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Climate change is a crisis already affecting people across the world. Educating current students will help prepare them to understand and take action now and in the future. As part of SFUSD's Chemistry curriculum, we integrated climate change throughout the spring semester and created 4 projects to encourage students to take action in the wider world.
As these projects do not require extensive chemistry knowledge (although they are enhanced with that understanding), we have created project only lessons that could be used by all science teachers.
- Project 1, Climate Change and Your Future, is based on an initial understanding of climate change and is located within Chapter 9 of the Chemistry book.
- Project 2, Community Climate Resilience, focuses on the impacts of sea level rise on several neighborhoods in San Francisco and is from Chapter 10.
- Project 3, Electricity Choices, asks students to compare different options to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from electricity usage, using the Drawdown.org website. It is in Chapter 13 of the Chemistry book.
- Project 4, Ocean Literacy for All, focuses on ocean acidification and how this impact of climate change can be felt by those living nowhere near the ocean. It is from Chapter 16.
Project 1: Climate Change and Your Future
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There are 7.8 billion humans on Earth in 2020 and there will be 9.8 billion by 2050. In 30 years the population will increase by 2 billion. How do that many people impact global climate? Even if the answer seems obvious, science still looks for evidence. That evidence is in different forms, for example temperature trends, glacier lengths, and ocean acidity increases.
In this Project students notice trends in carbon dioxide and the temperature of Earth. But describing what’s happening isn’t enough, not for talented problem-solvers. Students will want to know why and help others understand why. That is, they'll want to make a connection between cause and effect.
To help others understand “why”, students will consider different sources of temperature change and the impacts of humans. Remember, knowledge is a work in progress. Students build their understanding during the project. Complex, real-world answers take time. But understanding climate change is worth it! So is our planet.
Note: This is a shortened version of the NGSS Chemistry Chapter 9. The chapter is a more thorough introduction to climate change and does not require any chemistry knowledge. If you have the time, we highly recommend doing the entire chapter, which should take approximately 2 ½ weeks.
Project 2: Community Climate Resilience
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Sea level rise is already affecting San Francisco annually during king tides. Water rises up over the sea wall and onto the Embarcadero. Other areas around the world are flooded even longer during the year.
In this project students will look at predicted sea level rises in the San Francisco Bay area and consider the consequences on the population that lives in certain neighborhoods that will be impacted the earliest. The goal is to start thinking about the potential impacts on themselves and the city of San Francisco and to make recommendations for action.
Note: This project is at the end of NGSS Chemistry Chapter 10, which introduces the chemistry topics of heat capacity, thermal expansion, and phase changes.
Project 3: Electricity Choices
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Climate change is a concern and combustion of fossil fuels used for both transportation and electricity production contributes a large quantity of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The transportation sector produces about 25% of the US’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The generation of electricity releases even more, 32%. Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases produced by the transportation and electricity sectors would help significantly combat climate change.
So what can someone do? In this project, students investigate possible changes in electricity production. The small, do-able solutions that people can institute in their homes (turning off lights and power strips when not in use; turning down electric heaters at night; only opening the refrigerator door when you need some food) are important -- but they won’t solve the climate crisis! We need to think about systems change at regional, state and national scales.
The students' goal is to make recommendations for large scale changes in the electricity sector in the form of an infographic. They learn about infographics in Part A, then create one in Part B.
Note: This project is the end of NGSS Chemistry Chapter 13. The chapter focuses on fuels for transportation and the chemistry topics of the mole and stoichiometry.
Project 4: Ocean Literacy for All
Acid-base reactions take place in San Francisco Bay and in oceans everywhere. For millions of years, oceans had a pH around 8.2. That’s slightly basic. But things have changed. With increases in atmospheric CO2 levels, the acid-base balance is changing toward increasing acidity (lower pH). This impacts all life in the oceans and that impacts all life on Earth.
In this Project, students learn about acid-base reactions that take place in the ocean and how carbon dioxide is affecting ocean systems. The students' goal is to use this knowledge to understand ocean acidification and help others understand the impact on their lives.
Note: This project is the end of NGSS Chemistry Chapter 16. In the Chapter, students learn about acids and bases and pH and ocean changes.
This page was last updated on September 9, 2022