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Investigate: "What's a Carbon Footprint?"

In this worksheet, students will join brother and sister, Sam and Amy, as they investigate their family's carbon footprint and through their investigation decide on its impact to conclude what they can do to reduce it.

'Investigate:

Key stage:  KS 2

Curriculum topic:   Exam-Style Questions: SATs Science

Curriculum subtopic:   Exam-Style Questions: Investigating

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Many scientific investigations require scientific equipment like glassware, measuring items, lab coats and the like - but not all! Sometimes the heart of the investigation is research, checking out information that's out there to help you answer a question.

 

Question

 

Whichever investigative skills you've been working on, they are all still needed:

 

  -  there needs to be a question that you want the answer to

  -  the way of finding the answer needs to be planned carefully

  -  the information needs to be gathered, the data processed in order to arrive at a result

  -  then you can conclude whether you've been able to find an answer to the question and whether your hypothesis was correct or incorrect

  -  finally, you can report on what you've found out and what else you can do to find out more.

 

That's the situation that Amy and her younger brother Sam are in. Amy's been looking at a book with a funny title: 'How Bad are Bananas?'

 

 

"What are you reading?" Sam asks his sister.

"It's a book called "How Bad are Bananas?" Amy tells Sam. "It's all about our carbon footprint."

"Carbon Footprint - what's that? Is it like a yeti's footprint?" Sam was puzzled.

"No, Sam," laughs Amy, "it's got nothing to do with yetis! It's about how much carbon dioxide we add to the atmosphere as a family, just doing what we do."

"Sounds boring", objected Sam.

"Actually, it's amazing and mega-important," Amy told him. "Tell you what, will you help me with a scientific investigation into our carbon footprint?"

"Investigation?" Sam was excited... "Yes please!"

"Right", said Amy, "first off we need to decide what we're finding out. I reckon that at the moment our family activities are releasing CO2 into the air and that we can do something to reduce that."

 

This is Amy's ...

Plan

Conclusion

Result

Hypothesis

Why do you think Amy is concerned about the family's "carbon footprint" and how much CO2 they are releasing?

Plan

Conclusion

Result

Hypothesis

"How can we find out how big our carbon footprint is?" asks Sam.

 

"We look it up in 'How Bad are Bananas?' Sam" Amy explains to her brother.

 

What do you think Amy and Sam will plan to do to find out how to reduce their family's carbon footprint?

Find out how much CO2 is released from their activities

Find out how much CO2 they release as a family

List their carbon footprint for each activity and see what they can do to reduce it

See how long they do each carbon-releasing activity for

Amy and Sam start by looking up in the book their everyday activities and how much CO2 this releases - things like using a tablet for an hour, switching on the bedroom light, making a hot drink and so on.

 

Below are four examples of how much CO2 is released for different activities. 

 

See if you can match up the activity with the size of the carbon footprint that Amy and Sam discovered.

(Use your knowledge and logic and it'll make sense!).

Column A

Column B

Reading an email
2.4 kg
One washing machine and tumblr dryer load
120 kg
Taking a train journey: London to Scotland and bac...
4 g
Using the car over the year
3.84 tonnes

So, the brother and sister make a list of the things they and the family do by simply living, and using 'How Bad are Bananas?' they try to find out the carbon footprint of each one.

 

What do you think is the best way of recording what they find out, the activity and its carbon footprint?

Table of results

Bar chart

Line graph

Pie chart

 

Remember, the reason why Amy invited Sam to help her with this investigation was to try and find ways of reducing the family's impact on the environment (it's easy to lose sight of what you actually want to find out, once you get deep into an investigation!).

 

Once they've got their results, what would you advise Amy and Sam to do next?

Decide which activities they can reduce

Tell their parents not to fly any more

Tell their parents to sell the car and take the bus instead

Reduce all their carbon-producing activities

Old light bulb  

 

"Look Sam!" exclaimed Amy. "It says that these new energy-saving light bulbs release much less CO2 than the old-fashioned ones."

"How much less?" Sam wanted to know.

"The old type have a 500 kg/year footprint while the newer low-energy ones are only 90 kg/year.

 

Amy and Sam search the house for old-style bulbs and find one in the garage, one in the utility room and one in the spare bedroom.

 

If these three old bulbs are swapped for new low-energy bulbs, calculate how much CO2 could be saved each year from going into the atmosphere.

(Hint: first work out how much less CO2 is released per year by one low-energy bulb).

 

Decide which activities they can reduce

Tell their parents not to fly any more

Tell their parents to sell the car and take the bus instead

Reduce all their carbon-producing activities

Amy looks in the house's loft and discovers there's no loft insulation in there.

 

Loft insulation

 

She looks up in 'How Bad are Bananas?' to find out whether it's worth insulating the loft - it is!

 

She finds there are several benefits from adding insulation to the loft - tick the ones you think Amy discovered.

Keeps the family warmer

Saves the family money

Makes the house look better

Reduces their carbon footprint

Smells nice

Have the heating on less

Need fewer lights on

Family uses less energy

Once Amy and Sam have finished finding out the carbon footprint of the various things the family does, what do you think they should do next?

Go round the house turning off lights

Tell their dad to cycle to work

Stop eating meat and become vegan

Write a report of their findings to discuss with their parents

Amy and Sam concluded that whilst their family's carbon footprint was small when compared with the rest of the world, they could make a difference by adjusting their lifestyle.

 

Tick any of the following that you believe can be affected by man-made release of CO2 into the air.

Rise in sea levels

Death of coral reefs

Melting of polar ice caps

Increase in frequency and ferocity of storms

Loss of species like polar bear, albatross and green turtle

Some areas of farmland becoming too dry to grow crops

  • Question 1

"Right", said Amy, "first off we need to decide what we're finding out. I reckon that at the moment our family activities are releasing CO2 into the air and that we can do something to reduce that."

 

This is Amy's ...

CORRECT ANSWER
Hypothesis
EDDIE SAYS
Your hypothesis is your starting point, what you believe the situation to be. Your conclusion is what you've found out from your investigation, which the results have led you to. Your plan is what you intend to do in order to test your hypothesis. So, here, Amy's hypothesis is that their family activities are contributing to the increase in the atmospheric levels of

CO2.

  • Question 2

Why do you think Amy is concerned about the family's "carbon footprint" and how much CO2 they are releasing?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The way that we live our lives on planet Earth is causing changes to our climate as the levels of

CO2 in the atmosphere increase. These changes are negative and go by various names such as: - Climate Change - Global Warming - Greenhouse Effect Whatever name you decide to use, we need to understand what we are doing and we need to put things right!

  • Question 3

"How can we find out how big our carbon footprint is?" asks Sam.

 

"We look it up in 'How Bad are Bananas?' Sam" Amy explains to her brother.

 

What do you think Amy and Sam will plan to do to find out how to reduce their family's carbon footprint?

CORRECT ANSWER
List their carbon footprint for each activity and see what they can do to reduce it
EDDIE SAYS
This is one of those questions where you keep needing to go back to what you were asked. Any of them could be right, but there is only one possible answer. The question was "What do you think Amy and Sam will plan to do to find out how to reduce their family's carbon footprint?" and whilst all of them are part of the answer, only "List their carbon footprint for each activity and see what they can do to reduce it" gives a full answer to the question. Learning to look closely at the question and trying to answer it is an important skill to master.
  • Question 4

Amy and Sam start by looking up in the book their everyday activities and how much CO2 this releases - things like using a tablet for an hour, switching on the bedroom light, making a hot drink and so on.

 

Below are four examples of how much CO2 is released for different activities. 

 

See if you can match up the activity with the size of the carbon footprint that Amy and Sam discovered.

(Use your knowledge and logic and it'll make sense!).

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Reading an email
4 g
One washing machine and tumblr dr...
2.4 kg
Taking a train journey: London to...
120 kg
Using the car over the year
3.84 tonnes
EDDIE SAYS
OK, so of course you don't know that answer, almost nobody does! But by using logic and your knowledge of the world, you can work it out. Did you notice the units changing? Grams, kilograms and tonnes were all used and need to be taken into account. Would you expect a year's use of the car to contribute more to a family's carbon footprint than one return journey on the train? I bet you did! Would you expect a washing machine and tumble drier to use more energy than reading one email? See, it wasn't so hard after all!
  • Question 5

So, the brother and sister make a list of the things they and the family do by simply living, and using 'How Bad are Bananas?' they try to find out the carbon footprint of each one.

 

What do you think is the best way of recording what they find out, the activity and its carbon footprint?

CORRECT ANSWER
Table of results
EDDIE SAYS
Guess that was fairly straightforward! They need a list of what they've found out: the family's activities and each one's carbon footprint. Then they can decide what to do about it.
  • Question 6

 

Remember, the reason why Amy invited Sam to help her with this investigation was to try and find ways of reducing the family's impact on the environment (it's easy to lose sight of what you actually want to find out, once you get deep into an investigation!).

 

Once they've got their results, what would you advise Amy and Sam to do next?

CORRECT ANSWER
Decide which activities they can reduce
EDDIE SAYS
The sensible approach is to first find out how much

CO2 is released by their family's activities and then see how they can reduce some of them. Marching in and telling Mum and Dad not to fly or to sell the car is not a brilliant way of approaching a very definite problem! Whilst it might ultimately be the aim to reduce all their carbon-producing activities, it's best to target the easier ones first and work up to the harder ones in time, where possible.

  • Question 7

Old light bulb  

 

"Look Sam!" exclaimed Amy. "It says that these new energy-saving light bulbs release much less CO2 than the old-fashioned ones."

"How much less?" Sam wanted to know.

"The old type have a 500 kg/year footprint while the newer low-energy ones are only 90 kg/year.

 

Amy and Sam search the house for old-style bulbs and find one in the garage, one in the utility room and one in the spare bedroom.

 

If these three old bulbs are swapped for new low-energy bulbs, calculate how much CO2 could be saved each year from going into the atmosphere.

(Hint: first work out how much less CO2 is released per year by one low-energy bulb).

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you get that? 410 kg

CO2 is saved per year for each swap: 500 - 90 = 410 kg. There are three bulbs to swap, so 410 x 3 = 1230 kg. That's a potential 1230 kg

CO2 saved from entering the atmosphere, simply by changing three light bulbs!

  • Question 8

Amy looks in the house's loft and discovers there's no loft insulation in there.

 

Loft insulation

 

She looks up in 'How Bad are Bananas?' to find out whether it's worth insulating the loft - it is!

 

She finds there are several benefits from adding insulation to the loft - tick the ones you think Amy discovered.

CORRECT ANSWER
Keeps the family warmer
Saves the family money
Reduces their carbon footprint
Have the heating on less
Family uses less energy
EDDIE SAYS
So, something as simple as adding woolly insulation to the loft can make an enormous difference, saving energy and money, keeping the family warm whilst having the heating on less. It's a no-brainer!
  • Question 9

Once Amy and Sam have finished finding out the carbon footprint of the various things the family does, what do you think they should do next?

CORRECT ANSWER
Write a report of their findings to discuss with their parents
EDDIE SAYS
It's got to be the last one, hasn't it? Whilst any of the answers might contribute towards reducing their carbon footprint, they need to go about it in the right way and surely that means as a family. The information that Amy and Sam have gathered is vital in helping the family to focus on what to changes to make first and the difference that will make.
  • Question 10

Amy and Sam concluded that whilst their family's carbon footprint was small when compared with the rest of the world, they could make a difference by adjusting their lifestyle.

 

Tick any of the following that you believe can be affected by man-made release of CO2 into the air.

CORRECT ANSWER
Rise in sea levels
Death of coral reefs
Melting of polar ice caps
Increase in frequency and ferocity of storms
Loss of species like polar bear, albatross and green turtle
Some areas of farmland becoming too dry to grow crops
EDDIE SAYS
Worryingly - there'll all correct. Any and all of these are possible consequences of our increasing release of

CO2 into the air. So, what's your family's carbon footprint? Can you do an investigation to find out? What can you do to reduce your own impact on our environment? It's your world!

---- OR ----

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