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MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Podcasts, 13 minutes, 17 seconds
  • Lesson Plans
  • Games
  • Worksheets
  • Interactive Media

Regional Focus




Trees, Forests, and Climate Change

Ask a Question

  • This comprehensive lesson plan includes a podcast, kinesthetic carbon cycle game, and interactive map investigation into tree cover and carbon density. 
  • The lesson covers many topics, including the carbon cycle, carbon sequestration, eddy-flux measurements of CO2, the current scientific uncertainty about how much carbon a forest can store, where to plant trees, and what happens to a tree at the end of its life cycle.
Teaching Tips


  • The game will get students up and moving around, while helping them understand the carbon cycle.
  • Students will use their critical thinking skills to evaluate carbon sequestration rates and the factors that affect the rate of carbon sequestration in forests around the world.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The guide includes tips for adapting the material for a number of subjects and the worksheets can be printed or shared electronically.


  • For smaller classes or groups playing the game, consider having students leave place-holder cards at the various stations to identify where the carbon is stored and have students take turns placing the cards in their locations.
  • You could listen to the podcast in class or assign it for completion outside of class and then have a class discussion and play the carbon cycle game in class.
  • Science classes can explore the many other benefits of forests including providing habitat for the vast majority of species on land, producing oxygen, regulating the water cycle, filtering the air, providing shade, and stabilizing the soil.
  • Other resources about trees include this video about natural solutions to climate change, this video by the Years project, and this interactive table of solutions.
Scientist Notes
This resource introduces the concept of natural resources and biodiversity conservation. This is insightful for students to learn this technology and thus, the resource is valid and recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-5 Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
      • HS-LS2-5 Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
      • HS-LS2-6 Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.2 Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
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