Exploring climate change out in the world is no easy task. It's not something that's readily apparent like pollution or recycling. The key is to draw every experience back into the global picture of what people are doing to the planet that creates climate change and highlight how things will change if people do nothing.
Since so many of the school projects in this book can play into reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, take the opportunity to tie the pieces together. It's always encouraging to learn that your actions impact a variety of things. Our world is all about interconnections. The more you can emphasize that, the better.
Gobble Up Greenhouse Gases
Trees absorb carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases. Planting trees is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Take a walk around your schoolyard and determine how many mature trees you have. Multiply them by fifty to determine how many pounds of carbon dioxide you are taking out of the air. Then decide how many more trees you can plant and where they should be planted. Do some fundraising to earn money to buy trees or ask your local garden store to donate a few trees. Invite parents and have a planning party.
The Zoo as a Global Picture
Zoos are an amazing collection of species from all over the world. To prepare for a field trip to the zoo that focuses on the impacts of global warming, research some of the species you will see. Do some of the animals come from an area where their natural habitat is threatened by global warming? How? One of the clearest examples is the polar bear. With ice flows melting, they have no landing pads for catching fish.
Zoos also offer an opportunity to examine the different climates and ecological systems that are necessary to support various animals. Look at the vegetation. Discuss which animals must have controlled indoor climates compared to those that can live in the climate you live in. What would happen if you moved a lion into a penguin's space? All of these creatures need a specific climate with specific vegetation to thrive.
When you take field trips, think of the most Earth-friendly way of getting there. Can you walk? Can you take a light rail? Which mode of transportation will release the fewest greenhouse gases? If you take a school bus, remind the driver not to idle. Maybe you can calculate your emissions and plant trees to make up for it.
Cars release enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the air from burning gasoline. Accordingly, it's important for people to try to get the best possible fuel efficiency. One easy way to do this is simply by keeping the tires inflated. It takes less energy to propel a car with properly inflated tires. A simple experiment to show kids how important this is (so they can remind their parents) is to take a booby-trapped bicycle ride. Have everyone let some of the air out of their bicycle tires and ride around the playground. Then fill the tires back up again and ride again. The students will see how much less energy it takes to move the bike. From this experiment, students will learn how much less energy or gasoline it will take to move a car when the tires are well filled.