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Exploring the Greenhouse Effect

In this activity, students create a model of the greenhouse effect to explore how the greenhouse effect operates and contributes to climate change.

Earth's atmosphere acts somewhat like the glass of a greenhouse, which keeps the greenhouse warm by trapping heat. Incoming radiationfromthe Sun is absorbed by the earth's oceans and land, where it is converted into heat, warming the surface of the earth and the air above it. Particular gases in the atmosphere act like the glass of a greenhouse, preventing the heat from escaping.

 Greenhouse gases ( GHGs) such as water vapour, methane, and carbon dioxide are naturally found in our atmosphere. Human activities are accelerating the rate at which some carbon-based GHGs are produced. These greenhouse gases contribute to the warming of the atmosphere and to global climate change.


  • Understand the connection between human activities and the carbon cycle.

  • Understand the role of greenhouse gases and how they contribute to climate change.


  • Per Group:
    paper and pencils (for recording)
    2 thermometers
    a large, clear glass jar
    stop watch

Key Questions

  • Is there a pattern in the temperatures? Does it match your prediction?
  • Is there a difference in the temperature? Why?
  • What does the glass jar do?
  • What is the greenhouse effect?

What To Do


  1. Create a simple temperature vs. time chart for recording observations.
Time Temperature Outside Temperature in Jar
0 minutes
5 minutes
10 minutes
15 minutes
20 minutes
25 minutes
30 minutes


  1. ​Find a place outside to perform this activity.
  2. Place the two thermometers on the same outdoor surface. One thermometer will be covered by the glass jar and the other will be left uncovered.
  3. Make a prediction as to what you may observe.
  4. Cover one of the thermometers with the clear glass jar. This glass jar will act like a greenhouse.
  5. Record the starting temperatures from both thermometers.
  6. Record the temperature from each thermometer every five minutes for a period of at least thirty minutes.
  7. Note anything else that you observe happening in the jar.


  • Use a lifestyle carbon calculator to calculate your greenhouse gas emissions and your impact on the environment.
  • Make a list of everyday actions to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and your impact on climate change.

Other Resources

Government of Canada | Greenhouse Effect

Government of Canada | Climate Change

NASA |  Climate Kids | What is the Greenhouse Effect?

UCAR Science Education | Video | Greenhouse Effect