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Welcome to the Natural Inquirer

The Natural Inquirer is a middle school science education journal! Scientists report their research in journals, which enable scientists to share information with one another. This journal, the Natural Inquirer, was created so that scientists can share their research with middle school students. Each article tells you about scientific research conducted by scientists in the USDA Forest Service.

All of the research in this journal is concerned with nature, trees, wildlife, insects, outdoor activities and water. First students will "meet the scientists" who conduct the research. Then students read special information about science, and then about the environment. Students will also read about a specific research project, written in a way that scientists write when publishing their research in journals. Students become scientists when they do the Discovery FACTivity, learning vocabulary words that help in understanding articles.

At the end of each section of Natural Inquirer articles, students will find a few questions to help think about the research. These questions are not a test! They are intended to help students think more about research & can be used for class discussions.

Our Latest Issue - FACELook!

Can you see an entire tree just by looking at it? Of course not! A tree’s roots reach underground and cannot be seen. Roots absorb water and nutrients from the soil to be used by the tree to grow and survive. Roots are necessary to keep a tree from falling over. Although most of a tree’s living tissue is visible above ground, its unseen root system is also alive. 

Carbon is captured by trees during photosynthesis. Carbon is found aboveground in the trunk, branches, and leaves, and belowground in the roots of trees. When a tree is cut down to be used for products, some of the carbon can last in solid form for many years. This is particularly true if the tree is used to build homes or furniture. If a tree is not cut down, most of the carbon stays in the tree until it dies and decays or is burned in a fire. During decay or a fire, the tree’s aboveground carbon is released back into the troposphere. Because roots are better protected underground, they decay at a slower rate. Across a tree’s life span, a large amount of carbon is also released during respiration. Respiration happens both aboveground and belowground.