This activity is part of the Climate Change Challenge unit.

1. Support students as they synthesize carbon footprint interview responses to design pledges.

  • Ask students:
      • Do you have any behaviors or habits that you want to change?
      • What strategies do you use to decrease the strength of these behaviors or habits in your life?
  • Discuss volunteers’ responses briefly as a class, and distribute the Planet Pledge Designer handout to all students.
  • Prompt students to review the responses to the interviews in Climate Questioning as they begin Part A of their Planet Pledge Designer handout.
      • Have students choose three behaviors that seem to be a source of carbon emissions for many members of the school community, and record these in the first column. (For example, many students and staff drive to school without carpooling.)
      • For each of the behaviors listed, have students identify at least two related strategies that members of the community could use to reduce their carbon emissions, and record these in the second column. (For example, members of the school community could carpool, walk, or bike.)
  • Next, ask volunteers to share out a behavior and the associated mitigation strategies, writing them in a visible location.
  • Introduce the concept of "constraints" by asking students:
      • Why might some people have a hard time using the first strategy?
      • Are there reasons why some people might have a hard time using the second? (Work through the strategies, prompting students to consider the constraints associated with time, physical ability, convenience, expense, and knowledge, writing their ideas on the board.)
  • Prompt pairs to complete the third column of Part A from the Planet Pledge Designer handout, listing all of the constraints they can imagine associated with each strategy. They may wish to revise their strategy in response to these constraints.
      • For example, students may wish to specify that someone might bike to school in the spring and fall, and carpool in the winter.
  • Direct students to decide which of the strategies they believe represents the best way to mitigate carbon emissions from each of the three habits. Students record their choices as the first pledge in Part B of the Planet Pledge Designer handout.
      • For example, the first element of a student pledge might be "I pledge to ride my bicycle to school when I can, and carpool when I cannot."
      • Direct students to be ready to defend these choices based on the constraints—explaining why they think the strategy they identified is both accessible and effective.


2. Prompt students to add Planet Pledges to their final products.

  • Revisit the criteria for success for the final product.
  • Ask students:
      • What representation of climate data did you choose for your final product, and why?
      • What three strategies did you select to help your community members pledge to cut their carbon emissions, and why?
  • Discuss volunteers’ answers briefly as a class.
  • Prompt each student to organize their graphical representation of climate data (saved in their portfolio), tabular representation of emissions data, and all three elements of their Planet Pledge from Part B of the Planet Pledge Designer handout on their final product in a format that will be easily accessible to their audience for the final presentations. (The form of this final product will differ depending on your classroom’s unique resources and student skills. The products may, therefore, range from posters with the named elements arranged and labeled by students to online presentations digitally organized into slides.)


3. Direct students to explain the relationship between the climate data representation and the pledge for an audience of non-scientists.

  • Revisit the format for the presentation of final products in the final activity of the unit (Community Consciousness). Again, emphasize that the presentations are an opportunity to depict the relevance and reality of climate change, and help people commit to making important changes in their behavior.
  • Ask students:
      • What information do you think your audience during the next activity will need to feel motivated to sign your pledge? (Help students recognize that the last element of the criteria for success, their explanatory paragraph, will help an audience who may not have seen climate data before experience the understanding and motivation necessary to sign and follow their pledge.)
  • Prompt students to consider the questions in Part C of the Planet Pledge Designer handout, and to draft a sentence response for each question.
      • These questions leverage students’ knowledge recorded in previous activities, including the evidence-based comparisons and predictions that accompanied their representations of climate data in Local Emissions, Plot It!, and Sea Level: The Evidence, as well as the constraints-based choices they made during Step 1 of this activity.
  • When students have finished drafting responses to the questions in Part C of the Planet Pledge Designer handout, prompt them to combine these into a single paragraph, and to record this paragraph in the last section of their final product.


4. Facilitate students’ self- and peer-evaluation of final products in preparation for presentations.

  • Distribute two copies of the Climate Change Challenge: Final Rubric to each student.
  • Assign students to complete the first three rows of one rubric copy examining their own work, and give them time to make any revisions necessary based on insights from their self-assessment.
  • Pair students, and assign each to practice presenting their Climate Change Challenge final product.
  • Ask pairs to complete all rows of the second rubric copy assessing their partner’s work and presentation, and to discuss their thoughts. Again, give students time to make any final revisions or to conduct additional presentation practice, based on insights from peer assessment.
  • Ensure that all revised final products are saved in an easily accessible digital location so that you may print them for student presentations in the next activity.


Informally assess students’ ability to synthesize climate change knowledge as they design a pledge from interview responses. Motivate that pledge with an explanatory paragraph, recorded in their Planet Pledge Designer handout.

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Earth Science
    • Climatology

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Consider common carbon-emitting behaviors, as well as constraints on why people are challenged to change those behaviors.
  • Design a Planet Pledge, based on action steps that individuals can take to change their carbon-emitting behaviors.
  • Create a final product for the Climate Change Challenge unit, including both visuals and text, to communicate about climate change and related action steps to audience members.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Information organization
  • Reflection

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

Next Generation Science Standards

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

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

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Computer lab


Decide on a format for students to present their final products so that you can share them with students. Some options include digital slides, a dynamic digital presentation tool, chart paper, or other platforms for creative and compelling representations.


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

Background Information

Pledges are one way to help people change their behavior. Pledges can be as simple as an individual agreeing to turn out the lights when they leave the room, and as complicated as a national government committing to keep global warming under 2oC. To be effective, pledges should be easy to understand and clearly justified. Many local businesses and governments have made key pledges to reduce their climate impact. Who is next?


Young people are beginning to raise global awareness of climate change. Activists, such as teenager Greta Thunburg of Sweden, have spoken to audiences around the world. Power also comes in numbers; kids and teens are well-represented at climate rallies. However, it’s not necessary to hit the streets to make one’s views known. Many youths use social media as a platform to demand action from decision-makers on climate change.


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.