Layers of the Atmosphere
This learning block represents one week’s work. Aim to watch at least one video and choose at least one activity or project to complete.
There are two videos to choose from about the layers of Earth’s atmosphere. The first one is better for younger kids, the second one will appeal to older kids. Feel free to watch one, or both!
If you are a high school student, or you’re interested in going deeper, make sure to check out the Advanced Projects at the end of the block. Have fun!
Now choose an Activity
Atmosphere Collage Project
In this project, you will make a poster showing the layers of Earth’s atmosphere!
You will begin by painting the Earth and the five layers of the atmosphere. Watch the video above to see how it is done!
Don’t forget to add labels to your layers: TROPOSPHERE, STRATOSPHERE, MESOSPHERE, THERMOSPHERE, EXOSPHERE!
Next, you will add objects to the appropriate layers. If you aren’t sure which layer your objects belong in, you can go back and re-watch the video for help!
You will need:
– poster paper
– black marker
– white paper
– cotton balls for clouds
– pom poms for a hot air balloon (optional)
– white pom pom for weather balloon (optional)
– gold glitter
– white glue
– cut out paper shapes: moon, stars, rocket ship
Ready to level-up this project? Research the layers of the atmosphere and write a short description of each one. The videos in this block can help you, or you can find out more here. You can paste your descriptions on your poster next to each layer.
Don’t forget to document your project for your portfolio!
Meet a Skysurfer
We don’t usually think of the atmosphere as having mass or density – but it does! In the above video, you will learn more about the ‘stuff’ the atmosphere is made of. Then, meet Troy, a skysurfer, and see how he does amazing tricks while surfing the air!
As you watch, think about:
– Do you ever think of the atmosphere as having weight?
– What do you think of the idea that “we live at the bottom of an ocean of air”? Do you see the connections between tornadoes and whirlpools? Between clouds and waves?
– How did you feel watching Troy skysurfing? Does it seem exciting, scary, strange?
Sing the Atmosphere Song
This video will teach you a catchy song about the layers of the atmosphere! Listen to the words and see if you can figure out what it is teaching you about each layer.
Now try to learn some of the words. You can sing along with the chorus, or practice the whole thing! Try to perform the song for your family or make a video of yourself singing along!
Demo Lab: Use Liquid Densities to Make a Model of the Atmosphere
This project uses liquids of varying densities to create a model of the Earth’s atmosphere.
You will need:
– a clear jar
– corn syrup (optional: add blue food colouring)
– pieces of eraser (optional)
– dish soap
– water (optional: add red food colouring)
– vegetable oil
Follow the steps in the video to create your model of the atmosphere’s layers. Try to pour your liquids in carefully – not getting them on the sides of the jar or mixing them up too much! If they do get mixed together, don’t worry. Let them sit for awhile and they will eventually settle back into layers.
First, draw a diagram or take a photo of your demo to add to your Science Notebook.
1. Why do you think the layers in the cup stay separate? What does this tell you about the layers of the Earth’s atmosphere?
2. What do the ingredients in the cup represent? Label each one on your diagram!
Add your responses to your Science Notebook, and you’re done!
Books About the Layers of the Atmosphere
Click on a book to buy it from Amazon. Or, you can ask for them at your local library.
Air is all Around You Read Aloud
Choose at least one!
Draw a Scale Model of the Atmosphere
Many simple models of the Earth’s atmosphere do NOT show the layers to scale. It can be really hard to picture how high each layer is and how close they are to Earth and to outer space. In this project, you will draw your own diagram of the atmosphere to scale, demonstrating the sizes of each layer relative to one another.
You will need:
– a roll of paper at least 120 cm long (if you don’t have a roll of paper, you can tape together shorter pieces to make one long sheet; use what you have!)
– meter stick or tape measure
– coloured pencils (optional)
Step 1: Check out this interactive page from NASA’s Climate Kids. Make sure you are scrolled all the way down to begin. (You should see the green Earth and a graphic of North America’s tallest building.)
Step 2: Begin scrolling up slowly. What do you see? You are moving up through the layers of the Earth’s atmosphere! Keep going until you reach the top, noticing everything you pass by. Go ahead and play around with the tool. See if you can find the following:
– At what height do the highest butterflies fly?
– At what height is the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere?
– At what height does outer space begin?
Step 3: Now you are ready to begin drawing your diagram of the atmosphere. You will need to work carefully! Start by scrolling back down to ground level. Draw a line across the bottom of your paper to represent the Earth’s surface, and label it. (This line is technically marking sea level.) Your line should be going across the narrow end of the paper; you are going to have a very TALL drawing which shows just how HIGH the atmosphere really goes!
Step 4: Now you will need to use your meter stick or measuring tape to measure the distance of each feature within the atmosphere from sea level. For example, the cruising altitude of blimps is about 2.4 km above sea level. In order to fit everything on your paper, you will use a scale of 1 km = 1 cm. So you can measure 2.4 cm above your sea level line, and draw a simple shape of a blimp! Don’t forget to add a label including the height and what the picture represents.
Now, do the same thing with the other notable features of the troposphere. When you reach the tropopause, draw a line across the paper to indicate that you are moving out of the troposphere and into the stratosphere. Label it. And continue on, doing the same thing for all the layers of the atmosphere!
Step 5: Double-check that you have also included labels for each layer of the atmosphere (not just the features within each layer). You may want to make these labels larger or use a dark outline to make them stand out.
Step 6: Now you need to do a little research. Look up each layer of the atmosphere and write a short paragraph describing it. You can paste or copy these paragraphs right on your diagram. Or, you can film a video of yourself discussing each layer while pointing then out using your drawing!
Now it’s time to document your work and add it to your portfolio!
What do Refigerators have to do with the Earth’s Atmosphere? Ozone projects
Due to human production of refrigerants, aerosols, and plastic products, CFCs in our atmosphere have caused massive damage to the Earth’s ozone layer. This poses an enormous risk to life on Earth, since the ozone layer is super important for protecting us from the Sun’s harmful rays! Through international cooperation, we have made massive progress in allowing the ozone layer to regenerate. Amazing!
Watch the videos above to learn more about the damage to the ozone layer and how it has improved over time.
Now choose ONE of the following projects:
1. Make a Powerpoint or Google Slides presentation about the history of CFCs and ozone layer depletion.
Make sure that there is at least one slide addressing each of:
- Who (who invented CFCs? who has taken action on the ozone problem?)
- What (what do CFCs do to the ozone layer? what does the ozone layer do for us?)
- When (timeline of events, including the use of refrigerants, when the ozone depletion was detected, the Montreal Protocol, etc.)
- Where (where did this happen?)
- Why (Why did this happen? Why did people act the way they did? Why did it matter then? Why does it matter now? Why should we care?)
Include your presentation in your portfolio. Write a description and then provide a link.
2. Write an essay about solving ecological crises
Consider how many nations had to come together to address the issue of ozone depletion. It is truly remarkable that humanity was able to work effectively together to address a dire threat. Today, we face incredibly urgent environmental threats which will require international cooperation to address.
You will write an essay discussing ONE major environmental issue. Describe what you think it will take for this issue to be effectively addressed on a global scale. Examples of environmental issues could include:
– climate change
– ocean plastics
– environmental racism
– mass extinctions
Download and print this outline tool, from studenthandouts.com, to help you organize your essay.
Do the research and fill in the notes of what you want to include in your outline. Then, write the essay. Be sure to use a tool like Grammerly to help improve and edit your writing.
Upload your essay to your portfolio.