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MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Podcasts, 12 minutes, 20 seconds
  • Lesson Plans
  • Worksheets
  • Activity - Classroom

Regional Focus




Clouds, Models, and Climate Change

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  • This lesson explains the impacts of human activity on the formation of clouds and the role that clouds play in climate change.
  • Students will listen to a podcast, create a cloud in a jar, read articles, analyze precipitation maps, answer discussion questions, use an interactive model to learn more about particulates and clouds, and participate in a NASA citizen science project on classifying clouds.
Teaching Tips


  • Students will learn that human activity results in increased particulate matter in the air, which affects clouds and their formation.
  • A full transcript of the podcast is available and the speed of the audio is adjustable.
  • Students will get to work with a real-time interactive model to see how clouds impact weather conditions.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with the water cycle and the greenhouse effect.
  • Teachers will need materials such as a transparent jar, warm tap water, a metal tray or an ice pack, ice, a spoon, and a match for the activity, Make a Cloud in a Bottle.


  • Teachers could use the Wrap-Up Discussion Questions as essay prompts for assessments or homework.
  • After reading the passage Climate Models and Uncertainty, students in computer programming or design thinking classes could discuss the role of software development in climate modeling.
  • Other resources related to these topics include this lesson on airplanes and climate change, this video on geoengineering, and this video on cloud formation and types of clouds.
Scientist Notes

The resource emphasizes the process of cloud formation and how it absorbs and reflects heat back to space. The energy balance and climate system are greatly impacted by emissions from contrails and particulates from natural sources. Although offsetting CO2 from geoengineering could pose negative threats to the planet and to humans, the resource emphasizes the importance of limiting CO2 emissions from other eco-friendly solutions and communicating climate science to diverse people to inspire climate action. For classroom use, this resource is advised.

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-5 Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
      • HS-ESS3-5 Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.
  • Related Resources


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