UCLA's Atmospheric Outreach Program

Jasper Kok, University of California-Los Angeles
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UCLA's Desert Dust and Climate Change Outreach Program intends to inspire students to pursue careers in the sciences by exposing them to real life applications of science and showing them the impact research results can have on their lives. This lesson series consists of four hands-on lessons that can complement units covering climate change in Earth Science courses. Although the lessons assume that students have some background in basic high school physics, they can be adjusted according to student backgrounds, and to otherwise fit the needs of the classroom. Lessons 1 and 4 focus on climate change, the Earth's radiation balance, the definition and sources of desert dust, how research is conducted, and what the students can do to combat climate change in their daily lives. Lessons 2 and 3 are applications of basic mathematics and physics, which students may have learned in previous courses, using real research data.

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This lesson plan series is designed to be suitable to high school students in Earth Science or Physics classrooms.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

  • Introductory level physics (familiarity with calculating velocity and kinetic energy, although this can be worked around)
  • A moderate amount of mathematical skill (although this can be worked around)

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a sequence of lessons that can be integrated into a course regarding climate change or applications of physics.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Real life applications of science
  • Desert dust's effects on climate change

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Devising questions to solve a problem
  • Analysis of research data
  • Application of mathematics to analyze data

Other skills goals for this activity

Presenting scientific information to a group

Description and Teaching Materials

This link leads to the google drive folder that contains all the necessary materials. There are two primary google docs: a "[read me] Welcome" to introduce the lessons in brief detail, and an "Implementation Guide" that can be used to understand the lessons in depth.

Internet Address: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1esvUpIFWB0IHdnHwmPlqM6OVFFIZXVe5?usp=sharing

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • The second lesson is largely designed to be an application of basic physics to a real research problem, but this can be adjusted for an audience with little or no physics background, without sacrificing conceptual understanding.
  • Overall, Lessons 2 and 3 are calculation intensive, but may be adjusted to focus on concepts as opposed to the nitty gritty details.
  • See our Implementation Guide for a comprehensive list of teaching notes.


There are discussions during class to get immediate feedback, activities for the students to perform, as well as homework assignments devised to assess the students' understanding of the lessons.

References and Resources