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Earth's Atmosphere Layers For kids

The Earth's Layers of Air

The layers of Earth's Atmosphere

The layers of Earth's Atmosphere

Teaching Kids About the Earth's Surrounding Layers of Air

The Earth's Atmosphere

Like the three layers—crust, mantle, and core—found inside the Earth, the outer area around the Earth also has layers. These are measurable areas that hang around above the Earth's surface and into the transparent air, each having their own temperatures and effects.

As Back to School Activities start to come into play, the simple fascination with the world around us may land at the forefront of this school year's Earth Science studies. Among the many things about the Earth we often ponder, the air has to be the most important of all. The earth's atmosphere has five distinct layers—Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, and Exosphere—of air that support, protect, and one that remains unstudied for the most part.

A fun project and an easy to read "Earth Air Table" will be found along with simple to understand earth science information. Today we will embark on defining each of the "Earth's Air Layer's" and their reason for hanging around; also discover why the Mesosphere is referred to as the "ignorosphere" by some scientists. Let's get started!

The Earth's Atmosphere

The word "atmosphere" (from the Greek "atmos," or breath, and "sphaira," ball) refers to the gas that surrounds any planet or star. Earth's atmosphere, which is held in place by Earth's gravity, is made up of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, small amounts of other gases, and a little bit of water vapor—in other words, what we call "air." Our atmosphere gives us a protective barrier from the sun's ultraviolet radiation and a cushion against the changing extremes of temperature day to day.


Earth's First Layer of Air: Troposphere

Greek for "tropos," meaning turning or change.

Closest to the Earth, starting as close as just above the surface of the Earth and extending as high as 60,000 feet up, you will find the Troposphere. This is where we live everyday of our lives. Because all of the other layers are pressing down on the troposphere due to gravity, this is also the layer of Earth's atmosphere that contains the greatest amount of pressure. The majority of our weather systems are found within the troposphere, which gets colder the higher up it goes. Eighty percent (80%) of the Earth's atmosphere is found in this layer, which is why it sustains life so well, and because it also has the greatest concentration of oxygen of the five layers.

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Earth's Third Layer of Air - Mesosphere

Greek for "mesos," meaning middle.

Extending from around 160,000 feet to 285,000 feet, the mesosphere is the coldest of the five layers of Earth's atmosphere—more cold than the coldest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica (-129°F!). This freezing cold layer is the biggest protector of the Earth when it comes to meteorites: most meteors burn up when they enter this part of Earth's atmosphere. Not very much is known about the mesosphere because it begins just a little higher than the maximum altitude allowed for aircraft, but lower than the minimum altitude for rocket ships and other spacecraft. Because of the limiting factors to this layer, the mesosphere has not been explored very much at all, causing some scientist to call this layer the "ignorosphere."


Earth's Second Layer of Air: Stratosphere

Greek for "stratus," meaning to stretch or extend.

The second layer to Earth's atmosphere is the stratosphere, which stretches out to about 160,000 feet above the Earth and contains the ozone layer, which is just about 50,000-115,000 feet above the Earth's surface. The bottom part of the stratosphere has an almost constant temperature, however this layer (unlike the troposphere) gets hotter and hotter the higher it goes. You will see commercial airliners flying in the bottom part of this layer of Earth's air to avoid all of the turbulence and bad weather found in the highest parts of the troposphere.




Extends as high as 60,000 feet 

Most weather systems are in this layer; gets colder as it goes higher; 80% of the atmoasphere's mass is in this layer. 


Extends as high as 160,000 feet 

Contains the ozone layer; lower part of layer stays a constant temperature; layer increases in heat at the higher levels: airplanes fly in the lowest regions.  


Extends from 160,000 feet to 285,000 feet 

Coldest of atmospheric layers; protects earth from meteors; little more is known about of this layer;  nick-named "ignorosphere."


Extends from 285,000 feet to 400,000 feet

Gets hotter the higher it goes; empty of matter; contains the ionosphere; the Aurora Borealis are formed here.


Extends more than 6,000 MILES into space

Only the lightest gases are found at this layer; most satellites orbit in this layer.


Earth's Fourth Layer of Air - Thermosphere

Greek for "thermos," which means hot.

Right above the mesosphere, the thermosphere is about 285,000 feet to over 400,000 feet. This layer of Earth's air gets increasingly hotter as it goes farther away from the Earth's surface. Even though it is so very hot (temperatures can get as hot as 27,000°F!), it is ultimately empty of any matter. Because of the lack of matter here, a normal thermometer would read the temperature to be way below zero. This layer also contains the ionosphere, which is the part of the atmosphere that gets ionized by the sun's solar radiation. It is also the area where auroras like the Aurora Borealis, or "Northern Lights," are created.

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For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Of the five layers in Earth's atmosphere, which one holds the most oxygen?
    • Exosphere
    • Mesosphere
    • Troposphere
  2. Which atmospheric layer do humans live in?
    • Stratosphere
    • Troposphere
    • All of the above
  3. Within what layer of atmosphere do Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) form?
    • Thermosphere
    • Mesosphere
    • Cyclosphere
  4. The Greek word for "middle" is;
    • Tropos
    • Thermos
    • Mesos
  5. In which layer of Earth's 5 layer's of atmosphere can you find temperatures as high as 27,000F?
    • Thermosphere
    • Exosphere
    • Mountaineer

Answer Key

  1. Troposphere
  2. Troposphere
  3. Thermosphere
  4. Mesos
  5. Thermosphere


Earth's Fifth Layer of Air - Exosphere

Greek for "exose," meaning outer or exterior.

This is the highest region of the Earth's atmosphere, and extends more than 6,000 miles into space. At this level, the last level before outer space, the only gases that can float this high have to be the lightest gases (mostly hydrogen, and small amounts of helium, carbon dioxide, and atomic oxygen). The density of these molecules is so low that there is rarely any chance that they will run into each other. With no collisions holding these molecules back, they are able to escape Earth's gravitational pull and gracefully drift off into outer space. The exoshpere is also where you find most of the worlds satellites to be orbiting.

Completing the "Earth Atmosphere Project" Below

Below you will find a colorful and fun project dealing with the Earth's Atmosphere. It is designed in four easy to complete sections, each offering a different task. After discussing or reading the article, print and hand out the project worksheet. It is self explanatory and makes a great classroom project as well as an interesting homework project. In either case, to get the most from the project, a discussion around the the topic of the Earth's Layers of Air would be helpful.

This fun "Earth's Atmosphere Project Worksheet" can be completed in the classroom or as a great homework assignment!

This fun "Earth's Atmosphere Project Worksheet" can be completed in the classroom or as a great homework assignment!

Try These Earth Friendly Study Guides with their own Projects!

An Earth Video

Comments for "Earth's Atmosphere Layers For kids"

jhairalyn nunag on January 13, 2012:

its so beautiful and wonderful .and its guide the children.thanks

Lexia 3 on November 15, 2011:

Very good article

jenniferzhao on September 15, 2011:

the blog post is really the freshest on this noteworthy theme. I harmonize with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to hear your coming updates.

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India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on September 03, 2011:

hanwillingham~ Thank you for your comments today. I did have fun researching the Earth's Surrounding Layers of Air! The atmosphere has always amazed me!

I appreciat your stopping by~


hanwillingham on September 03, 2011:

Well-researched hub!Great work.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 08, 2011:

Patty Inglish, MS ~ How funny your 4th grade story! It brings a smile that you approve of this little Earth's Atmosphere Hub for kids. BTW, was not surprised to see you among the Hubbie Award Celebs! Congrats! And thank you for your comments here today.



Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 08, 2011:

Very cool!

In 4th grade, we were to color in the atmospheres and for Troposphere we called out at once - What color crayon is "clear"?

Rated Up.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 08, 2011:

Simone~ Thank you for making it by today. I find the topic of Earth's Atmosphere thrilling as well. I sure appreciate your comments and support!



Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on August 08, 2011:

Oh boy, my old Historical Geology days are coming back! I had forgotten that the Mesosphere is actually the coldest. Fascinating stuff, this is! Thermosphere FTW!!!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 08, 2011:

Vicki~ Thanks for the nice comments. I am thrilled that you found the information on the Earth's Atmoshpere worth the read!



vickiturner on August 08, 2011:

What a fascinating hub! Some hubs are just a mine of information, this one included.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 05, 2011:

glassvisage~ Thank you very much for the review. I hope it helps a teacher have time to settle-in as the new school year arrives. Tried to make it a fun school project for the kids as well! I appreciate you making it by for a read!



Nell! So nice to see you cruised over to check out the Earth's Atmosphere! Thrilled you like the work and flattered you will be bookmarking. Best of the day to you my friend!



Nell Rose from England on August 04, 2011:

Hi, this was an amazing hub, I always get each layer muddled up, and this was such a fantastic read, I will bookmark it and definitely be back to read it again, great stuff! cheers nell

glassvisage from Northern California on August 04, 2011:

Great resources for a teacher on this topic - you pretty much just handed over a great lesson plan :)

tebo from New Zealand on August 03, 2011:

Great hub. The video was very cool too. Interesting that the different layers are hot, cold, hot and the layer with little known about it due to its position.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 03, 2011:

Phil Plasma~ Great observation my friend! The Earth's troposphere is where we live and breathe...unless you're an astronaut! ;)

Thanks for the comments!



India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 03, 2011:

Sagebrush_mama~ Thank you for the delightful comments, quite grateful! I agree with you that the table helps to define Earth's Layers of Air at a glance. Pleased you noticed the effort.

Happy to see you in the neighborhood today!



India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 03, 2011:

John Dee~ How cool! I hope your kids learn some fun earth stuff and I am thrilled that you consider my hubs a worthy teaching tool. I really appreciate your comments!



Phil Plasma from Montreal, Quebec on August 03, 2011:

Most people do not seem to know they spend considerable time in the troposphere on a daily basis. This is a good reminder to them.

sagebrush_mama from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound! on August 03, 2011:

Beautiful formatting on this very informative hub! I love your use of the table, in explaining the different layers of the Earth's atmosphere!

John D Lee on August 02, 2011:

Lovely job! I will be checking your other hubs in detail to get ideas for teaching my kids some cool stuff.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 02, 2011:

Cara thanks for stopping by and adding your kind comments. I sure appreciate your time!



cardelean from Michigan on August 02, 2011:

That's awesome, 200 hubs, congrats! I'm still inching toward 100. :) This is another fantastic, very thorough, well laid out hub. Once again I'm wishing that this was something that was in my curriculum. Great job!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 01, 2011:

How cool, I didn't even make the connection until I read your comment! Thanks Flora! 200 Hubs and counting!!

FloraBreenRobison on August 01, 2011:

This is your 200th hub! Congratulations.

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