Up to 32 students

45-60 minutes


The major components of our atmosphere are nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), and water (average 1%), and argon (0.9%). These components are remaining relatively stable. However our atmosphere is currently under a major shift in its components. Though carbon monoxide is currently at rates of about 335 ppm (parts per million), it has risen from 280 ppm from just over a century ago. Methane is also on the rise and depending on the permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere this gas may rise substantially as well. The later two gases will be addressed in the next lesson plan.

Learning Objectives:

1. Understand the gases and the amounts of these gases in the Earth's Atmosphere.

Guiding Questions:

What are the gases that we find in the Earth's atmosphere? How much oxygen is in our atmosphere? How much carbon dioxide?


Large Post Its

Marker per group

Blank Paper


Color Pencils


Laptops with Excel or other spreadsheet program

Activity 1: LINK on Gases of the Atmosphere (Assessment opportunity for an introductory activity to a new unit)

Have each group of students write down ideas about gases in our atmosphere for approximately 3 minutes. Topics can be posted together or separately.

”What are some gases in the atmosphere? Are these improtant? Do these gases do anything?"

Following the 3-minute activity ask students to look around at other group’s concept maps and inquire about vocabulary or concepts they may be unfamiliar. Maps may either be taken down and students prompted to write down what they may have just learned about the topic discussed or maps may be left up for duration of unit to be built upon at a later time in substitution for a word wall.

Activity 2: Gas Pie (chart)

Have student conduct some research on the internet or within their texts about the composition of the atmosphere and construct a pie chart based on the data that they collect. Pie charts may either be hand drawn or formulated through a spreadsheet computer program.

Conclusion and Wrap Up:

Have students add to their LINK


New York Scope and Sequence:

Intermediate and High School Science Standards

Physical Setting:

Key Idea 1.2e

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