The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

3, 4, 5

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

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo 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 Handout One)
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 Handout One) and return it to school.


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


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Have them practice presenting global warming using their diagrams with peer partners.

  11. Hand out the Family Response Form (see Handout 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.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Define stewardship and give examples.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.