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A Model of Earth's Atmosphere

Subject: Space Science
Grade: 6-8

Brief Description

Students make a model of the four layers of Earth's atmosphere that represents the characteristics of each layer.


Students will be able to describe the four layers of Earth's atmosphere and the characteristics of each.


atmosphere, ozone, meteor, weather, jet stream

Materials Needed

white paper (1m x 1m), metric ruler, pencil and colored pencils, a round object such as a jar lid or compass

Lesson Plan

Provide students with the following task list and have them check off each task as it is completed.

  • ______ Obtain a 1m x 1m piece of butcher-block paper.

  • ______ Use a pencil to trace a round object in the middle of the paper. This is Earth. Color Earth blue and green to represent oceans and continents.

  • ______ The first layer of Earth's atmosphere, the troposphere, extends 16 km above earth. Using a scale of 1mm for 1 km, place a series of dots around Earth, 16 mm from the planet's surface. Connect the dots to form a circle around Earth. Label the inside of this circle 'troposphere.' Draw pictures to indicate that this is the area in which airplanes fly and weather happens.

  • ______ The second atmospheric layer, the stratosphere, extends 48 km above Earth's surface. Measure and draw a circle 48 mm from Earth's surface. Label this layer 'stratosphere.' The jet stream occurs between the troposphere and the stratosphere, so draw arrows to represent this fast moving current of air on the borderline between the two layers.

  • ______ The third layer of the atmosphere, the mesosphere, extends 80 km from Earth's surface. Measure, draw, and label this layer. This is the coldest layer, so draw a thermometer to represent the very cold weather.

  • ______ The ozone is between the stratosphere and mesosphere. Ozone is made of three atoms of oxygen. Along the border of the stratosphere and mesosphere, draw molecules of ozone  -  3 connected dots  -  leaving a tiny area empty to represent the 'hole' in the ozone layer.

  • ______ The fourth layer of atmosphere, the thermosphere, extends 480 km above Earth's surface. Measure, mark, and label this layer. A thin region in the thermosphere, called the ionosphere, contains charged atoms. Label the ionosphere and draw + and - signs to represent those atoms. (Remember, this is not a layer, just a region in the thermosphere.) When meteoroids enter Earth's atmosphere, they enter the thermosphere, which is extremely hot. Because of the heat and friction with molecules in the atmosphere, most meteoroids burn up. A meteoroid falling through Earth's atmosphere is called a meteor. Draw and label a meteor.


    Students are graded on measurement, accuracy, color, detail, neatness, and content.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Submitted by: Kristin Mason, ([email protected]) Oak Grove West Middle School, Bartonville, Illinois



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