Translate this page

Lesson Ideas

Teaching Activities About Energy & Climate Change

This collection highlights teaching activities, hands-on lessons, and online simulations we found on the web that can help students learn about energy and climate change. They are created by science educators and partner education organizations. Just as all our original content is free, we only recommend external resources that are free for teachers.

1. Greenhouse Effect Lab

This activity is offered by National Geographic‘s Education division as an extension of its article on the greenhouse effect. In this 5-page PDF lesson plan, students compare simulated atmosphere’s with and without greenhouse gases.

Image from Nat Geo

  • Activity: PDF
  • Topic: greenhouse gases, greenhouse effect
  • Level: middle school, high school

2. Climate Change Curriculum

This activity set is offered by Stanford University’s Doerr School of Sustainability as part of its K-12 Outreach programming. It offers a 6-lesson middle school version and 7-lesson high school version of a comprehensive, multi-day lesson plan on global climate. Each lesson begins with a warm-up activity (“bellwork”), core instructional activities with presentations and videos, and can also include homework assignments.

Image from Stanford University

3. Polar Climate Change Lessons

This collection is offered by the American Museum of Natural History and supported financially by a National Science Foundation grant to Columbia University (2012). These lessons focus on climate change in polar regions. Across 11 PDF lesson plans, students will learn about glaciers, the carbon cycle, food webs, ocean acidification, and the greenhouse effect.

Image from AMNH

  • Collection: web page
  • Topic: polar region, glaciers, carbon cycle, food webs, ocean acidification, greenhouse effect
  • Level: middle school, high school

4. Nuclear Science Activities

This activity set is offered by Nuclear Science Week (NSW), an organization affiliated with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Nuclear Science. NSW was established to promote a week-long celebration of nuclear science research and applications that began in 2010. This set of lesson plans includes simulations, games, and hands-on demonstrations that teach nuclear science, differentiated by grade level: two for elementary school, 15 for middle school, and 18 for high school.

Image from NSW

  • Collection: web page
  • Topic: nuclear science, radioactivity, atomic energy, fuel cycle, fission
  • Level: varies

5. Hurricane Data Activity

This activity is offered by PBS NewsHour Classroom, which offers classroom extensions from the news as reported by PBS NewsHour. In this activity, first published in 2017 and updated in 2022, students observe data from the 2017 hurricane season to look at how climate change is impacting the severity of storms. The lesson includes videos and discussion topics.

Image from PBS

  • Activity: web page
  • Topic: hurricanes, weather patterns, climate impact
  • Level: middle school, high school

6. Fossil Fuels Games

BrainPOP was founded in 1999 by Dr. Avraham Kadar – a trained pediatrician and immunologist – as a creative way to explain difficult concepts to his young patients. The company hosts a huge portfolio of play-based learning. This web-based lesson plan walks students through how fossil fuels form, how they are used, and how they impact the environment. The collection features a variety of interactive instructional resources, including videos, readings, quizzes, and online games.

Image from BrainPOP

7. Carbon Dioxide Capture Lab

This activity is a 2010 offering of Science Friday, a radio show and podcast distributed by the WNYC public radio station. In this activity, teachers conduct a demonstration lab of capturing carbon dioxide by helping students create carbonated beverages. Note that the original video that is linked is no longer available, but there are some alternatives: a Radio IQ broadcast shares the same material as the intended video, and a 2020 Sci Fri podcast episode explores the related topic of atmospheric carbon dioxide trapped in fossils and ice.

Image from SciFri

9. Carbon Footprint Activity

This activity is offered by Oregon State University’s Bioenergy Education Initiative with funding from the USDA prior to 2015. In this activity, students will assess and analyze their carbon footprint using online calculators and surveys.

Image from OSU

  • Activity: PDF
  • Topic: bioenergy, carbon footprint
  • Level: middle school, high school

That’s Not All!

Check out our full collections of articles on Climate Change and Renewable Energy. Each article comes with tailored teaching resources, lessons, labs, and other activities for your students.

Title image by Marcin Jozwiak

Share this Lesson Idea

Check out this Related lesson idea

Latest Scientific Articles

We want to hear from you!

If you are a teacher and you used some of our resources in class, we want your feedback! Please fill out this Teacher Feedback survey!

Journal funding support from:

Recommended by: