching how this discovery impacted policy in the proceeding years, decades, and today.
Scientist Notes
This short video demonstrates the history of CO2 rise and how it is contributing to global warming. The rise is called the "Keeling Curve" and it is important to continuously observe these CO2 patterns in order to innovate solutions to limit emissions. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.2 Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.
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