This is George

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MAIN TOPIC OF VIDEO: Humans are currently burning fossil fuels to get energy. This quickly releases carbon into the atmosphere and oceans. But humans are smart, and can find better sources of energy.

ThisIsGeorge_PlayPicture

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Frame:

This video uses gentle humor to show the relationship between a human, George, and a sunflower.

  1. Make a prediction about their relationship and what the video is going to teach.
  2. The video will explain that George, as a human, is very special, but so is the sunflower. What do you think that makes each one of them so special?
  3. What do you already know about photosynthesis? Make a quick sketch or a few sentences from your current understanding.
  4. The video won’t mention it by name, but it will show the carbon cycle. What is the carbon cycle? Keep an eye out for it.

Focus:        

  1. According to the video, what makes George (and other humans) so special?
  2. What does George need to grow?
  3. What does a sunflower need to grow?
  4. How does the sunflower store energy?
  5. Explain the main difference between a sunflower and George.
  6. How is the energy from photosynthesis stored?
  7. How do humans use that energy?
  8. When a plant dies, what happens to its stored energy? 

Follow-up:

  1. Explain the carbon cycle, making sure to include the role of photosynthesis.
  2. What other non-fossil fuel energy resources do humans use now? These are called renewable resources because they will not “run out.”
  3. What is the impact of using so many fossil fuels?
  4. What other problems do humans need to solve?

 

ANSWERS TO DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Frame:

This video uses gentle humor to show the relationship between a human, George, and a sunflower.

  1. Make a prediction about their relationship and what the video is going to teach.
    • George might be growing sunflowers
    • The sunflower may give George something important
  2. The video will explain that George, as a human, is very special, but so is the sunflower. What do you think that makes each one of them so special?
    • George is a human, a very advanced animal.
    • The sunflower is a plant and we can’t live without plants. It is beautiful, yellow and green. The green color means that the plant will make its own food through photosynthesis.
  3. What do you already know about photosynthesis? Make a quick sketch or a few sentences from your current understanding.
    • Depending on the level, students may be able to show that plants use energy from the Sun, CO2 from the atmosphere, water brought through its roots, and the chemicals in its chlorophyll.
    • Higher levels may include the chemical equation (6 CO2 + 6 H2O+ light → C6H12O6 + 6O2) where six molecules of carbon dioxide and 6 molecules of water, in the presence of sunlight convert to one molecule of glucose and six molecules of oxygen.
  1. The video won’t mention it by name, but it will show the carbon cycle. What is the carbon cycle? Keep an eye out for it.

George1

Focus:

  1. According to the video, what makes George (and other humans) so special?
    • Human brains have a frontal cortex, which allows them to make intelligent, reasonable decisions.
      • https://brainmadesimple.com/frontal-lobe.html
      • Function: Carries out higher mental processes such as thinking, decision making, and planning
      • You use your frontal lobe nearly every day. You use it to make decisions, such as what to eat or drink for breakfast in the morning, as well as for thinking or studying for a test. The frontal lobe is also where our personality is formed and where we can carry out higher mental processes such as planning. In addition, the frontal lobe is necessary to being able to speak fluently (without fault) and meaningfully.
    • Humans have opposable thumbs, which makes it easy to pick things up.
      • A good activity to demonstrate this is to have students try to pick up a small object like their pencil without using their thumbs. It is quite difficult and shows how much we depend on our opposable thumbs.
  1. What does George need to grow?
    • Water
    • Food
    • Sunlight
    • Oxygen to breathe (produced by the sunflower (plants) as the product of photosynthesis.)
  2. What does a sunflower need to grow?
    • Sunlight
    • Water
    • Green leaves (with chlorophyll)
    • Carbon Dioxide – CO2
  3. How does the sunflower store energy?
    • There is a cycle: The sunflower takes in Co2 from the atmosphere, gets water through its roots from soil, and uses energy form the sun to create sugars (energy) which it stores until it’s needed. Its “waste” product is oxygen O2, which humans (and other animals) need to breathe. When the sunflower dies, as many plants have done in the past, its CO2 returns to the soil. Over many millions of years, that CO2 turns into coal as it decomposes and solidifies under pressure.
    • Make a sketch to show this cycle

George2

  1. Explain the main difference between a sunflower and George.
    • The sunflower uses energy from the Sun to make food (sugars). Almost all plants make their own food and are “autotrophs”. (“Auto” means self; “troph” means “an organism with nutritional requirements” ) Animals, like George, need to eat plants or other animals that ate plants. We are “heterotrophs.” Hetero” means different or other. https://www.thefreedictionary.com
    • The sunflower needs CO2 that animals like George breathe out, and George needs the oxygen and sugars that the sunflower provides.
  2. How is the energy from photosynthesis stored?
    • The plant stores the energy as sugars (starch) in its cells.
  3. How do humans use that energy?
    • Through respiration, the plant burns the stored energy.
    • When animals eat the plant (or animals that ate plants), we get energy from eating the stored sugars.
    • Our cells use the energy for all of our metabolic needs
    • The energy fuels all of our organs and keeps us alive
  4. When a plant dies, what happens to its stored energy?
    • The plant decomposes
    • The layers compress and over millions of years, become coal (or oil and natural gas), known as fossil fuels
    • Humans dig for and pump up the coal, gas, and oil to get that energy
    • Humans burn the stored carbon to provide energy, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

Follow-up:

  1. Explain the carbon cycle, making sure to include the role of photosynthesis.
    • A plant takes in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis
    • The plant will die and be consumed
    • A dead plant decomposes, leaving its carbon in the soil for other plants to absorb while a plant eaten by an animal will provide the energy the animal needs
    • The animals and plants release CO2 through a process called respiration
  2. What other non-fossil fuel energy resources do humans use now? These are called renewable resources because they will not “run out.”
    • Solar power (solar panels for electricity, and heat from the Sun)
    • Wind power (that can turn turbines to produce electricity)
    • Wave power (any moving water in the oceans, rivers, etc., can turn turbines)
    • Nuclear power (heat from radioactivity creates steam which turns the turbine)
    • Other technologies are being developed
  3. What is the impact of using so many fossil fuels?
    • We are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which traps in more heat. This is leading to warming water and air temperatures, higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in our oceans, melting ice in the ocean, sea level rise, etc.
    • We are burning these fossil fuels and returning CO2 at a rate faster than our atmosphere and oceans can absorb without changing their composition. Life cannot respond to changes so quickly without huge impacts.
    • There are many excellent resources to help students understand about our changing climate. https://climate.nasa.gov/ and most of the other GreenNinja videos.
  4. What problems do humans need to solve?
    • We need to use renewable energy resources that do not release more carbon
    • We need to use less energy and find more efficient ways of using energy
    • The list continues… not polluting our water resources, not building technology that pollutes the land and the water with danger chemicals and metals. Recycling, reusing, reducing…

 

FURTHER ACTION

  1. Continue the story of George by writing a script, making a graphic, filming a video, making posters, or making a comic. What else can George, and people like him, do to get the energy they need without causing Global Warming (climate change)?
  2. Retell the story from the point of view of the sunflower and its needs. As above, choose from a variety of methods to relate its story within the context of life on Earth.
  3. Research the problems caused by increased heating from carbon in our atmosphere and ocean? Research these and others
    • Sea level rise
    • Extreme weather events
    • Mass extinction as different plants and animals cannot survive in the rapidly changing environment
  4. Learn more about flowering plants, etc. Grow a garden from the seeds up.

 

Credit: This teacher resource has been adapted from content originally developed by Elizabeth Brooking.

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