Students in Mr. Lane’s High School Climate Change class recently conducted a field study of tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions at area high schools. Students were interested in finding out how a sampling of car tailpipe Carbon Dioxide emissions from the BFA-Fairfax parking lot compared with cars from other high schools. They suspected they would see a difference between high schools drawing on rural student populations and those that were in more urban environments.

Senior Lana Goodrich records the make and model of a vehicle at South Burlington HS as part of the Climate Change Tailpipe CO2 field study

Students randomly sampled cars (50 each) from BFA-Fairfax, Essex HS, South Burlington HS, Missisquoi Union HS and Burlington HS.  After recording the make and model of the vehicle students were able to use the 10th digit of the vehicles serial number to find out the age of the vehicle.  Students then accessed the  the US Department of Energy website and used the information they had gathered to find out the CO2 Tailpipe emissions in grams per mile of the individual cars.  They then averaged these emissions per school.

Seniors Evan McNall and Chris Campbell record the serial number of the car at BFA Fairfax


Climate Change students welcomed the opportunity to use scientific methods to answer an authentic question regarding the carbon footprint of vehicle usage in rural versus urban environments. They expected the results from Essex HS and S. Burlington HS as compared to BFA and Missisquoi but were surprised with the high average of tailpipe CO2 emissions from Burlington HS.

BFA students ash Miner and Eddie McKenna discuss the make and model of a vehicle at Burlington HS during the data collection

What factors do you think could contribute to this result?

Target 4 Engaged Community Partners: FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Action Step: Plan and manage instruction around problems relevant to students and their community and develop solutions for authentic audiences

Indicator of Success: Collaborative student projects/partnerships become part of the fabric of the broader community.

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