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Climate Status Investigations
Department of Energy
National Energy Technology Laboratory
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Lesson 13. Think Different
Week Three Lessons
11. Who's Got Your Power?
12. Waterworld
13. Think Different
14. Terrestrial Sequestration
GHG emissions mitigation problem solving | Multiple Disiplines

Links on this page: Think Different-Teacher Key

National Education Standards Met:
math discipline


Goal: Students complete a simple activity to encourage them to think about creative ways to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Objectives: Students will…

  • Think differently to solve a problem
  • Brainstorm ways to mitigate GHG emissions

Materials (per lab group of 3 students):

  • 3 sharpened pencils
  • 3 - 50 cm pieces of 16 gauge wire
  • 12 – 1/4 in nuts
  • 12 – small washers

Time Required: 45-60 minute period

Standards Met: S1, S2, S6, PS1, PS2


  • Explain to students that they will have the chance to ‘think different’ in this activity. It is important to “think outside the box” when they are trying to find solutions to complex problems.
  • As they do this activity, ask students to think about ways that GHGs could be mitigated to reduce emissions.  They might need to ‘think differently’ to find ideas.
  • Pass out one pencil, 4 nuts, 4 washers, and a piece of wire to each group of students.
  • Tell the students that their task is to balance the pencil so only the tip is touching the table.  The pencil must stand independently with nothing supporting or holding it.  No other piece of equipment may touch the table.
  • Give students time to figure out the puzzle.  See the diagram at the end of the lesson plan for the solution. 
  • Discuss the outcome with students.  What worked?  Where did they begin in solving the problem?  How did they think outside the box?
  • Explain to students that many solutions to the world’s most challenging problems came out of someone thinking differently.
  • Tie this concept to the idea that they will need to think differently to determine ways to reduce GHG emissions on a worldwide basis. 
  • Introduce potential mitigation techniques:  terrestrial sequestration, geologic sequestration, methane trapping, using more biofuels, etc. and explain that students will investigate these in more detail in the next few days.


  • Participation in the activity

Think Different-Teacher Key


This is the solution to the activity.


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