Unit Overview

Mosa Mack’s Climate Change unit focuses on the greenhouse effect, the responsible gases, and the impact of human activities. Students will be led through a series of 3 activities, including an inquiry-based climate mystery, a greenhouse gas model, and a design challenge, all using project-based approaches. In the engineer extension, students will analyze environmental data and design a solution to decrease their carbon footprint.

Lesson Overview

Medium solveSolve: Climate Mystery + Vocabulary Cards
Medium makeMake: Climate Modeling
Medium engineerEngineer: Become a Green Engineer

Students solve Mosa Mack’s mystery, engage in discussion to solve the problem, and learn high-utility vocabulary words (70 minutes)

Students design and create models to gather experimental data and demonstrate their understanding of the greenhouse effect and properties of heat (90 minutes)

Students will calculate their ecological footprint and design a solution to reduce their impact on the environment (150 minutes)

Next Generations Science Standards

Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of the design process include examining human environmental impacts, assessing the kinds of solutions that are feasible, and designing and evaluating solutions that could reduce that impact. Examples of human impacts can include water usage (such as the withdrawal of water from streams and aquifers or the construction of dams and levees), land usage (such as urban development, agriculture, or the removal of wetlands), and pollution (such as of the air, water, or land).]
Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems. [Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence include grade appropriate databases on human populations and the rates of consumption of food and natural resources (such as freshwater, mineral, and energy). Examples of impacts can include changes to the appearance, composition, and structure of Earth’s systems as well as the rates at which they change. The consequences of increases in human populations and consumption of natural resources are described by science, but science does not make the decisions for the actions society takes.]
Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century. [Clarification Statement: Examples of factors include human activities (such as fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and agricultural activity) and natural processes (such as changes in incoming solar radiation or volcanic activity). Examples of evidence can include tables, graphs, and maps of global and regional temperatures, atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the rates of human activities. Emphasis is on the major role that human activities play in causing the rise in global temperatures.]

Science & Engineering Practices

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • Engaging in Arguments From Evidence

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • Designing Solutions to Engineering Problems
  • Global Climate Change
  • Human Impacts on Earth Systems
  • Natural Hazards

Cross Cutting Concepts

  • Cause and Effect
  • Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science
  • Connections to Nature of Science
  • Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World
  • Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World
  • Stability and Change

Inquiry Scale

  • Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
  • “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
  • For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.

Common Misconceptions

  • Greenhouse gases do not form a physical barrier, as the blanket metaphor implies
  • ​Greenhouse gases do not “trap” heat but rather absorb and re-radiates (or reflects) heat.


    • Melting
    • Temperature
    • Average Yearly Temperature
    • Atmosphere
    • Greenhouse Gas
    • Climate

Content Expert Title

  • Joanna Pelc
    NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Global Modeling and Assimilation Office Expertise: Earth Science, Applied MathematicsKrzysztof Wargan
    Research Scientist, Science Systems and Applications, Inc. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Global Modeling and Assimilation Office


  • Powerpoints for Make and Design
  • Vocabulary Cards
  • Solve Student Handout
  • Make Student Handout
  • Design Student Handout

New: RocketLit Leveled Reading

* To give our users the most comprehensive science resource, Mosa Mack is piloting a partnership with RocketLit, a provider of leveled science articles.

  • More People, Not Enough Minerals

    Some resources don't grow on trees! In this article, we look at some of the consequences of the large populations of the world and the impact of mineral mining on the environment.

  • The Desert Climate

    This article introduces students to the terms "climate," "humidity," and "biome," in the frame of the unique characteristics of the desert biome.

  • Climate vs Weather in the Arctic

    This article uses at the Arctic as an example of the difference between Climate and Weather. We also define Temperature and Climate Change, specifically talking about the data over time that's needed to show the Climate is changing. Even though temperatures change over the course of a year, that doesn't mean the climate is changing.


    With the growing number of humans on earth, our needs for food have had negative consequences on the environment. In this article, we introduce students to some of the effects of over farming.

  • Ocean Pollution

    This article focuses on the different types of pollution that human activities lead to and the results of that pollution on the environment.