Title: Trees: Recorders of Climate Change
Grade Level: 6-12
Source: NCAR

Curriculum Materials:
Protocol, material links included


  • Identify seasonal and annual growth in a cross section of a tree.
  • Understand that thickness of a tree ring is affected by environmental
  • Understand that evidence of past climates is recorded in series of tree
  • Learn to interpret past climate conditions from tree ring thickness.
  • Collect and analyze tree ring data, testing a hypothesis and drawing


  • Overhead projector
  • Overhead transparency
  • of tree rings (page 5)
  • Copies of simulated tree
    cores (page 6-7)
  • Student Page
  • Tree “cookie”
  • Magnifying glass
  • Metric ruler (mm)
  • Pencil

Students wil learn about the principles of dendrochronology, how samples are taken, and what can be learned from tree rings. They will study simulated core samples (provided), and extrapolate past climate conditions based on "ring" thickness. Students will be introduced to the ways paleoclimatologists use proxy data to estimate past climate conditions.

For an extension, the class can take core samples from local trees and apply the same analysis to them.

State Framework relevance:

MA: 3-5: Structures and Functions, Adaptations of Living Things; 6-8: Changes in Ecosystems Over Time.

ME: 3-8: Constancy and Change, Scientific Inquiry, Ecosystems.

RI: Life Science, 3-8: Ecosystem Equilibrium; Earth System Sciences, 3-8: Weather Patterns, Climate.

CT: 4-8: Scientific Inquiry; Matter and Energy in Ecosystems.

VT: Scientific Questioning; Representing Data and Analysis; Collecting Data; Applying Results; Interdependance in Ecosystems; Atmosphere, Weather, Water Cycle, Seasons.

NH: SPS: Making Observations, Nature of Science, Patterns of Change, Collaboration in Scientific Endeavors, Critical Thinking, Communication skills. ESS: Seasons. LS: Environment