The climate crisis is certainly a hot topic (sorry, that was a bit easy). Yet explaining greenhouse gases and carbon monoxide levels is tough enough to do, even with adults. Try teaching earth chemistry to children and you’ll probably get a few yawns and quick naps.
Time to roll in the beakers and baking soda. Yes, even big concepts about climate changes impact on the earth can be explained with experiments that require materials and tools you can probably find around the house. Beakers aren’t even necessary to get the points across.
Get ready for some fun projects that help explain climate change for kids and may even inspire a few science fair projects.
Here’s a simple project to start. Water expands when it’s heated. Just about every kid has seen a boiling pot of water and one time or another. But if you re-contextualize that image, you can use it to discuss the way oceans are being heated and expanding during climate change. That expansion of water has made storms, hurricanes and flooding more extreme around the world.
In the coming decades and centuries, the rising ocean water will likely impact what land is habitable, particularly along the coasts. That change in climate not only impacts the people who live on the land but also every taxpayer who has to foot the bill for retaining walls to keep he water from coming inland.
Want to demonstrate what happens when the carbon dioxide we produce mixes with ocean water? There’s a project for that. First boil red water with red cabbage to create a purple liquid. Then take a straw and blow bubbles into the purple water. When you do, you’ll also be adding carbon dioxide to the water, making it more acidic and lightening the color.
As more carbon dioxide is added to the oceans, it’s very hard on sea life and has lead to the reduction of certain species and the death of flora.
The Greenhouse Effect
Earth is shrouded in a complex layer of gases that helps keep the surface the right temperature for life to thrive on the planet. The carbon dioxide and other chemicals that have been added to earth’s atmosphere by humans, has helped create a greenhouse effect. The effect is compared to a greenhouse because the gases hold in the heat, much like the glass walls of a greenhouse, and make the planet hotter.
This project requires five jars, vinegar, baking soda, plastic wrap, rubber bands and a heat source. The heat can be as simple as a sunny window or lamp.
Label the jars air, vinegar, baking soda and reaction. Cut four pieces of plastic wrap to cover each of the jars. Cover the air bottle with plastic wrap and keep it tight with a rubber band. Add 1/4 cup vinegar to the second jar and cover it with plastic wrap and a rubber band. Then the baking soda jar gets a table spoon of baking soda covered with a plastic wrap and — you know the drill by now.
For the reaction, add a bit of vinegar and baking soda in one jar and then cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and rubber band. You need to do this quickly before the mixture foams over. Then place all four jars under the heat source.
When the four jars are warming, grab your fifth jar and add 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1/4 cup of vinegar. After about 30 seconds of the reaction, take the temperature. Then take the temperature of the other four jars.
Cut a small slit in the plastic on the top of each jar, just big enough to fit a thermometer in. Now take the temperatures of each jar and record your readings. You’ll likely find the chemical reaction in the enclosed jar is warmer than all the other jars with plastic covering.
The experiment traps carbon dioxide in the jar, much like earth’s atmosphere is also trapping carbon dioxide, which help causes climate change.
Climate change is an incredibly important issue facing our planet today, so it’s essential that children have a basic understanding of the science behind it and what they can do to help reduce its impacts. Using these projects and activities, you can ensure kids get a clearer understanding of its effects.