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Explaining Global Warming to Children

Parents who are passionate about certain things will certainly want their children to follow in their footsteps. For example, those who care about endangered species and other aspects of the environment will tend to bring their kids along many explorations and will inadvertently pass on their love for nature to their children. But how does one explain global warming to young kids? How is it possible to make them understand that certain factors are causing the surface temperature of the earth to rise on a global level?

Educators around the world have agreed on one aspect of teaching to kids: the use of multi-sensory stimulation. This is well-used and well-received among preschools, and you can use the same principle in teaching your kids about global warming: the key to remember is to use experiments that they can see, touch, and feel.

The following sample experiments should help you explain the intangible concept of global warming to your children:

1. Have your children form themselves into a circle and pass a potato around the circle. Have each child feel the temperature of the potato. Pretend that the potato is the earth. Then put the potato in the oven for a few minutes; take it out and pass it around the kids again. Measure both the surface and the inside temperature of the potato. This helps you explain how the sun works at warming the surface of the earth.

2. Children love to play with ice. Take two ice cubes outside, and put one under the shade of a tree. Put the other one out on sidewalk, with no shade covering it, leaving it in the sun to melt. Have your children watch the two ice cubes to see which one will melt faster. You can then explain that the ozone layer functions in a way similar to the shade of the tree. The ice melts faster when there is no shade, and so do the polar ice caps if the ozone layer is suffering and disappearing.

3. Make a terrarium experiment for older children. It would be best if you have at least two to compare, and another one to hold as a control item. You can use an old aquarium and fill it up with soil and plants. After some time when the plants have stabilized inside, you can perform the following experiments: have the children observe what happens when you put one of the terrariums in direct sunlight, and put the other one in the refrigerator or freezer. Have them keep a record of their observations, with photos, if possible, and show them how global warming affects the plants in the terrarium. If anything, the terrarium will be a mini-version of global warming that they can see themselves.

After these experiments, one you believe that your children have understood the basic effects of global warming, you can go ahead and teach them how to help prevent the further effects of temperature changes on the earth.