Trees are a critical part of our ecosystem, providing numerous services, including acting as wildlife habitats, cooling structures, and absorbing CO2 and rainwater. That's what Lowell's 6th graders learned during last month's iTree Eco project in science classes.
The project took a deep dive into grade-level critical questions: How are our global climate and culture changing? What factors are responsible for a changing climate? How do we analyze these factors? Science teacher Adrienne van den Beemt integrated data collection, science, social studies, and language arts to provide a framework that challenged students to make connections across disciplines and apply their newfound knowledge to daily life.
In small groups, 6th graders evaluated trees on campus, such as the Tulip, Hickory, Black Walnut, and Sycamore. They identified the species, measured its diameter, and assessed its sun exposure. They then entered the data into iTree Eco, an app that compared their data to each tree's value and characteristics as a species and calculated its overall impact on the environment. From the app's forecasting and modeling reports, students learned how much carbon dioxide their tree can process yearly and throughout its lifetime, how much other pollution it filters from the air, and the many ways that wildlife and humans depend on the tree.
Sixth graders were stunned by the facts that arose from their studies. They discovered that a Tulip tree, in infancy, can process 1,000 pounds of carbon yearly and will increase its processing power with age. They calculated that combined, the 15 trees they studied absorb 6,000 pounds of CO2, the exact amount of carbon dioxide that one car emits in a year! Students took their studies a step further and used the information to advocate for daily actions people can take to reduce their carbon footprint. "As a teacher new to Lowell this year, I am so impressed with my students' passion and drive to make the world a better place," says Adrienne.
Adrienne wrapped up the lesson by having students write press releases to share what they had learned. Using their newfound knowledge, their persuasive writing skills, and their passion for the environment, students created eye-catching headlines designed to pique an audience's attention: "Lowell Students Become Tree Huggers … Literally," "Trees are our Saviors," and "INCREDIBLE: Lowell School students discover something amazing." While acknowledging the overwhelming evidence of humans' impact on the environment, students transformed their press releases into platforms for advocacy and hope… "If you spread awareness about this, more people can plant trees, helping the environment. We can't do this alone, but together, anything can happen," they wrote.