Carbon "Kidprints"

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STEM instruction should involve activities that integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Climate change education provides many opportunities to engage students in practical mathematical applications. In this math-based activity, you will estimate the amount of carbon dioxide emissions released to the atmosphere as a result of the electricity, water, natural gas, and gasoline used in kids' daily activities.

Data Activity: Carbon "Kidprint"

Begin by getting a feel for what kinds of daily activities are contributing to your carbon footprint by exploring the "Your Carbon Diet" interactive from PBS LearningMedia. As you explore, think about what you might do in your daily life to conserve energy or decrease your own contribution of carbon dioxide.

View the video “You Can Make a Difference” from PBS LearningMedia to see how making simple changes in daily habits can lower a person’s carbon footprint. In the next activity, you will have a chance to evaluate the energy savings and carbon emissions savings you can make by choosing to consume resources differently.

The Carbon Kidprint Calculator you will be using in this activity is appropriate to use with students and will help them understand how their personal choices contribute to the rate of CO2 emissions. As you work through the activity, think about how you might incorporate it into your math or science curriculum.

Activity 1: Calculating Carbon Emissions

Burning a light bulb for one hour in Maine versus Colorado does not necessarily contribute the same carbon dioxide emissions. Some states rely more heavily on coal powered electrical generation while others use a greater proportion of natural gas or hydroelectric power, and some regions have more modern, efficient utility plants than other regions. Open the Carbon Kidprint Calculator and follow the directions to estimate your carbon emissions.

NOTE: The Carbon Kidprint Calculator has been created to use in the classroom with students, so you may notice that the questions are written for the students' perspectives and reflect their daily activities.

Activity 2: Analyzing your Carbon "Kidprint"

Use your completed Carbon Kidprint Calculator to complete the following activity. Remember, the data and averages provided below include adults who normally have a higher carbon footprint.

  1. Read, "Carbon Footprint Of Best Conserving Americans Is Still Double Global Average" from ScienceDaily to explore the different carbon emissions made by Americans from a variety of lifestyles. As you read, think about how your annual CO2 emissions compare to the estimates determined by the MIT students.
  2. The average estimated annual carbon emissions for a person living in the United States is 16,008 lbs/yr or 7.26 mT/yr. How do you compare to this national average?
  3. Where do you fit in terms of individual carbon emissions in the table below?
    lbs. CO2Year mT CO2/YR Result
    < 6000 < 2.72 Much less than average
    6000 - 11,010 2.72 - 4.99 Less than average
    11,010 - 21,010 4.99 - 9.53 Average
    21,010 - 26,005 9.53 - 11.79 More than average
    > 26,005 Much more than average
  4. Explore the List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions per capita from Wikipedia. The table ranks countries based on their CO2 emissions per capita. How does your personal CO2 footprint compare? Which country's per capita is closest to your personal footprint? Can you suggest reasons why?
  5. What sector (e.g., lighting, appliances, etc.) was your greatest source of carbon dioxide emissions? In that area what would be some simple and practical ways you can reduce your emissions (e.g., turning off lights, more efficient appliances, etc.)?
  6. What other changes might you make in your lifestyle or energy use that would be perhaps more difficult, but lead to a substantial reduction in your carbon footprint?

How might you use this activity with students and what questions might you ask about their data to encourage them to reflect on their carbon footprint?

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