This teacher sheet provides you with the big ideas and a book summary of The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge.
1. Temperatures on earth are rising abnormally quickly. While it is true that climate naturally changes, it does so slowly. Now it is changing faster than it ever has. It is this rate of change that concerns scientists—it is a running change, not a walking change.
2. Scientific data exist to show this is true.
3. Data show the cause of this speed-up in warming is due to human activities on earth. This is a controversial point that some grownups challenge because they have a different opinion. But they never disprove climate change on the basis of scientific evidence. They only argue against it as opinion. But climate change is a scientific issue, based on evidence and data. It is not a matter of personal opinion.
4. Human activities that speed climate change include driving cars and trucks that burn fuels that emit gases high up into the atmosphere that trap heat and bounce it back to heat up earth's surface.
5. On earth, trapped greenhouse gases are melting polar ice caps, causing sea level to rise, increasing the intensity of storms, and displacing some plants and animals to new, cooler environments because what was their home environment is getting too hot for their bodies or behaviors.
6. We can change our human behavior and slow climate change. It can start with simple things like: turn off lights to save electricity; walk and bike whenever you can; take a bus or carpool if the distance is too far for walking; and avoid car trips with two or fewer people in them.
7. We can improve our scientific investigations into harnessing non-greenhouse-gas producing energy, such as solar power, wind energy, and tidal turbines.
Scientists agree that scientific evidence shows the world climate is warming abnormally quickly. Miss Frizzle's highly original and engaging teaching antics demonstrate this concept and its supporting evidence and details as follows:
Pages 8-11 KEY FACT: The average temperature of the world's land and water is more than one degree warmer than it was 100 years ago. Evidence for warming is seen in rapid melting in the North Pole, which is also called the Arctic, and in Greenland. We see it in America in high mountains such as Glacier National Park.
Pages 14-19 KEY FACT: The problem
- The earth is surrounded by invisible layers of gases we call the atmosphere. Some gases called greenhouse gases act like a big blanket over the earth and trap heat, which raises the temperature—and that's good and bad. Life on earth couldn't exist without some heat preserved by the “gas blanket” of heat-trapping gases. We’d freeze.
- Most of our atmosphere is made up of two gases: oxygen and nitrogen. But it has greenhouse gases too, many from natural sources, such as plants decaying and forest fires burning. Greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane. I like to think of them as a “gas blanket” so that's what I'll call the greenhouse gases.
- We need some gas blanket—but not too much. Have you ever slept with too many blankets? Then you know that hot, sweaty, uncomfortable feeling that comes from having all your body heat that is trying to escape be trapped by a blanket. The same thing happens in the atmosphere. But the blanket is farther away than the blanket you sleep with. The gas blanket can be as high as eight miles from the surface of the earth. Remember, heat is a transfer of energy, and this transfer can act over a long distance, it doesn't need to be right next to something, touching it, to warm it by transferring heat energy. This moving energy causes atoms of air to move faster and farther apart—and when we measure this moving energy, we use a number scale called temperature.
- We call global warming the greenhouse effect because the gas blanket in the atmosphere traps warmth—it doesn’t let it out, it bounces it back to earth—just as a glass greenhouse does. In a greenhouse, sunlight comes in, and is absorbed by plants and dirt. They release some heat into the air; it rises and gets trapped by the glass, where it is bounced back to the plants again.
- This recycling and accumulation of heat is happening on earth—and happening at a faster rate than ever before because our gas blanket is getting thicker, and better at trapping heat and bouncing heat to the earth.
- It's kind of like we’re sleeping with a down quilt in summer. Luckily, we know how to take off the quilt and get ourselves back to a more normal and healthier temperature—but it means we have to change habits.
Pages 20-37 KEY FACTS: The solution
- Miss Frizzle's class is lucky. They have the help of magic goggles so they can see the gas blanket getting bigger because they can see the parts the blanket is made of, carbon dioxide. In real life, this is invisible—only the effects are seen.
- The Frizz Kids know people are the source of a lot of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere—because people use energy for heat, cooking, travel, and powering all our computers and music and movie devices.
- Most of our energy comes from fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas. And when it burns, it releases carbon dioxide. Because they can see the gas blanket and the threat it poses, they want to keep it from getting thicker.
- Kids can help! They can decide to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere and makes the gas blanket. How? They can learn about sources of energy that don't pollute, such as using wind, solar, water, or geothermal energy to turn generators to make electricity; and become the scientists that develop these technologies so people can convert to them and use them. Also, they can walk, bike, and carpool more: if just one person in your house carpools two days a week, that keeps 220 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air in a year. They can use fewer products (write and print on both sides of a sheet of paper; bring their own re-fillable water bottle; shop at the farmers' markets and bring their own cloth bags). They can recycle glass, aluminum, and paper; switch off lights and computers when not in use; change light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps; dry laundry in the sun and air, not the dryer.
- Many things, many of them small, will enable us to take care of the earth—and keep that gas blanket from growing into a gas quilt.
This teacher sheet is a part of the The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge