Youth are never too young to learn about environmental stewardship. When high school students do projects about trees, they learn more about the impact of this natural resource, biodiversity and how to make the best decisions about the environment. In addition to learning about the biological connections of trees, student projects help teens learn about how trees also impact cultures and politics.
The Smithsonian Institute’s Tree Banding Project allows students to learn about how area trees respond to the climate by studying its biomass with tools provided by the institute. For this project, a high school class or student installs tree bands called dendrometers around 10 trees. Throughout the year, a student measures the growth of a tree at least four different times using digital calipers. The student or class then submits the results to the Smithsonian Institute to learn how the recorded rate of growth compares to the Smithsonian’s research and to the results submitted by other students around the world.
A project about invasive species takes a look at how non-native trees affect the local ecosystem. Alternatively, a student can examine how non-native plants or animals affect local trees. For this project, a student learns about the origin of an invasive species and the reason behind its introduction. He then explains how the species has affected the ecosystem over time with the help of visual aids, like “before and after” pictures. The end of the project outlines steps to eliminate the invasive species and the barriers encountered to provide a full picture of the dangers that non-native flora or fauna can cause.
In a project that explores biodiversity, a high school student explains how a tree is more than just a plant that makes up a forest, orchard or landscaping décor. The student studies a small set of trees in an area through observation and by collecting samples to show how the area ecosystem depends on the trees. She identifies animals, including insects, nesting in or using the trees. The student also notates the different types of growths on the trees, like moss or lichen, and explains the symbiotic purpose they serve. For this project, the student also hypothesizes what may happen if someone removed the trees or planted more.
Using dendrochronology, a student can show others how to calculate the age of a wooden object by examining the patterns of the growth rings. The student explains how a tree’s growth rings are like a DNA fingerprint and that each ring found represents one year. For this project, a student should use a piece of wood to show how the different rings also demonstrate a tree’s growing conditions, as unfavorable growing conditions result in thin rings and favorable ones produce thick rings. The student then explains how scientists use the information discovered on a set of rings to determine the origin of the tree and the area’s climate.
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