GLOBAL WARMING CHALLENGE
Primary Content Area: Environmental Science
The Global Warming Challenge project provides students with an opportunity to learn about the
problem of global warming, find out about their own carbon footprint, and then work together to
encourage individuals in their school, neighborhood, and community to take concrete steps to
lessen the output of CO2 gases that create the greenhouse effect and lead to global warming.
Currently, one-third of CO2 gases are produced by automobile use, one-third by industry, and
one-third by home use of electricity and heating fuels. Creation of most energy uses fossil fuels
which emit CO2 gases leading to the greenhouse effect and the warming of our globe. 2006 is
now on record as the hottest year since records have been taken. The average annual global
temperature is accelerating at an alarming rate, and scientists predict extremely dire
consequences within the next 50 years unless immediate action is taken. Our young people will
bear the brunt of these consequences unless immediate action is taken. The good news is that it’s
not too late to act, but it is critical for educators to help students understand global warming, its
ramifications, and strategies to take action.
The Global Warming Challenge project is a fairly simple project to do in your classroom with
potentially far-reaching results. The concept is simple: After learning about global warming,
each student works to find at least five individuals who will take the Global Warming Challenge.
Each individual pledges to take at least one step to lessen their impact on global warming or, as
Al Gore, Jr. puts it, to lessen our carbon footprint. Your students will research actions
individuals can take to lessen their impact and then calculate how many pounds of carbon
dioxide will not go into the environment. Those taking the Global Warming Challenge will
pledge to take an action and continue it for at least two months. At the end of two months, your
students will return to check on their progress. Think about it in this way: if 25 students found
125 individuals to take the challenge, we can save hundreds of thousands of pounds of CO2 from
entering the atmosphere. If, for example, all 125 individuals simply replaced 10 incandescent
light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs, that action alone would reduce CO2 emissions by
192,750 pounds. Quite literally, we can save the world.
o Students will understand the problem of global warming, its potential threat to the globe,
and actions that individuals can take to help solve the problem.
o Students will record and calculate saved CO2 emissions and graph their results.
o Students will work together as a team to educate the public about the problem of global
warming and gather commitments to reduce the public’s carbon footprint.
o Students will reflect upon their experience.
1. Introduce students to the concept of global warming by using curriculum resources
available at www.servicelearning.cps.k12.il.us/Teacher.html. You can also receive
curriculum developed by a national board certified teacher for the producers of An
Inconvenient Truth. Curriculum is available for one day, five days, one month or an
entire semester. The curriculum is available through the Service-Learning Initiative
2. Now test your own group’s “carbon footprint” by going to the following website to learn
about the amount of CO2 gases you are producing. You can also discover some simple
ways to reduce carbon emissions at the website.
3. Brainstorm and research the concrete steps individuals can take to mitigate the effects of
global warming. These could include some of the following:
o Walk or bike to work
o Take public transportation to work
o Replace regular light bulbs with fluorocarbon light bulbs
o Hang clothes out on the line to dry during the summer
o Purchase energy efficient products
4. Calculate the number of the pounds of CO2 generated through traditional energy-using
activities and the amount of CO2 that you are not putting into the environment by taking
alternative, environmentally friendly steps.
5. Create a Global Warming Challenge profile form that enables individuals to check things
they are already doing as well as at least one new step they will take during the next 2-3
6. Gather pledges from as many individuals as possible (friends and peers, teachers,
administrators, family members, church members, etc.) and encourage each one to take at
least one step toward reducing CO2 emissions.
7. Calculate the amount of CO2 pledgers will be saving through the Global Warming
Challenge if they all follow through on their commitments.
8. After a 2-month period, return to the individuals who have made pledges and check in on
their progress. Create a final calculation of the CO2 savings.
9. Go to www.civicfootprint.org and learn who your school’s political representatives are.
Schedule meetings with some of these leaders to inform them of your interest in
addressing global warming, what you are doing, and what political leaders can do in
10. Spend some time reflecting with your students about the project. What went well during
the project? What outreach and recruitment strategies seemed to work? What didn’t
work? Did students work together as a team? Did the students reach their goals? How is
global warming related to our life style choices? What might be the next steps to
continue to work on this problem?
11. Extend the reflection by having your students graph and display their results.
For a complete listing view the global warming resources and partners view the curricular
resource packet at www.servicelearning.cps.k12.il.us/Curriculum.html.
This project addresses the following Illinois Learning Standards for Science:
11.A.4d: Collect, organize, and analyze data accurately and precisely.
12.E.4a: Explain how external and internal energy sources drive Earth processes.
13.B.4d: Analyze local examples of resource use, technology use or conservation programs.
Students who complete the entire project should be awarded between 7-13 service-learning hours
depending on how much time they spend on gathering commitments to the Global Warming
Challenge and publicizing their results. Hours can be broken down into the following categories:
Preparation: Background information/Designing survey/Calculating carbon footprint – 3-5
Action: Gathering Global Warming Challenge commitments – 2-4 hours
Reflection: Writing/Discussion/Extended research/Presentation – 2-4 hours
Connections with technology and mathematics courses could be made during this project.