Lifesaving Layers—Earth’s Atmosphere


What’s happening above your head? You can’t see the Earth’s atmosphere, but its layers are waiting for you to explore!


1. The atmosphere around our planet is a lifesaver. Not only does it protect us from powerful UV rays and the sun’s heat, but it also is a barrier from the vacuum of outer space. Starting about 800 miles (1,280 km) from the Earth’s surface, the atmosphere has layers of differing distances. Find out the names and characteristics of each layer.

2. On a clean foam produce tray, calibrate and mark with a Crayola® Marker each atmospheric zone. Include the separating "pause" layers. Leave one side of the tray for labels. These zones are grouped by their chemical composition, air movement, density, and temperature. Color each area using the appropriate colors (red for hottest, blue for coolest) and blend to accurately portray each layer’s temperatures. Color the Earth’s surface green and outer space black.

3. Mark each atmospheric layer with a number or letter. With Crayola Scissors, cut slick, nonporous, brightly colored paper to fit inside another produce tray. Write a key with layer names and other information on the paper. Trim the tray to fit the paper and glue them together with a Crayola Glue Stick.

4. To make a standing exhibit, attach the atmosphere tray to the key with wooden toothpicks to form an L-shaped display.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.

Recycled Foam Produce Trays—Wash in hot, soapy water. No meat or poultry trays should be used.

Scissors—ATTENTION: The cutting edges of scissors are sharp and care should be taken whenever cutting or handling. Blunt-tip scissors should be used only by children 4 years and older. Pointed-tip scissors should be used only by children 6 years and older.

Wood—By its nature, wood is rough and may contain splinters or sharp points


  • Your key can be simple or complex. Distance from the Earth, chemicals present in each layer, and range of temperatures could all be included.
  • Older students could research ways that life forms have modified the composition of the atmosphere since evolution. How do scientists know that this has happened?
  • Assessment: Verify that data presentations and keys are accurate. Students could check each other’s work and make corrections.
  • Spearhead a movement at your school to hold a science fair. Learn how to become part of regional and national Science Fair organizations.

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Markers
  • Glue Sticks
  • Pointed Tip Scissors
  • Construction Paper
household supplies
  • toothpicks - wooden
  • recycled foam produce trays



  • Grades 4 to 6
  • Grades 7 to 12


  • Science
  • Visual Arts


  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Multiple Sessions


  • Students gain a detailed understanding of the layers of Earth’s atmosphere.

  • Students represent their knowledge visually in a standing exhibit.

  • Students compose a key to explain their visual display.

  • Students research the effect of global warming on the Earth's atmosphere.


Research Canada Standards
Research UK Standards
Research U.S. Standards