Wildfires & Crop Burning Smoke with Shuka Schwarz

Dr. Schwarz presented: Fires! Smoke! Airplanes! Action! How we're learning about wildfires and crop burning smoke.

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About the Presenter

Joshua (Shuka) Schwarz is a research scientist in NOAA's Chemical Science Laboratory. His research focuses on:

  • In situ measurements of black carbon, bio-aerosol, and total aerosol using airborne instrumentation.
  • Particulate detection via aerosolized snow/ice/liquid samples
  • Modeling of the optical properties of bare and coated black carbon particles in the context of experimental analysis.
  • Engineering and testing of complex measurement systems in the laboratory and field

Recommended Activities for e-Learning

Elementary: This GLOBE resource from our CLEAN collection has some great indoor and outdoor hands-on activities in it that explore air quality, and that can be done from home. Especially relevant if students are currently experiencing wildfire smoke in their area.

4th Grade– High School: In this lesson from NASA, students learn about how wildfires are detected and measured remotely.  Includes hands-on component with student’s smart phones, as well as an online exploration of carbon monoxide wildfire data.

Middle-High School:

This hands-on lesson (page 181) from the US Forest Service explores how smoke looks and behaves differently from one fire to another, which ultimately can help farmers and forest managers decide how to initiate prescribed burns safely.  In the first part of this lesson (with a parent/teacher supervising), students experiment with different fuels to learn about how the amount of moisture in fuel affects smoke production.  In the second part of this lesson, students experiment with ice to learn how smoke disperses.

CIRES' HEART Force program has created an entire curriculum on natural hazard resilience, with wildfire as one of the foci. Recommended activities: 

  • Middle School Colorado Wildfire Lesson: Activity 2 is meant to be run as a jigsaw, but students could dive into any of the stations using pages 3-8 of the Wildfire MS Student Handout, available as a google doc and pdf, found under the Teaching Materials section. 
  • High School Colorado Wildfire Lesson: Activities 2 and 4 provide engaging materials for students to dig into the causes, impacts, locations and frequency of wildfires in Colorado, as well as explore fire danger in their own community. Use the Wildfire HS Jigsaw Student Handout and the Wildfire HS GIS Activity Instructions, found under Materials.


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