Earth and Atmospheric Science: Prior Knowledge

Depending on prior learning, choose from a range of activities to review the connection between changes to the atmosphere caused by human activity (increased levels of greenhouse gases) and climate change. Find out what learners already know about the link between the Earth’s atmosphere and weather patterns. Promote an equitable approach to learning by valuing students' experiences or feelings about, for instance, recent extreme weather events. 

This is recommended as session one of the Key Stage Four Earth and Atmospheric Science Unit, identifying prior knowledge. 



Green Skills

  • Communication

Curriculum Links 


Earth and atmosphere: 

  • Composition and structure of the Earth, composition of the atmosphere, production of carbon dioxide by human activity and the impact on climate.

Step by step

Quick Starter Activity

Watch the following short two-minute video from the Met Office ‘Exploring Extreme Weather’:

Preview image for the video "Exploring extreme weather".

Following the video, find out what extreme weather events learners have heard about or experienced recently. After giving them time to discuss in small groups, ask them the following questions:

  • What do you think causes extreme weather events? 
  • How do extreme weather events affect you?
  • How does it make you feel?

Main Activity Suggestions

Suggestion 1

Met Office and Royal Meteorological Society: What are the layers of the atmosphere? Following a review video students can conduct group research to review different atmospheric layers or topics then present to the class. This can be supplemented with consolidation questions.

Suggestion 2

Met Office Climate Change Science Fact Sheet. A fact sheet that summarises the science of climate change. Learners can use the fact sheet to review key ideas, and write down questions they have about the relationship between greenhouse gas concentrations and climate change. 

Suggestion 3

Natural History Museum: Carbon Cycle Passport. Students simulate a molecule of carbon’s movement through various locations in the carbon cycle, before acting out different human impact scenarios. This provides a useful consolidation activity.

Top Tips

Identify gaps and misconceptions in climate understanding before introducing new material through the rest of the unit.

This 50-minute BBC Bitesize video can also be used for learners to view at their own pace, covering changes to the Earth and atmosphere:

Preview image for the video "GCSE BBC Science Bitesize - Changes to the Earth and Atmosphere".