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Carbon Dioxide Removal

American Museum of Natural History

In this experiment, students will observe a natural process that removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from Earth's atmosphere. This process is a part of the carbon cycle and results in temperature suitable for life. Students will learn that the carbon cycle is a fundamental Earth process. Throughout Earth's history, the balance of carbon has kept the atmosphere's carbon dioxide (CO2) and Earth's temperature within relatively narrow ranges.

Activity takes one to two class period or overnight for experiment. Additional materials are needed.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 3 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Biogeochemical cycles of greenhouse gases / Carbon cycle
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2d

Energy Literacy

Movement of matter between reservoirs is driven by Earth's internal and external sources of energy.
Other materials addressing:
2.5 Energy moves between reservoirs.
Greenhouse gases affect energy flow through the Earth system.
Other materials addressing:
2.6 Greenhouse gases affect energy flow.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:B) Changes in matter
Other materials addressing:
B) Changes in matter.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:D) Flow of matter and energy
Other materials addressing:
D) Flow of matter and energy.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • The educator should incorporate articles that explain the carbon cycle and chemical equations, and possibly more information to provide more evidence for global warming and the connection between CO2 in the atmosphere and global warming.
  • It is a good idea to have a larger sized diagram of the carbon cycle (that is legible) available for student use.

About the Science

  • It is an easy introductory lesson to the carbon cycle.
  • The activity effectively shows oxygen production of Elodea photosynthesis.
  • Diagrams included to help explain procedure and carbon cycle.
  • The educator will have to go to other sources for background material if needed.
  • Comment from expert scientist: This activity should be supplemented by additional and more in-depth information about the carbon cycle. It is important to note that fossil fuel combustion, vegetation burning, and deforestation, as well as plant soil respiration, are important other sources of CO2.

About the Pedagogy

  • This lesson is a basic, hands-on activity that can be done in teams.
  • Lesson plan is written in a "cookbook" style. Educator will have to make sure that the students' understanding is actually built.
  • Multiple modalities are utilized in this lesson to address different learning styles.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Well-designed and easy-to-do activity.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-LS1-6: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-LS1.C1:Plants, algae (including phytoplankton), and many microorganisms use the energy from light to make sugars (food) from carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water through the process of photosynthesis, which also releases oxygen. These sugars can be used immediately or stored for growth or later use.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Energy and Matter, Structure and Function, Stability and Change, Cause and effect


MS-C6.1:Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

MS-P3.4:Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions

MS-P6.1:Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

MS-P6.3:Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

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