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Paleontological Research Institution


6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Physics, Engineering

Resource Types

  • Experiments
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus




Climate Change Toolkit: Infrared Energy

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  • In this brief experiment, students will learn about infrared energy, the electromagnetic spectrum, and test different materials for their capacity to transmit or block infrared energy. 
  • Students can begin to develop an understanding of material choices in engineering and design projects and connect it to the electromagnetic spectrum, heat energy, and insulation.
Teaching Tips


  • This worksheet provides common examples of different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and photos to support understanding.
  • This experiment could easily be expanded to include many other classroom materials.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Although the worksheet introduces the electromagnetic spectrum, it may help students to introduce this concept beforehand.
  • Materials needed for the activity include an infrared camera, picture frames, and sheets of black and clear plastic. 


  • This is a great resource to use as part of a physics unit about electromagnetic radiation or a biology lesson about photosynthesis, vision, metabolism, the greenhouse effect, or energy transfers between trophic levels. 
  • Try connecting this activity with a discussion about how this concept is connected to global warming using the following guiding questions: which materials on Earth reflect or absorb infrared energy and what is the resulting impact on our climate?
  • Additional resources on this topic include this video about the greenhouse effect and infrared cameras, this interactive simulation of infrared radiation in greenhouse gases, and this lab about the albedo effect.
Scientist Notes
This resource requires the use of an infrared camera or imager, and presents concepts of energy, wavelengths, and radiation. After describing these concepts, examples are presented including ear thermometers and microwaves. Additionally, this resource describes experiments that can be done with an infrared thermometer that parallel what is presented in the Resource PRI-4 video. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • English Language Arts
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • 6-8.RST.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 6.ESS3.5 Ask clarifying questions based on evidence about the factors that have caused climate change over the past century.
    • PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
      • 8.PS4.2 Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
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