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Paleontological Research Institution


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


Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Activity - Outdoors
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus




Photosynthesis: Calculating Biomass and Carbon Storage for Trees

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  • In this activity, students will measure the circumference of a tree, use a biomass chart to determine the mass of the tree, and then calculate the amount of carbon that the tree has stored.
Teaching Tips


  • This activity uses easy-to-follow directions and offers explanations for each step.
  • Students will have a chance to practice reading a graph and performing calculations for a tree in their own community.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have a basic understanding of photosynthesis.
  • Teachers will need to provide students with a tape measure and a printout of the graphs on pages 4 and 5 of the PDF.


  • This video resource pairs with this activity, so students can also watch the video before completing the activity.
  • After calculating the stored carbon in the tree, students could compare it to annual global carbon emissions data and calculate how many trees it would take to sequester that much carbon.
  • Students could turn their data into an awareness campaign by making a video explaining how much carbon each tree has stored and placing a QR code on the tree so that people can scan it to find the video.
  • Other resources on this topic include this video on carbon storage in trees, this activity on the carbon cycle, and this digital text on how biology drives the carbon cycle.
Scientist Notes
Students can engage in this activity to deepen their knowledge of calculating CO2 storage capacity in different tree species. This is recommended for teaching.
  • Mathematics
    • Algebraic Reasoning: Expressions and Equations (6-12)
      • 6.AEE.B.6 Write and solve equations of the form x + p = q and px = q in problems that arise from authentic contexts for cases in which p, q, and x are all nonnegative rational numbers.
    • Geometric Reasoning and Measurement (K-12)
      • 7.GM.B.3 Understand the relationship between area and circumference of circles. Choose and use the appropriate formula to solve problems with radius, diameter, circumference, and area of circles.
  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 6.ESS3.5 Ask clarifying questions based on evidence about the factors that have caused climate change over the past century.
      • HS.ESS3.6 Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity (i.e., climate change).
    • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
      • 7.LS1.6 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.
      • 7.LS1.7 Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • 7.LS2.3 Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
      • HS.LS2.4 Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem.
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