High Energy Groovie Movie RXTE

Atmospheric Windows
Lesson Plan Three

Author: Kim Cochrane, Bowie High School, Bowie, MD

Background Knowledge

  • electromagnetic spectrum
  • radiation reflected (how and why)
  • layers of the atmosphere
  • general atmospheric information

Warm Up
Start with a K-W-L sheet like the one provided below.

What do you know about your atmosphere? What do you want to know about your atmosphere? What have you learned about your atmosphere?

Have the students fill in the first two columns with their general knowledge. Then, break them into groups of two. Put the following questions on the board. Have the students discuss the answers and write them in the first column of the K-W-L Sheet. Collect the sheet. (It will be given back to them after the activity to fill in the last column).

  1. What molecules, in the atmosphere, block radiation from the Sun from hitting the Earth?
  2. What types of radiation get blocked by the atmosphere?
  3. Why is it important for life on Earth that the harmful types of radiation get blocked?


  • Break the class up into groups of two or three. Each group will go through the following Web Quest (in the form of a power point presentation) to gain knowledge of the topic. (HTML and PDF versions are also available.) Each group is responsible for answering the questions found within the presentation. The order of this part of the lesson is layed out below.
    1. Students complete Web Quest.
    2. Students and teacher go over the answers to Web Quest in an open discussion forum.
    3. Students are encouraged to ask any questions that they feel are necessary.

  • Compare Earth, Venus, and Mars:
    • Divide the class into teams of three or four. Each team is to be assigned at least one item of data from the following data charts. (The amount of items will depend on how many teams there are in the class.) As the teams research their items and find the answers, they are to fill in a class (wall size) poster board data sheet with the correct information.

      Characteristic VENUSEARTHMARS
      Average Temperature° °°
      Average precipitation   
      Average wind speed   
      Number of daylight hours each day   
      Number of days in a year   
      Oxygen levels in atmosphere   
      Carbon dioxide levels in atmosphere   
      Gasses in atmosphere   
      Amount of methane, nitrogen, water vapor, and hydrogen gases in atmosphere   
      Amount of visible light hitting planet's surface   
      Average amount of cloud cover   
      Average gravitational pull   
      Average depth of atmospheric gases   

    • After the data sheet is filled out, discuss with the class the similarities and differences between the three planets' atmospheric conditions. Make sure to discuss how the atmospheric conditions would affect life (if there was any) on the different planets. You can also discuss ways that the information was gathered and ways to use this information.

  • Project:
    • Students should work alone but can work in teams or groups depending on the class structure.
    • The project is described in the Venus and Mars Project student worksheet.
    • When finished, the students will present their ideas to the class and the projects can be displayed for the class to view through the week.
  • Closure
    1. Give the students back their K-W-L sheets. Have them fill out the last column alone and quietly.
    2. Ask the students to share their last column one at a time.
    3. Discuss any problems or concerns.
    4. Test or quiz is optional for the teacher (depending on time and class).


Written Reports
4Good grammar, very detailed descriptions, uses all correct science terms and concepts
3Good grammar, somewhat detailed descriptions, made 1-3 mistakes on science terms and concepts
2OK grammar, few details in the descriptions, made 4-8 mistakes on science terms and concepts
1Mostly incorrect grammar, no details, made numerous mistakes on science terms and concepts

4Detailed drawings, completely labeled, colored, neat
3Mostly detailed drawings, missed 1-3 labels, colored, mostly neat
2Almost no detail to drawings, 3-7 missed labels, not colored
1Very little detail, few labels, not colored