Up to 32 students

45-60 minutes


Different materials absorb and reflect different amounts of energy. A dark rock will quickly absorb and not reflect much light energy where as ice will reflect a lot of light and not absorb very much. Man made materials versus natural materials have different absorptions and reflections as well.

Ice is naturally reflective along with certain types of clouds. Rock and other dark materials absorb more energy than lighter materials. Rough materials absorb more energy than smooth materials.

This lesson has students collect data on differing materials.

Learning Objectives:

1. Understand the concept of Albedo and its importance in weather and climate.

2. Draw conclusions about the differences between man made materials such as black top or astro-turf and grass on heat.

3. Begin to understand that the ice sheets help keep Earth cooler by reflecting light energy.


Sunny Warm Day or Heat Lamps

Assorted Materials, natural and man made

Thermometers or Laser Thermometers

Data Sheets

Activity 1: Measuring the Heat

1. Direct students to go outside (or utilize inside objects under heat lamps) and as a group pick out objects that differ from one another in ways such as:

Man made versus Natural

Dark versus Light

Rough versus Smooth

2. Have students take the temperature of these items a minimum of three times.

3. Have students calculate the average of all three readings for each item selected

Activity 2: Think, Pair, Share

Have each group discuss the results and come to a consensus on the data and share with the class.

Conclusion and Wrap Up:

Clarify any misconceptions or misunderstandings of albedo and the differences between man made and natural materials. Have students write down thought on the retreating ice sheets, the rock below them and incorporate their understandings of weather and such and possible out comes.

Vocabulary to note:

Ice Sheet





New York Scope and Sequence:

Intermediate and High School Science Standards

Physical Setting:

Key Idea 2.1k, 2.1r, 2.2a - 2.2b, 3.1c

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