- Ask students in what ways the climate in your area is changing or expected to change. Have them think about what they have noticed themselves or heard from others about changes in precipitation, temperature, sea level, storms, or other factors. How might a changing climate affect forests? How might it affect students and their families?
- Explain that students will read about the projections for different regions of the United States. Give students copies of the Regional Trends and Projections student page to read, focusing on the region for the forest type they examined in Activity 1. Direct them to use the information to complete Part 2 of their Forests and Climate student page from Activity 1.
- In what ways are forests throughout the United States expected to change?
- In what other ways do you think a changing climate would affect people and the environment? (See Background for some possibilities.)
- How do the actions we take in our daily lives affect climate change? What do you think people can do to reduce the impacts of a changing climate?
- Ask students if they have ever heard the term carbon footprint. If they are not familiar with it, point out that it is a measure of how much carbon dioxide (CO2) an organization, person, or product produces—directly or indirectly—in a certain amount of time (usually a year). Have students brainstorm ways that human activities produce CO2, such as by heating or cooling homes, using electricity, driving cars, or using air transportation. Tell the students that they will be investigating their carbon footprints. They will be looking at the evidence of how much carbon they use and brainstorm ways to decrease it.
- Share and review the Your Carbon Footprint student page with the class, directing them specifically to the homework portion. Ask students to take it home and try to complete it for their households, consulting with their family members for assistance. Alternatively, provide students with a sample energy bill and have them complete the student page in class. Explain that students will later use this information to estimate the amount of carbon they produce in one year.
- Once they have completed the homework portion, have students use an online carbon footprint calculator to estimate the amount of carbon their individual activities (see carbon calculators under Additional Resources for this activity).
- Instruct students to complete the Calculating Your Carbon Footprint portion of the student page. Then ask them to experiment with the calculator to see what factors have the greatest effect on the final result (for example, how many miles their family car is driven per week).
- Give each student a blank sheet of paper and instruct them to trace their own footprint. Have them divide the footprint in half by drawing a line lengthwise through it. Next tell students to write their carbon footprint number on one half. (They will add something to the other half later.)
- As a class, discuss the following questions:
- What factors most affected our carbon footprints?
- What actions can individuals take to reduce their carbon footprints?
- What actions could your family take to reduce its carbon footprint?
- What actions could our school take to reduce its carbon footprint?
- Give students copies of the Saving a Ton of CO2 student page, and discuss actions they might take to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Have students take their footprint cutout from above and write on the second half some things they will do to reduce their carbon footprints.
- Encourage them to take it home and display it someplace like the refrigerator to
remind them of things they can do to decrease their carbon footprint. Discuss:
- If everyone in the United States were to reduce their carbon footprint by 20%, what effect do you think this would have on our global climate?
- Why do you think it is difficult to get people to reduce their carbon footprint?
- Which countries currently emit the most carbon? What will happen if or when other countries catch up to that level of emissions?
- What do you think the United States should do to lead by example?