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Atmosphere Lesson Unit



This is a bundle of atmosphere lesson plans on the composition and layers of the atmosphere, global wind and climate patterns, and biogeochemical cycles is perfect for a high school environmental science course or earth science course. Human impacts on the environment are interwoven through each atomphere lesson to provide students with a good basis for any environmental science or APES course. A PowerPoint, guided notes, web-quests, doodle notes, activities, extension pages, and assessments are all included in this lesson. All student pages come in both PRINT and DIGITAL versions for efficient use in class or through distance learning.


What’s included?

  • 10 Teacher Planning Pages (standards document, editable daily pacing guide, differentiation ideas for student interest, ability, and learning environment)
  • 1 PowerPoint (49 editable slides- highly visual and fully animated)
  • 6 pages of Cornell Notes (both fill-in-the-blank and editable versions included)
  • 3 web-quests with corresponding student pages for independent learning
  • 3 pages of my popular Doodle Notes(TM) and a guide to using them in your classroom
  • 7 Activities: Composition of the Atmosphere lab, Layers of the Atmosphere graphing activity, Exploring the Coriolis Effect partner activity, Local Weather independent exploration, Meteorology Video Report group activity, What’s Your Weather? independent exploration, Nitrogen Cycle Board Game
  • 8 Extension pages: 4 Digging Deeper extensions for increased depth of knowledge & critical thinking skills (The Ozone Layer, Deforestation, ENSO, Greenhouse Gases), 4 Data Analysis extensions to focus on interpretation of graphs & math integration (Atmospheric Composition, Atmospheric Pressure, Solar Insolation, Carbon Residence Time)
  • 1 quiz through Google Forms for automatic online grading
  • 24 editable task cards for a quick and easy unit review
  • Editable unit test with multiple-choice and short-answer questions (in both honors and regular versions)
  • Supplementary Resource Ideas: links and videos for additional explanation or exploration
  • Answer keys and grading rubrics for all student pages


What topics are included in this unit?

Composition & Layers of the Atmosphere

  • Atmospheric composition
  • Composition of early atmosphere
  • Layers of the atmosphere (troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, exosphere)
  • Temperature trends in each layer of the atmosphere
  • Function and importance of ozone layer


  • Tilt of the earth, seasons, and solar radiation
  • Global circulation (Polar cells, Ferrel cells, Hadley cells)
  • Coriolis Effect
  • ENSO (El Nino, La Nina)
  • Weather maps (isothermic, isobaric, streamline, humidity)
  • Effects of deforestation on local and global weather

Biogeochemical cycles

  • Nutrient sources, sinks, and reservoirs
  • Nitrogen cycle (processes and sinks)
  • Phosphorous cycle (processes and sinks)
  • Carbon cycle (processes, reservoirs, and sinks)
  • Human impacts on the nitrogen, phosphorous and carbon cycles
  • Greenhouse gases and global warming (climate change)


The unit is aligned to NGSS and many state standards. If you’d like to know whether your state standards are covered, you can send me an email at [email protected]. Additional details on standards are included in the teacher planning pages of this course.

*For more details about the specific topics and items included, please see my PREVIEW.*

What curriculum could I use with this lesson?

This lesson is ideally geared toward high school students and would work well with a general-level Environmental Science or Biology textbook. It addresses the following topics in AP Environmental Science (APES):

  • 1.4: The Carbon Cycle
  • 1.5: The Nitrogen Cycle
  • 1.6: The Phosphorus Cycle
  • 4.4: Earth’s Atmosphere
  • 4.5: Global Wind Patterns
  • 4.7: Solar Radiation and Earth’s Seasons
  • 4.8: Earth’s Geography and Climate
  • 4.9: El Niño and La Niña
  • 9.1: Stratospheric Ozone Depletion
  • 9.2: Reducing Ozone Depletion
  • 9.3: The Greenhouse Effect

Can I edit these resources to fit my needs?

Some of the files in this unit are editable. The text on the PowerPoints, Cornell Notes, and task cards is all editable so you can adjust the level of content and wording. The pacing guide, printable unit tests, and online quizzes through Google Forms™ are all fully editable. Web-quests, activities, extension pages, and any images included in this unit are in non-editable PDF formats to protect my intellectual property rights and those of the illustrators whose images I’ve purchased for use in this resource.


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