The Story of Carbon: From Fossil Fuels to Pollution and Engineering Green Solutions

Try to imagine your day without coming into contact with a single plastic item. Plastics are a critical part of our daily lives and a huge pollution problem. The origin of plastics is a great story linking huge concepts in earth science including age of the earth, distribution of natural resources, cycles, and more. When we get to acquiring, refining, and using petrol we see another part of the story which includes energy and climate change. Air and physical pollution lead to a host of difficult stories about human, animal, and global health in peril. There are many great data sets and real-world problems and stories to engage students in discussions and investigations. There is also a true need for solutions and students can participate in everything from recycling initiatives to designing bioplastics.

In this session, we will try out some hands-on activities to engage middle school students in learning a great deal of earth science content through the story of the carbon cycle. You will get to engineer you own bioplastic to try to develop a solution to this growing problem. We hope you will join us for a day of making some of the biggest ideas in earth science come to life and using real-world data to develop working solutions. You will receive lesson plans, data sets, and protocols for all activities conducted in this session.


Katie Busch

Director, Alabama Hands On Activity Science Program

Katie Busch, Ed. S. is based out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD). CORD works in partnership with several departments in the University including the School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, and School of Public Health as well as with local school districts to develop and conduct high-level STEM enrichment programs for K-12 teachers and students. Ms. Busch is currently the director of the Alabama Hands On Activity Science Program (ALAHASP), which has been providing STEM professional development to Alabama teachers for over 20 years. Ms. Busch and ALAHASP are passionate about connecting educators with great high-level content and highly interactive STEM activities that help students develop scientific skills and foster a deep sense of inquiry.