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Earth Atmosphere Composition

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    The Exploratorium

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Earth Atmosphere Composition

In this activity, learners use rice grains to model the composition of the atmosphere of the Earth today and in 1880. Learners assemble the model while measuring percentages. This activity also introduces learners to greenhouse gases, infrared radiation, and global warming.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • a clear plastic bottle
  • white rice
  • food coloring (red, yellow, blue, green)
  • a digital scale
  • disposable cups
  • a stirring stick
  • paper towels
  • a funnel


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Atmosphere
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Human Impact
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
    • Number and Operations
      • Fractions
      • Multiples and Factors
    • Problem Solving
    • Representation
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Gases
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elements and Periodic Table
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Doherty, Pete


  • All Rights Reserved, Exploratorium, ©2006


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