Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Miracles: A Multigenerational Program on Living in Awe and Wonder

Activity 3: Climate Detectives – Tree Rings

Part of Miracles

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy the handout.
  • Read the scripted words in the Description of Activity. If your group skews toward younger children, plan how you will adapt this material so all participants can understand you.
  • Optional: Is there a tree stump with visible rings near your congregation? Consider bringing the group outdoors for this activity so participants can explore tree rings, hands-on.

Description of Activity

Participants study a tree’s rings to experience how science gives us tools we can use to be good stewards of the earth.

Explain, in these words or your own:

To be a climate detective means to try and find out more about the earth’s changing climate. We have tools to find out about recent changes as well as changes in the distant past, back millions of years. Some of these tools are:

Weather Satellites

Satellites orbiting in space have instruments to measure what is going on in the atmosphere and can send that information to scientists on the ground. Information from satellites helps us understand and predict weather conditions and the temperatures on earth.

Ice Cores

Scientists cut pieces of ice and look for air bubbles that were trapped in the ice hundreds or even thousands of years ago. The air bubbles help them discover what the climate used to be like on Earth. The evidence they uncover is creating a historical record of regional temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations dating back 160,000 years.

Sediment Analyses

Sediment layering provides information about where glaciers have been in the past. Ocean sediments provide a map of how ocean currents have flowed, and fossilized pollen in sediment layers tells us where different plants have grown in the past.

Tree Rings

We can learn a lot about each year in the life of a tree when we examine the inside of a tree trunk. If we slice across the trunk, we can see each year as a ring. Tree rings tell scientists a lot about the environment of the tree, including changes in temperature and the amount of precipitation that fell each year where the tree lives.

Distribute Handout 1 to each participant. Have them form small groups with at least one reader in each group. When participants have studied the tree rings and answered the questions on the handout, bring everyone together to share their answers. Children may want to color the rings.


  • How does learning from tree rings help us take care of the planet?
  • How can it help us know how to take care of the environment right where we live?