This activity is part of the Climate Change Challenge unit.

1. Introduce students to the unit's final product criteria for success.

  • Write the word "pledge" in a visible location, and ask students to consider the following questions, and discuss volunteers’ responses as a class:
      • When in your life have you made a pledge or a promise?
      • Why did you choose to do this?
      • How did making the pledge or promise change your actions?
  • Remind students of the project for the Climate Change Challenge unit: to communicate the relevance and reality of climate change, and to design a Climate Change Challenge Pledge, asking community members to help slow and reverse its effects on planet Earth. 
  • Project and review the criteria for success for the final product from the Climate Change Challenge: Final Product Rubric.
  • Allow students time to access their final portfolios with graphical representations of data from Lessons 2-3, and to choose the one they believe will be most compelling to an audience of non-scientists, to complete the first criteria of the final product.
  • Inform students that they will present their final products in the final activity of the unit (Community Consciousness). Introduce the format and audience for students' presentations. Emphasize that they have an opportunity to depict the relevance and reality of climate change. This is a chance for them to help people commit to making important changes in their habits (as students likely discussed earlier in this step):
      • Students place their final products around the room to create a gallery walk for the audience.
      • Students accompany their products, using their representations of climate data and explanatory paragraphs to help convince audience members to commit to their Climate Change Challenge Pledge.
      • Audience members can sign and print their names on a student’s Planet Pledge Collector to indicate their willingness to try to abide by the pledge in the coming months and to receive support from the student on how to do so.


2. Direct students to develop questions that examine school community members’ key carbon footprint contributors.

  • Introduce students to the goal of today’s activity: to understand the carbon footprints of school community members to design an appropriate Climate Change Challenge Pledge.
  • Inform students that they will design and conduct climate interviews to achieve this goal.
      • Pair students and ask each set of partners to develop three questions they believe will most improve their understanding of school community members’ carbon footprints, both in and out of school.
      • Prompt students to use the questions in the carbon footprint audit from Our Footprints activity and the strategies from the Adaptation and Mitigation activity as starting places for generating their questions. For example, students might ask, "How do you get to school?" or "What do you eat for lunch?"
      • Then prompt pairs to split up and circulate the classroom, recording four to six peers’ responses to their three questions.
      • Return students to their pairs to compare and contrast the responses they received, and to revise questions as necessary for clarity and completeness.
  • Solicit pairs’ interview questions and record them, rewording to encompass multiple perspectives, and avoiding redundancy when possible. Allow students to vote for their favorite three to five questions to create a list of five to 10 short-answer questions to be used in a standard class interview.
  • Review the list of “Tips for interviewing people” from the Geo-Inquiry Student Workbook: #12. Conducting Interviews handout. Ensure that all students have written down the class questions, and are prepared with notebooks and recording equipment, if possible.


3. Support students as they interview school community members to identify their key carbon footprint contributors.

  • Assign students in pairs to visit and interview peers, teachers, and administrators regarding their carbon footprint. Students need to keep in mind that their goal is to use this information to design a carbon-mitigation pledge that addresses the particular carbon footprints of school community members.
      • One student should conduct an interview as another takes notes (and/or records) on responses.
      • Remind students to invite the people they interview for the final presentations for the unit.
      • Prompt students to return to the classroom with responses at least 15 minutes before the end of the class period.
  • While students are conducting interviews, create and share a class online interview-response chart (see Setup).
  • As students return in pairs from conducting interviews, assign them to record the responses they gathered in the class online interview-response chart.
  • Save a copy of the class online interview-response chart for use in the next activity.
  • Conclude by asking students to reflect on their interviews with the following questions:
      • What did you learn from school community members that surprised you?
      • In what ways were your interview participants’ carbon footprints similar to yours?
      • In what ways were they different?
      • Student responses will vary but look for their developing sense of what carbon-increasing habits are common to many people.

Informal Assessment

Informally assess students’ understanding of carbon footprint contributors by examining their interview questions in Step 2 and listening to reflection responses in Step 3.

Extending the Learning

In addition to members of the school community, students may also wish to interview members of the larger community, such as businesspeople, friends, and family. This will give them a more comprehensive sense of local citizens’ carbon footprint contributions.

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Earth Science
    • Climatology

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Review the criteria and rubric for the unit project and final presentations, and choose the data representations from their portfolio to include in their presentations.
  • Write effective questions to identify key carbon footprint contributors from school community members.
  • Interview school community members and accurately record their responses.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative learning
  • Discussions
  • Experiential learning

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.1.C:  Pose questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant observations and ideas that bring the discussion back on topic as needed.

Next Generation Science Standards

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per pair, Monitor/screen, Projector

Physical Space

  • Classroom


Step 3: Select carbon footprint interviewees from throughout the school community, with student input and assistance, if possible. You may wish to ask other classes, administrators, and staff to participate in this activity to raise awareness of climate change and generate enthusiasm for students’ work and upcoming presentations. While students are conducting their interviews within the school community, generate an online chart with the class’s interview questions in the left-hand column. Make sure there is space for students to fill in responses on the right.


Finalize details for the students’ final presentations so community members from both within the school and outside of the school (including scientists, energy company or government officials, community activists with relevant expertise) can be invited. Finalizing these details should allow students to prepare their presentations accordingly. 


  • Large-group instruction
  • Large-group learning
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Background Information

Conducting an interview is one way to learn helpful information about an individual person’s thoughts and behaviors. When the same interview is conducted with many different subjects, the information can be used to understand themes from members of a community. During the interview process, it’s critical to determine goals and questions ahead of time and decide whom to interview. Once interviews have been conducted, the responses can be analyzed to identify key trends in the data.


A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gasses that are necessary to support human activities. A single person’s carbon footprint can be estimated by thinking about their habits. In particular, the types of food they eat, as well as the transportation and energy they use, are important. For example, eating poultry typically generates less greenhouse gas than eating beef, biking generates fewer greenhouse gasses than driving, and turning down the heat can help prevent the generation of these gasses in the first place. Knowing which habits contribute to one’s carbon footprint can be a first step towards reducing that footprint.


carbon footprint
total sets of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product or individual over a set period of time.

gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.


increase in the average temperature of the Earth's air and oceans.


to guarantee or promise.