Making Sense of Data - Tree Growth and Climate

In this learning activity, students analyze an actual dataset of the influence of temperature on tree growth. They use mathematical and statistical concepts like slope equations and lines of best fit to determine the relationship. They are then asked to make predictions about future tree growth under different greenhouse gas emissions, interpreting data from climate models to make these predictions.

Go To:

Climate Change and Michigan Forests

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

This activity is part of a larger set of curriculum that can be downloaded from the organization website and made into an entire unit.

Educators should note that this activity, using this particular data set and this particular location and this particular April date gives the impression that warming is good for trees when the results for different plants, locations and dates would likely yield different results. Teachers need to explain this or students might easily come to the conclusion that increased carbon dioxide emissions are good.

This activity could be described as somewhat dense and dry. Teachers should carefully review the materials to determine how appropriate they are for a particular class. Using only a portion of the lesson might be considered. The mathematics of the ecological model and the graph work is pretty sophisticated and would be best when seeking to incorporate quantitative skills into an ecology or climate change lesson.