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4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Activity - Classroom
  • Worksheet
  • Data

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - West, Polar Regions, Hawai'i



Our Changing Atmosphere

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  • In this activity, students will look at seasonal fluctuations and graph the monthly Mauna Loa CO2 atmospheric data.
  • Students will interpret the data and evaluate the upward trend in the data over time.
Teaching Tips


  • Students can practice the meaningful skill of interpreting data.
  • There is enough data for students to work in small groups and have each group contribute a different graph to the class.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should know how to plot data on a line graph.
  • Students should know what CO2 is and how it is released into the atmosphere.


  • Younger students may need to graph the data or interpret the graphs as a whole class.
  • After looking at the data, students in science classes can discuss the effect CO2 and other greenhouse gases have on the atmosphere and our planet.
  • Language arts students can use their observations of the data as evidence in an informative essay about atmospheric CO2 levels.
  • Students can graph other climate-related datasets, such as global temperature rise, sea level rise, or phenological data.
Scientist Notes

This resource is from the CLEAN collection. “The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness.”

  • 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.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Measurement & Data (K-5)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.MD.B.2 Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, 1/4, 1/8). Use operations on fractions for this grade to solve problems involving information presented in line plots. For example, given different measurements of liquid in identical beakers, find the amount of liquid each beaker would contain if the total amount in all the beakers were redistributed equally.
    • Ratios & Proportional Relationships (6-7)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.RP.A.3 Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems, e.g., by reasoning about tables of equivalent ratios, tape diagrams, double number line diagrams, or equations.
    • Statistics & Probability (6-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.A.2 Understand that a set of data collected to answer a statistical question has a distribution which can be described by its center, spread, and overall shape.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.SP.A.1 Understand that statistics can be used to gain information about a population by examining a sample of the population; generalizations about a population from a sample are valid only if the sample is representative of that population. Understand that random sampling tends to produce representative samples and support valid inferences.
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