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Human Energy Systems | Activity 3.1

Activity 3.1: Millions of Flasks of Air (25 min)

Students read a short story about Charles David Keeling, the scientist who studied carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at Mauna Loa, Hawaii and discuss why his research was important.

Resources Provided

Recurring Resources


Print one copy of 3.1 Millions of Flasks of Air Reading per student.


1. Introduce students to the most important molecule of the unit: Carbon Dioxide!

Have students recall the Keeling Curve from the previous activity. Post the question: “How do scientists know CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere?” Tell them that in this activity they will read a story that explains the research behind this scientific knowledge.


  • You may want to display an image of the Keeling Curve on the overhead projector or in the classroom during this Activity.
  • Remind students that the data they are reading about in the handout and listening to in the story is the same data they examined in the previous activity: the Keeling Curve.


Have students read text as individuals and then ask their partners questions about what they read.

Extending the Learning

Ask students to listen to or read other popular media about Charles Keeling. Tell students that the Keeling Curve graph is an important graph that scientists use to understand carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. But why is it so important? We will learn the answer to this question throughout the unit.