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Investigation 13: Global Climate Change

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Climate Change and the Carbon Cycle

Performance Assessment

In this lab experience, students design an experiment to confirm that both carbon dioxide dissolution in water and plant photosynthesis contribute to capturing and converting atmospheric CO2. They will correlate their experimental results with the uptake and transformation of carbon dioxide in the carbon cycle and the impact of excess emissions of this greenhouse gas on global warming. Students prepare at least four test tubes with equal amounts of water and a few drops of BTB indicator solution. Then they exhale into the test tubes using a straw to add carbon dioxide. To two of these test tubes they add a single Elodea sprig. They expose one of these test tubes to light and keep one in darkness. They observe that the mixture exposed to light turns blue over time, and the mixture kept in darkness remains green. They attribute these color changes to a net decrease in CO2 concentration, attributable to plant photosynthesis removing CO2 from the water when the mixture is exposed to light. In the guided, open and advanced versions, students will observe that the mixture exposed to light experiences a pH increase.

Materials Included in Kit

Consumable:
Bromothymol blue (BTB) indicator solution, 0.04% aqueous, 100 mL
Corks, size #3, package of 100
Pipets, Beral-type, graduated, package of 20
Straws, package of 50
Non-Consumable:
Test tubes, 16 mm×125 mm, 50
Additional Materials Required
Beakers, Borosilicate Glass, 400-mL, 10
DLAB Classic Magnetic Stirrer/Hot Plate, 10
Elodea (Anacharis), Live, Pkg. of 12, 4
Flinn pH Meter, 10
Gloves, Terrycloth, General Purpose, 10
Spatulas, Disposable, Box of 300, 1
Test Tube Rack, Economy Choice, 10

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Carbon Dioxide and Its Role in Climate

In this lab experience, students carry out an investigation to create carbon dioxide from sodium bicarbonate and hydrochloric acid and determine the presence of carbon dioxide using two methods: a precipitate reaction and pH universal indicator. Students will draw correlations between excess CO2 and climate change as they observe the temperature in the experimental bottle (with effervescent [carbon] tablets added) will increase at a faster rate than the control bottle with ambient air. They will learn the limitations of small scale climate change experiments.

Materials Included in Kit

Consumable:
Antacid effervescent tablets, 40
Modeling clay, ¼ lb package, 2
Plastic wrap, 200 ft
Rubber bands, 120
Non-Consumable:
Clear plastic bottles, 1 L, 10
Additional Materials Required
Cylinder, Borosilicate Glass, 100 mL, 10
Flinn Digital Thermometer, 20
Plastic Bottle, 1-L, 10
Stirring Rods, Glass, 10

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How Nature Records Changes in Climate

In this lab experience, students carry out an investigation to determine how consistent tree growth has been in samples. They determine how the climate has fluctuated over the last 10 years based on annual growth ring size. By comparing tree ring growth and climate data, students gain a better understanding of how variation in climate influences organisms. They also replicate the methods used by climate scientists to gather climate data from hundreds of years ago.

Materials Included in Kit

Non-Consumable:
Magnifiers, 10
Marking pins, package of 100
Rulers, metric, 10
Tree round sample, 12
Additional Materials Required
Magnifier, Plastic, Dual Lens, 10
Ruler, Metric, Clear, 30 cm, 10

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Human Activity and Carbon Emissions

In this lab experience, students investigate the three main sources of anthropogenic carbon emissions: combustion, land-use/deforestation and cement production. They also develop a model to describe the cycling of carbon among the hydrosphere, biosphere, geosphere and atmosphere and learn that matter, such as the C atoms in CO2, cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. In Part A, students combust a hydrocarbon (a candle) and observe that the CO2 produced is absorbed by a solution of basic water and phenolphthalein, because the solution turns from pink to colorless as the H2CO3 produced lowers the pH. In Part B, students see that an Elodea sprig in water exposed to light reduces the concentration of dissolved CO2 and thus raises the pH. Students use bromthymol blue to observe indirectly the conversion of dissolved CO2 to glucose. In Part C, students heat a metal carbonate to its decomposition temperature to simulate the curing of concrete. When students heat the metal carbonate they observe indirectly the production of CO2 because it changes the color of an aqueous acid–base indicator owing to the formation of H2CO3.

Materials Included in Kit

Consumable:
Bromthymol blue solution, 500 mL
Copper(II) carbonate, 50 g
Phenolphthalein indicator solution, 1%, 100 mL
Sodium hydroxide solution, 0.1M, 150 mL
Candles, 10
Non-Consumable:
Ointment-style glass jars with lids, 18
Wine airlock, 6
Additional Materials Required
Beakers, Borosilicate Glass, 50-mL, 10
Beral Pipets, Extra-Large Bulb, Pkg. of 20, 10
Butane Safety Lighter, 10
DLAB Classic Magnetic Stirrer/Hot Plate, 10
Elodea (Anacharis), Live, Pkg. of 12, 1
Flask, Erlenmeyer, Borosilicate Glass, 250 mL, 10
Magnetic Stirring Bar, 2" x 5/16", 10
Rubber Stoppers, 1 lb, Size #6, Black, One-Hole, 1

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Model Climate Change with Melting Ice

In this lab experience, students observe the change in temperature as ice and room temperature water are added to near boiling water. This will demonstrate the latent heat of ice melting and how it affects the overall temperature of the ocean. Students don’t often connect how global climate change affecting the oceans can impact our daily lives. This is because it is something that happens on a very large scale and often over a long period of time. However, while that is true for events when compared to a human lifespan, climate change events are occurring quite rapidly on a geological time frame. Polar ice is very reflective and deflects a lot of the energy from the sun. The less ice present due to climate change means that more of that heat energy is being absorbed by the water. This raises the ocean temperature and generates more water vapor. This in turn raises the global temperature. It is a feedback process that students should be able to put into perspective with this lab activity.

Materials Included in Kit

Consumable:
Cardboard squares, 11.5 cm x 14 cm, 10
Expanded polystyrene cups, package of 30
Non-Consumable:
Containers, clear, 16 oz, 40
Heat-resistant gloves, 2 pairs
Weighing dishes, package of 10
Additional Materials Required
Beakers, Borosilicate Glass, 400-mL, 10
Cylinder, Borosilicate Glass, 100 mL, 10
DLAB Classic Magnetic Stirrer/Hot Plate, 10
Flinn Scientific Electronic Balance, 410 x 0.01-g, 10
Flinn Digital Thermometer, 20
Heat lamp, 20

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Climate Change and Keeping Cool

In this lab experience, students carry out an investigation to examine how the body’s ability to shed heat through sweating is affected by humidity. Students will come to understand that climate change is more than simply changes in temperature and that other potential changes could have dramatic effects on our lives.

Materials Included in Kit

Consumable:
Drierite®, 908 g (anhydrous calcium sulfate)
Clay, modeling, ¼ lb
Rubber band, orthodontic, package of 100
Additional Materials Required
Beakers, Borosilicate Glass, 50 mL, 10
Spirit-Filled Thermometer, –20 to 150 ºC, Partial Immersion, 20
Support Stand, Economy Choice, 10
Thermometer Clamp, 20
Scissors, 10

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Solar Cell Technology

In this lab experience, dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) mimic the process that occurs in photosynthesis to harvest sunlight and convert it to electricity. Students build a DSC and learn about the principles behind its operation. Students will become familiar with the dye-sensitized solar cell.

Materials Included in Kit

Consumable:
Iodine/Potassium iodide electrolyte solution, 25 mL
Nitric acid solution, 0.1 M, 50 mL
Titanium oxide, TiO2 nanocrystalline, 4 g
Microscope slides, plastic, 7
Pipets, 20
Transparent indium tin oxide (ITO) coated glass slides, 14
Non-Consumable:
Binder clips, 14
Bingo chips, package of 70
Culture dishes, 20
Additional Materials Required
DLAB Classic Magnetic Stirrer/Hot Plate, 10
Forceps, 10
Multimeter, Student, 10
Spatulas, Disposable, Box of 300, 1