ALEX Lesson Plan


Consequence of Burning Fossil Fuels

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Bonnie Howard
System: Madison City
School: Madison Elementary School
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34529


Consequence of Burning Fossil Fuels


In this lesson, students will explore a consequence of burning fossil fuels: the greenhouse effect. By the end of the lesson, students will be able to interpret data to explain the greenhouse effect on temperature and how various human activities could cause changes in local and global temperature over time. 

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

Lesson modified from Global Climate Change and Sea Level Rise plan from the California Academy of Science

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
Earth and Space Science
14 ) Analyze and interpret data (e.g., tables, graphs, maps of global and regional temperatures; atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane; rates of human activities) to describe how various human activities (e.g., use of fossil fuels, creation of urban heat islands, agricultural practices) and natural processes (e.g., solar radiation, greenhouse effect, volcanic activity) may cause changes in local and global temperatures over time.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
E8.7a: The atmosphere is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and trace gases that include water vapor.

NAEP Statement::
E8.7b: The atmosphere has a different physical and chemical composition at different elevations.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Crosscutting Concepts: Stability and Change
Disciplinary Core Idea: Earth's Systems
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Analyze data to describe how various human activities may cause changes in local and global temperatures over time.
  • Interpret data to describe how various human activities may cause changes in local and global temperatures over time.
  • Analyze data to describe how various natural processes may cause changes in local and global temperatures over time.
  • Interpret data to describe how various natural processes may cause changes in local and global temperatures over time.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Natural processes
  • Human activities
  • Global temperatures
  • Mean surface temperature
  • Global warming
  • Solar radiation
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Volcanic activity
  • Fossil fuels
  • Combustion
  • Urban heat islands
  • Agriculture
  • Natural systems
  • Carbon dioxide (gases)
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Concentration
  • Atmosphere
  • Climate change
Students know:
  • Natural processes and/or human activities may have affected the patterns of change in global temperatures over the past century, leading to the current rise in Earth's mean surface temperature (global warming).
  • Natural processes may include factors such as changes in incoming solar radiation, the greenhouse effect, or volcanic activity.
  • Human activities may include factors such as fossil fuel combustion, the creation of urban heat islands, and agricultural activity.
  • Natural processes and/or human activities may lead to a gradual or sudden change in global temperatures in natural systems (e.g., glaciers and arctic ice, and plant and animal seasonal movements and life cycle activities).
  • Natural processes and/or human activities may have led to changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the past century.
  • Patterns in data connect natural processes and human activities to changes in global temperatures over the past century.
  • Patterns in data connect the changes in natural processes and/or human activities related to greenhouse gas production to changes in the concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.
Students are able to:
  • Organize given data on various human activities, natural processes, and changes in local and global temperatures to allow for analysis and interpretation.
  • Analyze the data to identify possible causal relationships between human activities and natural processes and changes in local and global temperature over time.
  • Interpret patterns observed from the data to provide causal accounts for events and make predictions for events by constructing explanations.
Students understand that:
  • Human activities and natural processes may affect local and global temperatures over time.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Understanding Weather and Climate

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.6.14- Interpret data (e.g., tables, graphs) to determine changes in local and global temperatures over time; identify human activities (e.g. the use of fossil fuels) and natural processes (e.g. volcanic activity) as causes of these changes in temperatures.

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will be able to

  1. analyze and interpret experiment data to describe changes in temperature over time. 
  2. recommend solutions for reducing use of fossil fuels.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

91 to 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Technology Resources Needed:

Computer/Smart Board

Student computers (optional)

NASA video:


Students should be familiar with the following terms:

  • fossil fuel: an energy-rich substance such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas formed from the remains of organisms
  • global warming or climate change: the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature of Earth’s surface, caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gasses
  • greenhouse gasses: gasses in Earth’s atmosphere that absorb infrared radiation and trap heat. Some greenhouse gasses are naturally occurring compounds (like water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane) while others are human-made (like gasses used for aerosols)
  • renewable resource: a resource that is never used up (e.g., solar energy)
  • non-renewable resource: a resource that is not replaceable after its use (e.g., coal, gas)

Some important preparation activities: 

  • Thermometers: Are they both calibrated the same? If one thermometer isn’t reading the temperature correctly, this will throw off your data. You can check this by putting both thermometers in the same beaker of warm water. If they don’t read the same temperature, then at least one of them is wrong.
  • Heat: If the beakers aren’t getting the same amount of heat from the lamps, this will also change your results. Are the bulbs the same wattage? Are they close enough, and the same distance, to each of the beakers?
  • Cling wrap: Make sure you have a tight seal on the top of each beaker, or the CO2 will slowly escape.



Review terms: fossil fuels, climate change, and air pollution, greenhouse effect.
Ask students what they think happens when fossil fuels are burned. Turn and talk.  Many students know that burning anything will lead to air pollution, so use this as an opportunity to introduce the concept of greenhouse gasses.

Watch NASA greenhouse gas video. 

Ask students to turn and talk to describe their new knowledge about what happens when fossil fuels are burned. (formative)


Explain that a model is something that represents an object or process, typically on a smaller scale. In this model, we are representing what happens during the greenhouse effect on our planet by using a smaller model with visible results to help us understand this process. 

Introduce the model. Beaker 1 will represent the Earth without the additional greenhouse gasses. Beaker 2 will represent the Earth with extra carbon dioxide forming an added barrier, keeping more heat in. The Alka-Seltzer tablets will form CO2 gas as they dissolve in the water.

Make a prediction: Students should record what they predict will happen to the temperature in the beaker without the Alka Seltzer and the beaker with the Alka Seltzer in their science journals (cause and effect).

  1. Distribute the greenhouse effect data sheets (options: display data sheet on Smart Board and ask students to copy into their science notebook or upload document to Google Classroom and allow students to complete.

  2. Use the modeling clay to attach a thermometer to each beaker. It should be angled with the tip inside but not touching the edge. Make sure each thermometer is the same distance in, approximately 5cm from the beaker edge to the tip of the thermometer is a good distance. 

  3. Add 200mL of water to each of the beakers.
  4. Prepare your lamps. Set them up next to each other with the necks angled so they will just fit over the tops of the beakers. Turn them on so they are ready.
  5. Have students record the starting temperature – it should be the same in both beakers.
  6. Add both Alka-Seltzer tablets to one of the beakers (beaker 2), and immediately cover both beakers with cling wrap. A tight seal around the edge will work best, and make sure thermometers are left visible so you can record the temperature.
  7. Slide each beaker under one lamp and turn it so the thermometer is visible. 
  8. Record the temperature in both beakers every 5 minutes for 30 minutes or until the temperatures stabilize.  

Students should take turns recording temperatures and making observations on their data recording sheet. (formative)

Review the questions at the bottom of the data sheet with the class: (Analyze and Interpret data) (formative)

  • What is happening to the temperature in beaker 1? Why? What is happening to the temperature in beaker 2? Why?
  • How is this similar to what is happening on Earth?
  • What are two problems that are caused by global climate change? (cause and effect) 

Discuss with the students:

  • What are some of the problems associated with using fossil fuels for energy? (The problems/issues with this effect are more drought and more flooding, less ice and snow, more extreme weather incidents, rising sea level.)
  • What are some human activities that contribute to the greenhouse effect? (burning fossil fuels, clearing of land)
  • What are some things that we can do to lessen these problems in our world? (conserve energy, use more efficient technology that consumes less energy, encourage the use of renewable energy sources)
  • What are some things students can do in their lives to use less fossil fuels? (unplug electronics, use less water, recycling, wear used clothing)

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Assessment Strategies

Teacher observation

Assessment strategy Framed Paragraph Cause and Effect


Create a global warming project

Global Warming Project with rubric


Small group game: greenhouse gas attack

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.