To start, you may want to view the What is STEM Education video below.
Humans are contributing to global climate change by emitting large quantities of greenhouses gases into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of these major greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide, however, also plays an important role in many natural processes such as photsynthesis and respiration. It is when we release too much carbon dioxide that it causes environmental problems.
Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing carbon. Carbon can be stored in trees, soil, and even in the ocean. Carbon sequestration can happen naturally like when carbon is stored in trees as part of photosynthesis, but engineers can also create opportunities for carbon sequestration by purposefully planting trees in certain areas or researching and creating manmade ways of storing carbon such as pumping carbon into the ground.
Trees are one of the most promising ways of sequestering carbon to help mitigate climate change. Climate change mitigation is an attempt to reduce the sources of climate change,whereas adaptation is the process of getting ready for the effects of climate change in order to lessen the impact. In this activity, students will investigate a tree's ability to store carbon and make conclusions about using trees to sequester carbon.
Before completing this lesson, students should already have an understanding about the mechanisms of climate change. For example, aperson's carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases that individual is responsible for emitting. This includes carbon produced by activities such as travel, food choices, and energy use– activities that can contribute to climage change.
This lesson also requires students to go outside and measure the circumference of trees. If you are in an area with lots of trees, have students measure different types of trees. If you are in an urban area, you could visit a park, playground, or even trees on the sidewalk and have students measure the same trees if necessary. You can also measure common shrubs.
For more background information about carbon sequestration, please visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency web site.