EarthLabs for Educators > Climate and the Biosphere > Lab Overviews

Lab Overviews

1. Climate, Weather, and Trees
Students are introduced to the relationship between climate and trees and well as the Vermont maple syrup industry, the case study for this module. They consider the habitat and living conditions of a typical maple tree, and the ideal weather conditions for maple syrup production. Students graph, and analyze long-term climate data.
Time required : 180 minutes
Tools and Technology needed: Colored pencils, Internet browser, Adobe Reader, Quick time player, Microsoft Excel (optional), Digital Camera and clipboards (optional).

2. Climate and Earth's Energy Balance
Students build and examine a diagram of Earth's energy balance, discussing the inputs, transfers, and outputs of the system. They complete lab activities and simulations to demonstrate the greenhouse effect.
Time required : 150-200 minutes
Tools and Technology needed: Java-enabled Internet browser, Adobe Reader, Flash Player, Lab Materials.
Lab 2A: The following materials are used in the lab.
  • Clear glass or plastic aquarium or shoebox
  • Lid for aquarium or shoe box, can be a piece of cardboard or plastic wrap
  • Rubber bands to hold the plastic wrap in place, if used. Hint: Tie several shorter rubber bands together to make one large one.
  • A gallon- or quart-sized ziplock bag filled with sand, gravel or soil
  • Warm water
  • Blue food coloring (optional)
  • Jar lid or small bowl
  • Ice
  • Small insulated cup or ziplock bag for ice
  • Light source: bright sunlight or lamp (40-60W). If using a lamp, desk or clamp-on type lamp works best.
Lab 2B: 100 pennies (or other stackable items) per lab team.

Lab 2D: The following materials are used in the lab.
  • 3-4 (depending on variables to be tested) - Clear plastic water bottles with hole drilled into cap. The bottles should all be the same type and size (approximately 1-liter). The bottles should be transparent plastic (remove any labels), black bases are acceptable. The bottles need to have tightly fitting screw-on tops. Seltzer water bottles are a good type of bottle. (Recommend: 1 bottle for every variable).
  • 4 - Thermometers (analogue, digital or digital recording; one for each bottle). Inexpensive digital probes, such as the ones pictured here, can be purchased online. Vernier and Pasco, as well as other companies, sell excellent probes for this type of investigation.
  • A clock or watch showing minutes and seconds.
  • 150 ml (2/3rd cup) of Vinegar
  • 250 ml (1 cup) of Baking Soda
  • Note:1-2 Alka-seltzer tablets, dissolved in water, can be used instead of the vinegar and baking soda. If using this method, be sure to add the equal volume of water to the bottle with water vapor and sponge. Another method for acquiring CO2, is to sublimate dry ice, or use a CO2 canister, such as for filling a bicycle tire. In both of these cases, let the CO2 warm to the same temperature as the other bottles before beginning the experiment.
  • 3 - Sponge pieces of equal dimensions; saturated with water for one bottle, left dry for the other two. Kitchen sponges can be cut into 3 pieces to fit the bottles.
  • Light Source:
    Indoors: Light source (clamp lamp or goose neck) and bulb (standard incandescent or directed spot; one setup for each bottle).

    Outdoors: Sheltered area with direct sunlight for duration of lab. A means for shading the bottles for the second half of the lab. A cardboard piece folded in half and placed tent-like over the bottles works well. Or you can plan to move the bottles into the classroom for the cooling phase.

3. Climatology Basics: What Factors Affect Climate?
Students complete several demonstration labs; view interactive illustrations and videos; examine maps and diagrams of weather and climate patterns; as they explore the physical factors that influence climate (latitude, altitude, proximity to water). They also learn about the four levels of drivers that create weather and climate at various temporal and spatial scales (global, regional, and local).
Time required : 150 minutes
Tools and Technology needed: Internet browser, Adobe Reader, Flash Player, Lab Materials.

4. Climate and Life Patterns (Biomes)
Students learn about Earth's biomes and the intimate connection between those biomes and the climates that help to define them by becoming a biome expert. They use an interactive Google Earth globe to explore global climate patterns and characteristic biomes. After students examine maps and diagrams of biomes and climate patterns, they consider the threats that changing climate patterns could present to existing biomes.

Time required : 150-180 minutes
Tools and Technology needed: Internet browser, Google Earth, PowerPoint (optional).

5. Extreme Weather
Students read articles from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and develop short summaries of unusual weather patterns that have occurred in recent years. They use an interactive illustration and view graphs and data showing indications of climate change. They also examine and discuss maps of changing global temperature and precipitation patterns.
Time required : 150-300 minutes
Tools and Technology needed: Internet browser, Adobe Reader, Flash Player, Quicktime Player, PowerPoint (optional).

6. Trees and Paleoclimate
Students view graphs of changing global, regional, and local temperatures from both proxy sources (e.g., tree rings; fossilized pollen) and instrumental records. They then collect and analyze a simulated sediment core from a freshwater lake and view maps and animations that demonstrate how preferred habitats of tree species migrate in concert with climate change.
Time required : 150 minutes
Tools and Technology needed: Adobe Reader, Flash Player, Lab Materials, PowerPoint.

7. Future of the Forest: Climate Patterns and Life
Students return to the issue of the change in maple syrup production. Using their knowledge of the relationship between climate patterns and biomes, they predict how climate change will alter the maple syrup industry and use modeled temperature and precipitation data to select an ideal habitat range for sugar maple trees. Students then examine other plant suitability maps and explore how climate change is impacting all plant life and what that change means for ecosystems. Students conclude the module by selecting suitable trees for their home region.
Time required : 130-200 minutes
Tools and Technology needed: Internet browser, Adobe Reader, Flash Player.

A Note About Flash -

Several labs in this module contain Flash-based interactives. Visit our Flash Information Page for directions and to test that your computer is set up for Flash.