Greenhouse Gas Jeopardy

Introduction
This jeopardy game is designed to help students interpret graphs and diagrams related to atmospheric greenhouse gases. The jeopardy game is accessible online and there is a printable greenhouse gas information sheet that accompanies the game and is intended for students to use in search for answers to jeopardy statements.

Credits
This activity was developed by Sharon Feather, AirWaterGas Teacher-in-Residence and Joanna Gordon, AirWaterGas researcher at University of Colorado.

Grade Level: 7-12

Time Required
Multimedia Version:

  • Teacher Preparation Time: 10 minutes
  • Class Time: 30-40 minutes

Hands-on printable version:

  • Teacher Preparation Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Class Time: 40-55 minutes

Learning Goal
Big Idea: Human generated greenhouse gas concentrations are increasing in the Earth’s atmosphere each year.

Students will be able to identify economic sources that contribute to the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.
Students will be able to name to the three major greenhouse gas pollutants and their chemical formulas.
Students will be able to list examples of human activity that contribute to increased emissions of the three major greenhouse gases.
Students will be able to compare the heat trap capabilities of an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide to methane and nitrous oxide.

Lesson Format
Multimedia interactive game, hands-on printable version.

Standards

Next Generation Science Standards

MS and HS-ESS2.D Earth’s Systems: Weather and Climate

MS and HS-ESS3.D Earth and Human Activity: Global Climate Change

Materials

Multimedia version of the game

Low-tech version

  • One copy of GHG Jeopardy Student Version printed double sided and cut apart
  • Tape that is easily removed
  • Small white boards – one per team – and markers (optional)

Preparation

  • Print 12 color copies (front and back) of the GHG Jeopardy Info Sheet on 8.5” x 14” paper.
  • Review answers, questions, and the information on the Info Sheet
  • For the multimedia version, access the link to the Interactive Greenhouse Gas Jeopardy Game and project on screen.
  • For the low-tech version, print GHG Jeopardy Student Version, cut the sheets into categories, use tape to attached the cards to the board with the numbers facing the students. Write categories on the board for each set of cards.
  • Print the GHG Jeopardy KEY for your reference.

Introduction
The Greenhouse Gas Jeopardy Game helps students become more familiar with characteristics of greenhouse gases as well as the terminology and data that are used to describe greenhouse gases.

Directions

  1. Introduce the lesson: Access prior knowledge by asking students what they know about the greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases.  How do these gases affect temperature? What are the types of greenhouse gases? Tell students that in this lesson they will learn more about the different types of greenhouse gases while playing a Jeopardy game.
  2. Divide students into 12 small groups and give each pair a GHG Jeopardy Info Sheet and a small while board and marker (optional). For the online game, give each team a number (1-12). For the low-tech game, white team notes on the board.
  3. Allow students a few minutes to review the information on the Info Sheet. Tell them that the information that they will need to know to play this game is on the Info Sheet.
  4. Review the rules of Jeopardy: that one team selects a category and dollar amount, an answer is read, and then all teams have the opportunity to state the question that fits with the answer. The team that raises their hands first will get to try to answer first.
  5. Select a team to start the game.  Instruct students to choose a category.
  6. For the online game, click the first tile in that category to see the answer. For the low-tech game, take the paper off the board and read the back.
  7. The team with the first hand up gives their response in the form of a question.
  8. For the online game, select “Correct Response” to check the answer.  If correct, select the green “+” below the team number to add points. If incorrect, select the red “-“ to deduct points. For the low-tech game, track numbers of correct answers on the board.
  9. The next team picks a category and steps 6-8 are repeated until all the tiles have been selected.

Assessment
Each team will refer to the GHG Jeopardy Info Sheet and write a statement and answer to add to the bank of jeopardy squares for the class. Alternatively, create a new category and each team will create a jeopardy statement and answer for the new category. After the game, have each team provide a written response to the following questions using the Info Sheet.

  • Are greenhouse gases increasing? Explain.
  • What atmospheric gases are contributing to the greenhouse effect? Explain.
  • How is human activity contributing to greenhouse gas concentrations
  • Why is it important to monitor greenhouse gases?
  • Compare and contrast the use of coal versus natural gas as a source of electricity and how they add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Background information
Most scientists believe that human activity is altering the composition of the atmosphere by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere and their presence results in what atmospheric scientists call the greenhouse effect. It is important to remember that the greenhouse effect is what keeps the earth warm enough to be habitable. The current concern is directed at an enhanced greenhouse effect, one that would put more heat-absorbing gases into the atmosphere, thereby increasing global temperatures. Below, are graphs depicting carbon dioxide concentration over time and global temperatures over time.

The recent attention given to the greenhouse effect and global warming is based on the recorded increases in concentrations of some of the greenhouse gases due to human activity. Of particular interest are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone. With the exception of chlorofluorocarbons, all of these gases occur naturally and are also produced by human activity.

Water vapor is the most important GHG on the planet. Unlike most of the other atmospheric gases, water vapor is considered to be a ‘variable’ gas; that is, the percentage of water vapor in the atmosphere can vary greatly depending on the location and source of the air. When discussing global warming, however, people often don’t consider water vapor. Why not? The main reason is that human activity is not directly changing water vapor content. However, we do directly influence other GHGs.

Carbon dioxide CO2 is considered the most important human-influenced GHG. Scientific measurements reveal an unmistakable global increase that is rapid and escalating. This increase arises primarily from the burning of fossil fuels (motorized vehicles, electric power plants, and homes heated with gas or oil) and the burning and clearing of forested land for agricultural purposes.

Methane CH4 is largely a product of natural biologic processes, but its output can be accelerated by human activities. CH4 is emitted from the decay of organic matter in waterlogged soils (for example, wetlands and rice paddies) and from the digestive tracts of grazing animals (for example, ruminants). The additions from human activities include the expansion of rice agriculture, the increased number of livestock, the increased number of landfills, and leakage from natural gas pipelines.

Nitrous oxide N2O is a naturally occurring GHG, which has increased significantly in recent years due to human activity. N2O is emitted from coal-burning power plants and can be released from the breakdown of chemical fertilizers in the soil.

The concentrations of these GHG are increasing. Most of the emissions come from the more developed countries, where power generation, power consumption, and living standards are highest.

Greenhouses are used extensively by botanists, commercial plant growers, and dedicated gardeners. Particularly in cool climates, greenhouses are useful for growing and propagating plants because they both allow sunlight to enter and prevent heat from escaping. The transparent covering of the greenhouse allows visible light to enter unhindered, where it warms the interior as it is absorbed by the material within. The transparent covering also prevents the heat from leaving by reflecting the energy back into the interior and preventing outside winds from carrying it away.

Like the greenhouse covering, our atmosphere also serves to retain heat at the surface of the earth. Much of the sun’s energy reaches earth as visible light. Of the visible light that enters the atmosphere, about 30% is reflected back out into space by clouds, snow and ice-covered land, sea surfaces, and atmospheric dust. The rest is absorbed by the liquids, solids, and gases that constitute our planet. The energy absorbed is eventually reemitted, but not as visible light (only very hot objects such as the sun can emit visible light). Instead, it’s emitted as longer-wavelength light called infrared radiation. This is also called “heat” radiation, because although we cannot see in infrared, we can feel its presence as heat. This is what you feel when you put your hand near the surface of a hot skillet. Certain gases in our atmosphere (known as “trace” gases because they make up only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere) can absorb this outgoing infrared radiation, in effect trapping the heat energy. This trapped heat energy makes the earth warmer than it would be without these trace gases.

The ability of certain trace gases to be relatively transparent to incoming visible light from the sun yet opaque to the energy radiated from earth is one of the best-understood processes in atmospheric science. This phenomenon has been called the “greenhouse effect” because the trace gases trap heat similar to the way that a greenhouse’s transparent covering traps heat. Without our atmospheric greenhouse effect, earth’s surface temperature would be far below freezing. On the other hand, an increase in atmospheric trace gases in recent decades has resulted in more trapped heat and rising global temperatures.