Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Using creative dramatics, the students will act out the Greenhouse Effect and discover how it contributes to the warming of our Earth.


Two forty-five minute periods


The learner will:

  • explain the Greenhouse Effect.
  • explain how the Greenhouse Effect contributes to global warming.
  • teach the Greenhouse Effect/global warming to a family member.
  • define stewardship as the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.


  • Nametags for the students made from study material (e.g. cardboard) ten nametags labeled "Heat" and the remainder labeled "Greenhouse Gases"
  • Construction paper, scissors, markers, etc.
  • Construction paper, scissors, markers, etc.
  • One copy of the Family Response Form for every student (see Attachment One)
Handout 1
The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

Instructional Procedure(s):

Day One
Anticipatory Set: 
The Teacher will ask the learners “How many of you have been in a greenhouse?”  “Why do people use greenhouses?”  If learners are older, the teacher may ask if any learners have heard the term “global warming” and/or bring in a newspaper article addressing it.

  • In a large area, such as a gym or classroom, gather the students together and assign them "roles" to act out the Greenhouse Effect. Have ten students be "Heat" and five students be "Greenhouse Gases". If there are less than fifteen students participating, reduce the numbers of each. Just be sure that there are twice as many "Heat "students as "Greenhouse Gases" students. Hand out nametags and have learners put them on. Label one end of the room "Sun" and the other end "Earth." "Heat" students should stand at the "Sun" end of the room while the "Greenhouse Gases" students stand in the middle of the room. Everyone else sits and watches until their turn.
  • Remind learners that the Sun produces heat that reaches the Earth’s surface. At this time have the "Heat" students walk from one side of the room to the other, demonstrating heat traveling from the Sun to the Earth.
  • Explain that some heat escapes back into space while gases in the atmosphere trap some of the heat. These "greenhouse gases" allow the Earth to stay warm and allows life to flourish. To demonstrate this have the "Heat" students travel back to the other side of the room, but this time the "Greenhouse Gases" students each trap one "Heat" person, keeping them on the "Earth" side of the room, allowing the others to "escape". Learners need to be aware that the Greenhouse Effect is a beneficial, natural process and that without it the Earth would be too cold to sustain life.
  • Now introduce the idea of global warming. Have all the remaining students put on "Greenhouse Gases" name tags and have them join the other "Gases" in the middle of the room. Ask the students to predict what would happen if more Greenhouse Gases were added to the atmosphere.
  • Again, have the original group of "Heat" students travel from the "Sun" side to the "Earth" side of the room. Then ask the "Heat" students to try to travel back to the other side of the room. The "Greenhouse Gases" students should then each trap one "Heat" student. Since there are many more Greenhouse Gases, more "Heat" will be trapped on Earth, with very little, if any, "Heat" escaping. This is how global warming happens.
  • At the end of the activity, bring the learners back together as a group and discuss what they learned. Ask: Why should anyone care about Global Warming? (Because if there is too much global warming plant, animals, and people can’t live.) Ask: Is it everyone’s responsibility to care for the Earth? (Answer should include reasons) Tell them that caring for the Earth is considered stewardship. Ask: Does anyone know what Stewardship means? (It’s the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.) Since we live on the Earth is it everyone’s responsibility to take care of the Earth?

Day Two
Anticipatory Set: 
Review the Greenhouse Effect and how it is linked to the idea of global warming. The teacher may even want to act out the activity from day one again.

  • Have students create a diagram depicting the Greenhouse Effect using paper, markers, etc. Tell them that they will be asked to go home and explain the Greenhouse Effect and global warming to a family member using their diagram as part of a homework assignment.
  • Have them practice presenting global warming using their diagrams with peer partners.
  • Hand out the Family Response Form (see Attachment One) and go over it together.


The teacher will use the class discussions and personal observations to assess learners’ understanding of each objective. The teacher will also evaluate the learners’ diagrams and Family Response Form.

School/Home Connection:

  • Interactive Parent / Student Homework: Learners will take home their diagrams and explain the Greenhouse Effect and global warming to a family member.  Together they will fill out the Family Response Form (see Attachment One) and return it to school.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

  • Learners may bring in articles from magazines and newspapers concerning global warming and/or the Greenhouse Effect and share with the class.
  • The teacher may set up an experiment modeling the Greenhouse Effect using a glass terrarium and thermometers. (See Activity: Bounce Back in Janice VanCleave’s book Ecology for Every Kid.
  • Visit a local greenhouse

Bibliographical References:

  • VanCleave, Janice. Ecology for Every Kid. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0-471-100

Lesson Developed By:

Jill D. Somrak
Durango School District 9-R
Needham Elementary School
Durango, Colorado 81301

Amy Peters
Mona Shores Public Schools
Lincoln Park Elementary
Muskegon, MI 49441


Handout 1Print Handout 1

The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

Directions: Your student has prepared a presentation for you about The Greenhouse Effect and global warming. After listening to the presentation and reviewing the diagram, please answer the questions below, sign the bottom, and return this sheet to school.  Thank you!


1. How clear was the information about the Greenhouse Effect and global warming presented to you?


2. What parts, if any, of the Greenhouse Effect and global warming presentation did the student have trouble explaining?



3. What was the best part about the student’s presentation?  Why?



4.  What additional questions do you have about the Greenhouse Effect and global warming that were not answered during the presentation?




Parent/Guardian’s Signature ___________________________________________

Philanthropy Framework:


Rhonda, Teacher Taber, Canada11/29/2007 1:52:56 AM

A fantastic idea! This is everything brain-based learning says to do!

Lessie, Educator canton, MS12/15/2011 12:02:30 PM

This seems to be a great lesson plan. Can't wait to implement it.

Debbie, Educator Quezon City, Philippines11/23/2012 4:46:09 AM

This is a very good lesson plan on saving the environment.

Angela, Teacher Hadley, NY2/1/2014 4:38:05 PM

Wonderful lesson! I love the student involvement and movement. This is super to help the children grasp the concept of global warming. This is definitely a keeper!

fatima, Teacher karachi, Pakistan12/10/2014 9:33:01 AM

Very engaging and excellent activity in the classroom.

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Unit Contents:

Overview:The Heat Is On: A Unit Concerning Global Warming Summary


The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming
Causes, Effects, Solutions
Spread The Word

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