Take Action: Plant a Tree

In Beyond Weather and the Water Cycle, we’re exploring Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences, which summarizes the most important principles and concepts of climate science. In addition to the seven essential principles, the document also includes a Guiding Principle for Informed Climate Decisions. It states:

Humans can take actions to reduce climate change and its impacts.

How can elementary teachers incorporate this guiding principle into their classroom? An emerging best practice from climate research is that teachers are better able to avoid overwhelming students, transcend boredom, and engage students by weaving science content with solutions.  In this column, we help you and your students make the connection between knowledge and action.

In this issue, we focus on Essential Principle 4: Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes. Unlike in past columns,  in this issue’s column there isn’t an obvious connection to an action that students can take to reduce climate change. So instead, we’ve chosen to highlight a simple action that has great impact: planting trees.

Olympic National Park #1. Photo courtesy of J.G. in S.F., Flickr.

does planting trees make a difference? First, trees take in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis to create carbohydrates (food). This means that carbon dioxide gas is removed from the air, turned into an energy source, and stored in the plant. Planting trees means that larger amounts of carbon dioxide gas can be removed from the atmosphere.

But that’s not the only way that trees are helpful. Trees that are planted to shade homes and offices keep the buildings cool, reducing the need for air conditioning. This means that less fossil fuel is burned to generate the electricity needed to power air conditioners. Trees planted in an urban area can also reduce the “heat-island effect,” or when urban areas have significantly higher temperatures than areas with trees. Trees also absorb pollutant particles that affect air quality.

How Trees Fight Global Warming
This page from the Arbor Day Foundation discusses how trees fight global warming at home, in the community, on rural properties, and in national forests.

Benefits of Trees in Urban Areas
This page describes how urban forests improve air, protect water, and save energy.

Tree Musketeers
Tree Musketeers is an environmental organization for young people.  Find out how your students can participate in its campaign to help the planet.

This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. Jessica is an education resource specialist at The Ohio State University and project director of Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears. She has taught in elementary and middle school settings. Email Jessica at beyondweather@msteacher.org.

Copyright August 2011 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1034922. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *