Resources for Grades 6-8 Activities – The Global Climate & Burning Issues

Using data collected from Mauna Loa, students graph changes in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the course of several decades and identify possible reasons for those changes. They will also explore the relationship among CO2, the Earth’s climate, and local ecosystems and suggest ways to reduce the effects of increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

For the complete activity and more like this, purchase the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide or the Nature of Fire activity collection at and/or attend a professional development training in your state.

Below are some supporting resources for this activity.


Download the copyright-free student pages that are included with this activity:

Mauna Loa Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations (PDF)

Spanish Student Page:

Concentraciones de CO2 atmosférico de Mauna Loa (PDF)


The following tools and resources may be used to enhance the activity.

  • Visualizations and Data for Climate Change Communication

    One of the best ways to understand data is to visualize it. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) conducts scientific research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behavior. Data is compiled from public opinion and messaging research, using surveys, experiments, qualitative methods, statistical models, maps and participatory GIS, among other methods. View YPCCC’s Visualizations & Data to explore climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy support at every geographic level in the United States.

  • En-ROADS

    En-ROADS is a climate change solutions simulator, developed by Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, that gives everyone the chance to design their own scenarios to limit future global warming. It models scenarios for how changes in our energy supply, land-use, transportation, carbon removal, and more, can affect a variety of climate change impacts, from global temperature change to sea level rise. This is a free tool that was developed for policy makers and it includes resources to help educators use it successfully in their classroom with middle and high school students.

  • Podcast: Keys to Climate Change

    Keys to Climate Change.” Trees Are Key, Episode 310. The first 8-minute segment of this podcast explores why trees are key for addressing climate change through forest capture of atmospheric CO2, storing carbon in wood products, and helping communities be more climate resilient. Geared for adults, Trees Are Key is a series of over 300 podcasts by Texas A&M Forest Service. See for the full list.

  • Video: The Carbon Cycle and the Forest!

    The Carbon Cycle and the Forest!” This 7:20-minute video explains the carbon cycle’s connection to forests, and describes how managing trees and using wood products can help forests absorb more carbon dioxide. It is one of a series of BeLeaf It or Not! videos by Michigan State University Extension, which are geared for students.

  • Video: Photosynthesis and Respiration in Trees

    Photosynthesis and Respiration in Trees.” This 5:41-minute video explains the two important chemical processes that occur in trees: photosynthesis and respiration. It is one of a series of BeLeaf It or Not! videos by Michigan State University Extension, which are geared for students.

  • The Importance of Forests in Mitigating Climate Change

    Use this 1:38-minute video to begin a discussion on connections between forests and climate change.  Jad Daley, President and CEO of American Forests, briefly describes how forests are already working for us as a climate solution, and that enhancing forests through efforts of SFI and forest owners can increase their impact.

  • Earth Now

    If your students have an Apple or Android device and are interested in Earth Science, Earth Now is a free, 3D app that displays real-time global satellite data of the planet. Students can view carbon dioxide conditions, gravity anomalies, ozone levels over Antarctica, and more. Find more science apps to use with your students in our article 12 Engaging Science Apps for Middle and High School Students and make screen-time fun and educational for them!  

  • What Can Trees Tell Us About Climate Change?

    Learn about the connection between trees and climate change, how tree rings can tell a story about past weather events, and the methods by which scientists are recording this data. What Can Trees Tell Us About Climate Change? is a resource offered by NASA’s Climate Kids, designed for upper-elementary students. Find images, fact sheets, activities, games, and articles on this and a variety of other topics—including the atmosphere, water, energy, and weather—to help tell the story of our changing planet in ways that are accessible and engaging.

  • Poster: Animals at Risk from Climate Change

    Animals at Risk from Climate Change is an educational poster developed by the Global Education Project. The poster presents a succinct overview of the fundamental impacts of greenhouse gases and features 25 animals currently at risk because of climate change. Through illustrations, symbols and brief explanatory text, learn about the biological traits and environmental conditions that cause a species to be susceptible to climate change. This 24″ x 30″ poster is available in folded, flat, and laminated formats.

  • Cloud Lab

    Covering 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, clouds can provide clues about the weather and climate. Using NOVA’s Cloud Lab tool, students will learn about cloud typing and storm prediction. They’ll learn how scientists use sophisticated instruments and data to study the development of Earth’s most powerful storms and better predict their impacts. Then use the same tools to investigate storms developing right now. Cloud Lab includes four activities, a series of videos, interviews with scientists and quizzes. 

  • How Much Hotter is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born?

    This Interactive Climate Change Model, developed by the New York Times, asks: How much hotter is your hometown than when you were born? Global temperatures continue to rise each year and in many parts of the world temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit will become more frequent. Discover how much warmer your hometown is now than when you were born and investigate future projections.

  • The Power of Trees

    For a quick estimate of how trees in your area offset carbon emissions, reduce flood risks, and improve air quality, check out this Power of Trees tool developed by Climate Central. Choose your city from the dropdown menu to quantify the benefits of trees in terms of number of tons of CO2 equivalent removed; number of gallons of storm runoff avoided, and number of pounds of air pollution absorbed. The Power of Trees tool utilizes i-Tree software, developed by the U.S. Forest Service, that measures the impact of trees on many scales. PLT recently developed an accompanying Teaching with i-Tree unit for middle and high school students to discover and analyze the many ecosystem services that trees provide. Students input data they collect in their neighborhood to calculate the dollar value of the benefits provided by a tree, or a set of trees. Educators can download this Teaching with i-Tree unit for free.

  • Offset Carbon Emissions

    Want to help cut back on carbon emissions and slow the pace of global climate change? Check out this NASA produced educational game called OFFSET, appropriate for all ages. In the game you will see how CO2 is produced from burning coal and by gasoline powered cars. Playing the game, you will have to offset these carbon emissions by investing in clean wind energy farms, solar power, and/or electric cars.

  • Animals at Risk from Climate Change Poster

    This poster captures the complex interaction of biological traits and environmental conditions that cause a species to be susceptible to climate change. Thoroughly documented to studies from reliable sources, including the IUCN Climate Change Specialist Group, NASA, NOAA, the US EPA, and the IPCC, the poster features 25 animals that highlight the fundamental impacts of greenhouse gases—causes, effects and risk of extinction—on all forms of life on the planet.

  • Timeline of Earth’s Temperature

    It can be difficult to visually represent climate change. This illustrated timeline of the Earth’s average temperature since the last Ice Age glaciation demonstrates the exponential increase in temperature in today’s world. The piece is a wonderful demonstration of how rapidly the climate is changing compared to historic data. 

  • Cornucopia

    A STEM education simulation game from the California Academy of Sciences called Cornucopia is a free online resource. The game teaches students in grades 5-12 about natural resource use and management, the effect of climate conditions on water availability and food production, and the way agricultural technology impacts water use.  

  • Desmos Graphing Calculator

    Desmos creates digital math tools, such as this online graphing calculator that students can use for free. They also create activities and their Activity Builder helps teachers create digital math activities. The online calculator has many uses in science and math settings, from graphing functions, plotting tables of data, and evaluating equations, to exploring transformations and more. It is also available as a smartphone app. Read the Desmos blog for tips and ideas for using the calculator in the classroom. 

  • Carbon Cycle: A Musical

    This Carbon Cycle Song and accompanying materials can serve as a great introductory activity to the carbon cycle. The Carbon Cycle Song teaches students about the movement of carbon through the environment, as well as different processes that carbon undergoes to change pools. Accompanying materials include a quiz and brief background information.

  • Greenland’s Petermann Ice Shelf

    Take a journey to Greenland’s largest ice shelf, in this Washington Post article.  Students can watch or read about a once-doubtful scientist whose first hand experiences changed his mind about the role of climate change in the global environment.  Students can learn about climate research and the types of problems scientists see in the field.   

  • Climate and Health

    Developed over three years by experts in climate-change science and public health The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment examines how climate change is a significant threat to our health.

  • Climate Science: Education and Stewardship Projects

    The NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project (PSEP) provides formal and informal educators working with elementary through university age students with sustained professional development, collaborative tools, and support to build a climate-literate public actively engaged in climate stewardship. PSEP also provides support for educators to develop and execute climate stewardship projects with students to increase understanding of climate science and take practical actions to reduce the impacts of climate change.

  • The Story of Climate Change – Free Interactive Textbook for Grades 5-8

    Earth Day Network has published The Story of Climate Change, an interactive, digital textbook for middle school students. Use this iTextbook with grades 5-8 to teach climate science through multimedia resources that allow students to explore videos, graphs, and animations of forests, coral reefs, and glaciers with a touch of the screen. The book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device. A Teacher’s Guide is also available on Earth Day Network’s website. It includes in-depth activity lesson plans, Next Generation Science Standard Alignments, student action plans, and handy resources to help educators make the most out of every chapter.

  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Low-Income Communities

    Investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate protection programs is an important way for state and local governments to provide a variety of benefits to low-income communities, including energy cost savings, job creation, improved air quality, and healthier homes. EPA’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Low-Income Communities guide helps state and local staff connect with local and national initiatives that can assist them in expanding or developing their own EE and climate initiatives in ways that benefit low-income communities.

  • Water Calculator and Conservation Tips

    The GRACE Water Program is home to the Water Footprint Calculator, which estimates the water you use directly from the tap as well as the “virtual water” that goes into producing your food, clothing, and more. The program provides tools, tips and information on water conservation.

  • Carbon Cycle Activity

    Carbon Cycle Activity (similar to “Water Wonders” Water Cycle activity) developed by Carlyn Nichols, PLT educator in Seward, Alaska. Helps relate the carbon cycle to climate change.

  • Greenhouse Effect

    What is the greenhouse effect? You can use this animated guide of the Greenhouse Effect to learn what it is and how human activities effect it. 

  • Climate Change around the World

    An article in BBC News that discusses impacts of global warming in countries around the world and in major sectors of society: health, water, food, ecosystems, coasts, and industry.

  • NOAA- Global Warming

    Great site to find questions and answers about global warming from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Questions include: Is global warming happening? and Is sea level rising? Other info provided: definitions of the greenhouse effect, the relationship of El Niño and global warming, and sources for more information.


    The Alliance to Save Energy’s Energy Hog campaign is educating teachers, kids and parents about energy efficiency.  Why?  Saving energy lessens our dependence on foreign oil, improves our air and water quality, and reduces our energy bills.  To help spread energy efficiency in the classroom, print out Student and Teacher Guides or explore the rest of the site, including the interactive Hog and Seek game.  

  • Weather Wiz

    At this website, students learn to forecast the weather like a professional meteorologist.  Visit the website and click on “Wiz School” to learn basic information about weather, images of storms and clouds, activities to help develop forecasting skills, and how-to methods for forecasting different weather events.  Users can also access long-range weather forecasts up to two years out, for locations across the United States and the globe.

  • Water Calculator

    The H2O Conserve Water Calculator is a short survey that will get you thinking about how much water you use, and how water connects to almost every aspect of your life. The Conserve Water Calculator compares individual daily water usage with the national average. It also provides suggestions of how to save more water using improved practices. Beyond the calculator, the site provides valuable educational materials and activities to engage students in water conservation issues.

  • Earth from Space

    This Smithsonian Institution website provides students (and teachers!) access to views of conditions and events on earth that are nearly impossible to document from the Earth’s surface. The site proves interactive; explaining how satellite imagery is gathered and used to better understand the world around us.

  • View a Location from Space

    If classes are interested in looking at their school from space (or their house – for that matter) they can try the Mapmaker from National Geographic or Google Maps.  

  • The Smithsonian Institution’s Tree Banding Project

    Citizen science programs involve students and teachers contributing to ongoing scientific work. Sign up to participate in The Smithsonian Institution’s Tree Banding Project and contribute to research about tree biomass, and how trees respond to climate. Students around the globe will monitor the rate at which their local trees grow, and learn how that rate corresponds to Smithsonian research, as well as compare their work to other students worldwide. Schools will be selected for participation based on location and when they apply. If selected, the Smithsonian will mail a kit that includes everything students will need to get started.

  • International Carbon Footprint Challenge

    International Carbon Footprint Challenge unites high school students worldwide as they calculate their individual footprints using an online “footprint calculator” and post class data on a world map. Students then enter discussions about their footprints and how to work toward solutions to globally shared environmental issues.

  • EarthViewer App

    Have you ever wondered what the Earth looked like 400 million years ago? With EarthViewer, a free iPad application, users can explore the Earth’s geologic history. The app tracks the planet’s continental shifts, changes in climate, and explores biodiversity levels over the last 540 million years. Combining visual analysis withe hard data, the app can help students make connections between geological and biological change. 

  • Connect4Climate Student Video

    Connect4Climate is an ongoing project between University of Maryland students and the World Bank. The video represents 50 sociology students’ perspectives after visiting the World Bank in Washington, DC. The video shows students’ passion and enthusiasm towards connecting other people, adults and students alike, to issues of climate change, “right here, right now, together.”

  • Zero Carbon

    A free app that can be downloaded for Apple devices. Zero Carbon can calculate an individual’s carbon footprint by looking at a person’s daily habits. Once you know the amount of greenhouse gases your lifestyle is producing, this app offers tips on reducing that number. Zero Carbon also shows how your statistics stack up against world averages, and it can be connected to Facebook, for sharing results.

  • Plant for the Planet Video

    Inspired by Wangari Maathai, 9-year-old Felix Finkbeiner founded “Plant for the Planet” and has planted more than 500,000 trees in Germany which he says will help sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Watch Felix’s video, part of the Young Voices on Climate Change series, to learn about his efforts to plant trees for a healthier world.

  • Global Forest Watch

    Global Forest Watch (GFW) is an interactive online forest monitoring and alert system designed to better visualize forest change across the globe. Developed by the World Resources Institute and partners, Global Forest Watch monitors forests across the world in near real time to show where trees are growing and disappearing. The system provides contextual data that fleshes out complex issues surrounding deforestation. It can be utilized by teachers for classroom demonstrations and activities, and by students for research. 

  • The Anthropocene—Human Impact on the Environment Poster

    An epoch is one of the smaller divisions of geologic time. Our current epoch, the Holocene, began about 11,600 years ago. There is evidence that we are entering a new epoch that could be named the Anthropocene because it is marked by extensive human impacts on the environment. This free, downloadable poster explores evidence that future geologists might use to define the Anthropocene. 

  • Habitat the Game

    The Wildlife Conservation Society and Rainforest Alliance have created a free, new app designed for students 7-12. Habitat challenges students to care for virtual endangered animals while they earn points by completing real-life missions, like recycling or visiting a park zoo. 

  • EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator

    The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website provides an interactive carbon footprint calculator designed for use by students in middle or high school. The calculator begins by asking students to investigate some baseline data points, such as their average home energy usage, transportation habits, and waste disposal process. Then, the calculator offers ways impact reduction by offering tangible conservation tips alongside estimated annual savings. This is an excellent tool for making home connections, as well as a compliment to PLT GreenSchools!