The Atmosphere: It's a Gas! (AIG IRP)

Lesson Overview

Brief Description of Lesson/Task/Activity: Within the earth science strand of 7th grade science, students focus on understanding the cycling of matter in and out of Earth’s atmosphere.  In this task, students discover the stages that lead to Earth’s current atmosphere, investigate the cycles that maintain the Earth’s current atmosphere, and write a fictional account of one of the cycles from that gas molecule/compound’s point of view.  The analytical reading and diagram interpretation, as well as the creative writing nature of this lesson allow students to build content understanding while promoting 21st Century Skills.

Time Frame: 2 class periods (~120 minutes)

Type of Differentiation for AIGs:

  • Extension

Adaptations for AIGs:

  • Content
  • Process
  • Product

Explanation of How Resource is Appropriate for AIGs: AIG students in the middle grades need opportunities to analytically organize written information, construct diagrams from written passages, and interpret scientific diagrams to create written descriptions as these skills will be essential in advanced courses (AP sciences, etc.).  The creative writing aspect of this assignment will also allow AIG students to interact with the non-fiction information and demonstrate student understanding in a more personal and interesting manner.

Needed Resources/Materials:

  • “Earth’s Three Atmospheres” cut-apart sheet for student pairs (see attached)
  • Diagram of the Nitrogen Cycle
  • Diagram of the Carbon Cycle - pair with diagram of Oxygen Cycle to demonstrate connection
  • Diagram of the Water Cycle
  • Rubric for “A Gas’s Point of View” writing assignment


Teacher Notes: Prior to use, cut apart the worksheet “Earth’s Three Atmospheres” and place its individual cards in an envelope or sealable bag. The cards are printed on the worksheet in one possible logical order under the correct headings as printed.

Students may have some background in this topic from 6th grade discussions regarding the differences among the atmospheres of our solar system’s planets; however, the information on the cards is designed to stand on its own without review.  If the teacher finds that this is not the case, suggest further independent research or activities for students/the class as necessary.