Classroom Close Up: Climate Change in a Bottle – Overview
with Suney Park
Suney: "We're gonna get started with our, um, experiment that we've been preparing for. You guys know..."
Today in class, you were watching my sixth graders take what they've been learning about climate change, specifically the greenhouse effect, and with this experiment, make the greenhouse effect happen right before their eyes.
"Alright. Scientists, scholars, and climate change researchers, are you ready?"
Suney: "When I say 'Go!', you're gonna turn the light on. Do your best. 5..4..3..2..1 Go!"
In our model, the light bulb is the sun. For the earth, a soda bottle. Anything that can be broken down to the basics can be taught.
"Why is the greenhouse effect important? And, what does it have to do with climate change? Roberto?"
Student: "Like, if CO2, well, the main question is will temperature change if carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere?"
I wanted the students to have an experience. So they designed the experiment themselves. All I did was show them a soda bottle and I said "How can we re-create the earth and its atmosphere in this model?"
"I could test it out by look, by doing something to this model."
And then they told me what to add to it.
"So, you guys said, why don't we add some, um, carbon dioxide to one of the bottles. True?"
So they designed each of the four experiments. They were specifically adding different variables to what would be the atmosphere.
"If you are a plant person, you're gonna put one of the thriving plants in, and then you're gonna put whatever else you need too - your thermometer, which are over here."
Before doing the experiment, we had to talk about the setup. And, not just like, let them go right away, but we had to really um, make it so it was broken down into steps. OK, so first, we're gonna take our bottle.
"The caps need to be put on. It's gonna be a closed system."
Second, we're gonna cut off the top.
"Carefully, in the most scholarly way, you're gonna puncture with one of the ends..."
And, just in little chunks like that, for them to be able to um, take it all in at once. And, so it's important to have the materials already ready, and to be able to show them where everything is and to give them a specific location in the room where to go. Um, I think that really simplifies things for both the teacher and um, the students.
"One...two....and then we're gonna say 'Execute.'"
Suney: I believe that the goal of teaching and the activities that you choose should be to make learning fun.
"Tell someone next to you, 'Take that data!'"
Student: "Take that data, Naya!"
Student: "Good luck, Naya!"
Suney: "Here we go"
Because if you make it fun and exciting, then they're interested and they're motivated, and then they will stay with you.
Student: "Oh yeah! Mine is going up a little!!"
Student: "Yeah, mine went up a half."
Student: "Yeah, me too!"
Suney: Especially as scientists, they also have to see a relevance to their life, and a relevance to the world.
"What was your hypothesis?"
Student: "That the one with the CO2 was gonna be hotter than the one without."
Student: "'Cause the CO2, like in real life, it's making us warmer, so in the bottle, it's making that plant warmer..."
Student: "Greenhouse gas."
Suney: When I see my students make connections between what they're learning and what's going on in the world, it is so powerful and it's so amazing, and it makes you feel like what you're doing is making a difference.
Student: "No, it's a half."
Suney: "Take 4."
Suney: I feel like I am creating scientists. Being a scientist is how you see the world.
Suney: You see the world and if you're aware enough, you're gonna have a question. And, what do you do to get that question answered? Science, it's a way of thinking, and it's a way of being rather than a profession or a title. Whether it's science or any subject, I want them to observe, and I want them to think about something and to question something and then to have enough confidence and enough motivation to actually do something about it to figure out the answer.