Ridesharing: Working Together to Get Where We Need to Go


Grade Level & Subject: Grades K – 4: Science

Length: One class period


After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand the basics of the greenhouse effect.
  • Create a strategy for their own rideshare program in their neighborhood.
  • Understand the concept behind ridesharing and realize that it sometimes is inefficient.

National Standards Addressed:[1]

This lesson addresses the following National Science Education Standards from the National Academies of Science:

As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of:

  • Personal health
  • Characteristics and changes in populations
  • Types of resources
  • Changes in environments
  • Science and technology in local challenges
  • Content Standard: NS.K-4.5 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop:

  • Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans

Materials Needed:

  • Projector (optional)
  • Blackboard
  • Reproducible #1 – The Greenhouse Gas Effect
  • Reproducible #2 – Sample Rideshare Map

Students will be assessed through the following activities:

  • Participation in the virtual rideshare.
  • Participation in class discussion.
  • Completion of their rideshare map.



Relevant Vocabulary:

  • Energy:the capacity for vigorous activity; available power[2]
  • Greenhouse effect:Warming of the surface and lower atmosphere of a planet that is caused by conversion of solar radiation into heat in a process involving selective transmission of short wave solar radiation by the atmosphere, its absorption by the planet's surface, and reradiation as infrared which is absorbed and partly reradiated back to the surface by atmospheric gases.[3]
  • Greenhouse gases:Greenhouse gases include, but are not limited to: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.[4]
  • Rideshare:An act or instance of sharing rides or transportation, especially by commuters.[5]

Background Information:

As people around the world try to cut down on their CO2 emissions, biking, walking, and public transportation have become increasingly popular choices. However, not everyone has the ability to walk or bike to their destinations, nor does public transportation get everyone to where they need to be. An alternative to these options that is still better for the environment than driving solo is to rideshare. By ridesharing, we can greatly reduce the number of cars on the road. There are many new opportunities for ridesharing, including websites where members can sign up as drivers or passengers, and find common destinations.

This lesson plan will focus on basic ridesharing to and from school, work, sports practices, and after-school activities. By learning about why ridesharing is important and how to make it most efficient, students will be able to incorporate rideshares into their lives on a more regular basis.


A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change Environmental Protection Agency


A resource for students to learn more about climate change.

Slugging to Work: Anonymous Ride-Sharing National Public Radio


An article on National Public Radio (NPR) about ridesharing.



Warm-up: Exerting Energy

  1. To begin this lesson, students will perform an activity to help them visualize the concept of ridesharing and begin to understand its efficiency.
  2. Instruct students to clear space to stand in the four corners of the room.
  3. Divide your class into three or four equally distributed groups and assign each group a corner of the room. Ask students to bring their chairs with them to their assigned corner.
  4. Explain that each group must choose one representative to compete in a challenge. This student will race against the other groups to stack all of his or her team’s chairs as quickly as possible but they must not allow any other team members to help.
  5. Ask students to choose a representative to begin the game.
  6. As soon as students are ready, ask them to “stack those chairs.” The group representative should stack the chairs as quickly as possible, and when finished the team must call out the word, “stacked” to alert the teacher. The teacher will announce the winner of that trial.  
  7. Next, have two new representatives from each group step forward to un-stack all of the chairs. When they are ready, the teacher will say, “Un-stack those chairs” and the two students will un-stack the chairs until as their group watches and calls out, “un-stacked” upon completion. The teacher will again note which group has won this trial.  
  8. Have three new representatives from each group step forward to again stack the chairs. When ready say, “stack those chairs” and have the students work until all chairs are stacked. When complete, the group should say, “Stacked.” Pronounce a team the winner.  
  9. Finally, have all members of each group unstuck the chairs. Again the teacher will say, “Un-stack those chairs” and each group will un-stack the chairs as quickly as possible and state “un-stacked” upon completion.
  10. Have students put the classroom back to its original position and return to their seats.  Next, start a discussion by asking the following questions:
  11. With what number of representatives was stacking or un-stacking the chairs the easiest and fastest? Answers will vary but will probably be the last trial with the most representatives..
  12. Which trial required the most energy? Which required the least? Why? The trial with one representative required the most energy because one person had to do a lot of work. The trial with the most representatives required the least energy, because every person only had to lift one chair.
  13. Explain to students that this concept can be compared to the idea of “ridesharing.” Ridesharing is an act or instance of sharing rides or transportation, especially by commuters.[6]
  14. When one representative stacked all the chairs, he or she used a lot of energy; likewise, when every person drives their own car, they waste a lot of gas. If people rode cars together, they could save gas just as the representatives saved energy when they worked together.

Activity One: Why Ridesharing Matters

  1.  In order to understand why ridesharing is important, students should gain a basic understanding of greenhouse gases and climate change. Using Reproducible #1 – The Greenhouse Effect as a handout or on a projector, explain to students that when we use cars, they emit carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases trap heat in our planet, which makes the Earth warm up. To demonstrate this, have the students get up and act it out.
  2. Assign two - thirds of the students to represent “Atmosphere” and one – third to represent “Heat.”
  3. Explain to all students that one side of the room represents the sun, and the other the Earth.
  4. Tell the Heat students that they will need to move from the sun to the Earth.
  5. Tell the atmosphere students (without the Heat students overhearing) that while the Heat students have moved to the Earth side of the room, the Atmosphere students will need to quickly and quietly form a line between the Earth and the sun, preventing the Heat students to return to the Sun.
  6. Give students a few minutes to act it out.
  7. Ask students to return to their seats and rearrange the room back, if necessary.
  8. Explain to students that they just demonstrated how heat is trapped on Earth. The Atmosphere students represented carbon dioxide. Cars and trucks emit a great deal of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide does occur naturally in the environment – every time we breathe out, we are releasing carbon dioxide. Trees absorb carbon dioxide. However, the problem is that with cars and trucks we are releasing more carbon dioxide than the Earth is used to. The trees can’t keep up! This is why driving can be harmful to the environment and it is beneficial to limit the amount of driving.  
  9. Ask students what they have done in the past to avoid driving. Shared a ride with someone, walked, biked, etc.

Activity Two: Mapping it Out!

  1. Now that students understand why cars can be harmful to the environment, create a rideshare map as a class. Draw a school on the board with five houses different distances away from the school.  
  2. Explain that one car must collect all of the people and not go backwards. Who should be the driver and what route should he or she take? Use Reproducible #2 – Sample Rideshare Map as an example.
  3. After working as a class, ask students to take out a piece of paper and draw their own school and five houses. Have them figure out the best route for their own rideshare map.
  4. Begin a discussion with the class.
  5. What are the benefits of ridesharing? Saves money on gas, commute with friends, etc.
  6. What are the benefits of ridesharing for the environment? It reduces the amount of greenhouse gases in the air.
  7. Do you know of anyone who shares rides? Answers will vary.
  8. Could you or your parents have a ride share in your neighborhood? Answers will vary.
  9. Explain to students that ridesharing is not always the best option and drivers and riders need to carefully plan their route. On the board, draw a school with a house on either side of it. Ask the students why it wouldn’t make sense to share rides in this case. The car would have to go past the school to go to the other house, so it wouldn’t save any gas.

Wrap Up: Other Techniques

  1. Emphasize to students that ridesharing is a great way to help the environment. Ask students if they know of any other ways to get around that is better for the environment than driving. Biking, walking, public transportation, etc. Have they ever used any of these forms of transportation?  Answers will vary.
  2. Have students think about their own neighborhood and determine whether they could either walk or ride their bike to school with their parents, or if they could share rides with other students. Give them the opportunity to talk to students that live near them so they can come up with a rideshare strategy on their own. Remind students that buses are the ultimate rideshare, and are even better because so many other kids use them.

Extension: Other Rideshares

  1. Divide the class into groups of 4 or 5 and have them make posters about ridesharing. They can use magazines and other materials to help them. The posters should explain why ridesharing is good and how other students can participate in this. Put the posters up outside the classroom in the hall so that other students can learn about ridesharing.
  2. For homework, ask students to look outside their window or sit on their porch and watch the cars go by during rush hour. Ask students to keep a tally of how many cars go by, and how many people are in each car.
  3. Discuss with students other kinds rideshare programs, such as bike or car shares, where members of a community share bikes or cars either for free or they pay by the hour. Ask students what the pros and cons of these programs would be.



Students now have a basic understanding of what greenhouse gases are, how they are emitted, and the negative effect that cars have on the environment and our health. They were able to understand first-hand why ridesharing uses less energy, and created their own rideshare routes and evaluated their efficiency. Students now have the knowledge and background information to determine the efficiency of a rideshare that they may be a part of now or in the future.



Katie Alexander – Author

            Education Intern, Earth Day Network

Maggie Ollove – Editor

            Education Associate, Earth Day Network


[2]“Energy.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 30 June 2011 from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/energy

[3]“Greenhouse Effect.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 20 April 2011 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/greenhouse%2Beffect

[4]“CEQA Guidelines: Sections Proposed to be Added or Amended.” Governor’s Office of Planning and Research: California. Retrieved 20 April 2011 from http://www.opr.ca.gov/ceqa/pdfs/PA_CEQA_Guidelines.pdf

[5]“Ridesharing.” Dictionary.com. Retrieved 22 April 2011 from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ridesharing.

[6]“Ridesharing.” Dictionary.com. Retrieved 22 April 2011 from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ridesharing.