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Science Journal for Teens

This is Tanya Dimitrova. 

 A high school science teacher working in Texas who was so frustrated by the complicated language of scientific papers, that she founded Science Journal for Kids. Scientific data is very useful when making decisions, but not if you can't understand what it's really saying. When we know better, then we do better. 

"Most scientific research is conducted and reported in specialized scientific journals in a language accessible only to adult scientists. Kids have the right to understand the world they are inheriting from us..." - SJFK

Below are 4 lessons from Science Journal for Teens to help you make better decisions and improve your impact on your world. 

Lesson 1:  More stuff = more climate change?

Discussion Questions: 

  • How would buying new clothes contribute to your carbon footprint?

  • Why do wealthier people tend to have larger carbon footprints?

  • People living in different regions have very different carbon footprints. Do you think people should have a different amount of responsibility for addressing climate change, depending on the size of their carbon footprint? Why or why not?

  • Think about your own life. What are some ways you think you could reduce your carbon footprint?

Discussion Questions: 

  • How would you define “environmentally sustainable food production”?

  • This paper explores three environmental impacts of food production: greenhouse gas emissions,
    land use, and water use. What are some other environmental impacts of food production that
    we should be aware of?

  • Give three examples of how specific production practices and conditions would impact food’s
    environmental footprint.

  • Why do you think eating beef and dairy from cows that are fed corn and soy has such a high
    environmental impact compared to eating vegetables?

  • Think about what you eat on a typical day. How could you change your diet, specifically, if you
    wanted it to be more environmentally sustainable?

  • Does reducing meat intake always make your diet healthier?

What do cow burps have to do with climate change or the price of meat?

Scientists say that the climate on the planet is changing because

of an extra layer of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere. As it happens, all our activities release

carbon – taking the bus to school, charging your laptop, eating. Yes, eating! Especially eating beef.

Scientists calculated that producing 1 pound of beef results in 30 times more carbon emissions than producing 1 pound of wheat. And most of this carbon comes from cow burps! 

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why is the process of life cycle assessment (LCA) a useful way of thinking about the global
    warming impacts of regular, everyday activities like eating beef? Draw a mini-LCA diagram of
    the beef production process and where carbon emissions occur along the way.

  • Why would the price of beef increase more than the price of wheat if there were a cost or fee
    associated with carbon emissions?

  • Do you think that living in a “climate-friendly” way is (or can be) compatible with living in
    a healthy or economical way? Explain your opinion with evidence from the article?

Wouldn’t it be great to find a fuel that powers our cars and planes

without polluting the environment or warming up our planet?

Fuels made from plants, like corn or sugarcane, called “biofuels,” appeared to be more climate-friendly than burning fossil fuels. Unfortunately, it turns out that many biofuels are no better, if not worse,

than their fossil fuel counterparts in their impact on our climate.

We wanted to see if we could change that and find a more climate-friendly way to produce biofuels. And we did! We found two promising candidates that we tested in field experiments in Hawaii. We showed that a conservation-oriented production method (no tillage, less water, less fertilizer) and good crop selection are crucial for producing better biofuels.


Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the difference between biofuels and fossil fuels?

  • Why are the most commonly used biofuels not very climate-friendly?

  • Why are the grasses we tested better candidates for biofuel production?

  • What did we do different than other growers of biofuel crops?

  • What other problems can you imagine for fuels made from plants (most of them food plants)?

  • Can you think of ways to reduce this problem and also make biofuels more environmentally

  • Can you think of other examples where the term “bio” or “green” makes a product sound more
    environmentally friendly than it actually is? (This process is called “greenwashing”).

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