With so much discussion about climate change, I decided to devise a fun and educational experiment that can show kids the difference between air temperatures on a planet taken in the open ocean and on ice caps, like the Arctic and Antarctica.
We started with a few simple tools: a large glass bowl to represent the atmosphere of the planet, a few sheets of white and blue tissue paper to represent ice caps and the ocean, two thermometers for temperatures on the outside and inside of the bowl, a pad and pencil for documenting the temperature, a stop watch, and a sunny spot outside.
To start the experiment, we placed a few stacked sheets of white tissue paper on the ground and placed the bowl, with the thermometer attached inside, in the middle of the sheets. We then placed a thermometer on the outside of the bowl right next to the inside thermometer. This will give you an accurate reading of the inside and outside temperature of the bowl. Make sure to point the thermometers away from the sun so they don’t heat up too much!
On our chart, we documented the temperatures inside and outside the bowl, every five minutes. We made sure to take turns reading the thermometer, documenting the data on our pad and watching the clock. Once the temperatures looked stable, meaning they didn’t change, we stopped and noted the temperature as our true temperature for the environment. (Note: Before the experiment begins, make your predictions of what you think will happen and why, known as a hypothesis.) Then, we repeated the same experiment with the blue tissue paper. (The black tissue could be a third surface to represent the soil or asphalt that we use for roads…we ran out of time and direct sun light.)
The experiment was a great segue to talk about why the ice caps are important, and what may happen if they completely disappear. You can also talk about why having lighter or “living” roofs may be better than dark asphalt or metal roofs. For this reason, many architects take temperature into consideration when designing a building. What other professions would use this idea of light and dark for temperature control?
Let us know what happened in your experiment, and if you were able to successfully replicate the experiment.
The most important thing is to have fun and keep exploring!