Lesson - Observe the Greenhouse Effect in a Jar


Title: Observe the Greenhouse Effect in a Jar
Grade: 6th Grade
Duration: 40 Minutes


Science – SC.6.E.7.5 
Explain how energy provided by the sun influences global patterns of atmospheric movement and the temperature differences between air, water, and land.


The student will:

  • Exploring how a greenhouse works.
  • How greenhouse gases affect the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Strengthen observation and recording skills, work with a control, and draw conclusions.


RadiationTemperatureClimateAlbedoSpace WeatherAtmosphereHydrosphereCryosphereGeosphereBiosphereGreenhouse EffectSatellite Orbiting • GPS NavigationTelecommunications



  1. Lay the thermometers in direct sunlight. Let them sit in the sun for three minutes.
  2. Use the data sheet titled: Greenhouse Effect showing two columns, one labeled “Thermometer A” and one labeled “Thermometer  “
  3. After the three minutes have passed, read and record the time and thermometer temperature.
  4. Place one of the thermometers in the jar or container and Make sure the lid doesn’t cast a shadow on either thermometer!
  5. Record the temperature of the thermometers every 2 minutes for ten minutes.
  6. Discuss how the container affected the temperature of thermometers. How did the temperature inside the container change compared to outside the container?

What is Going On?

The thermometer outside of the container is constantly being exposed to air that is constantly changing temperature, as the warm air mixes with passing cooler air. The air inside the container is trapped and can’t mix with the cooler surrounding air– it just gets warmer as the sunlight heats it up. A greenhouse works in a similar way; solar energy in the form of light creates thermal energy, or heat, that can’t escape through the glass.

This activity mirrors how a greenhouse works, but it ‘s not exactly the same as the greenhouse effect that is taking place in the Earth’s atmosphere. A complex interaction between light, heat, and chemicals makes up the greenhouse effect and the chemicals known as “greenhouse gases” in the environment. They cause the temperature of the Earth to be warmer than it would be without them, much like the glass in a greenhouse, or the jar in this activity.

Did you Know?

Some greenhouse gases are actually helpful and natural– they keep the Earth’s surface from getting too cold.  In fact, without some greenhouse gases, the humans would regularly experience temperatures as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit, or -18 degrees Celsius. The problem comes when pollution caused by human industrialization creates additional greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. Excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increase the overall temperature of the earth and disrupt the natural balance of the Earth.

Greenhouse Effect Jar – Data Sheet