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To better understand how the natural greenhouse effect occurs, we can conduct this simple and quick experiment using accessible materials. Sunlight reaches the Earth in the form of light and ultraviolet radiation, heating the planet. Some of the radiation is converted into infrared rays, which have difficulty passing through the atmosphere and escaping into space due to the presence of certain gases. This leads to the Earth's surface being warmed. Without the greenhouse effect, the Earth's average temperature would be -18ºC, rather than the current 15ºC, which is 33ºC lower. Hence, the greenhouse effect is crucial for maintaining life on our planet.

In this investigative activity, students are invited to simulate this phenomenon and reflect on its occurrence and the consequences of intensifying this natural process.


Flavia Sant'Anna Rios, Laís Britto Ferreira, Melissa Spindola Estevam, Sandra Freiberger Affonso.




Understand how the greenhouse effect occurs.


  • 1 shoe box (or 1 airtight plastic box with lid)

  • plastic film (it is not necessary to use the airtight plastic box with lid)

  • aluminum paper

  • scissors

  • 2 cups (without lid) with the same amount of water at room temperature

  • Incandescent lamp (optional if it is not possible to perform the experiment under the sun) 

  • 2 aquarium thermometers (optional)

  • Printed reports (one for each student or group)

Support materials

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