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Carbon Journey Game

Andrill, Environmental Literacy Framework

This hands-on activity is a kinesthetic game illustrating the dynamics of the carbon cycle. Acting as carbon atoms, students travel from one carbon reservoir to another; at each reservoir they determine, by rolling dice, how long they stay in the reservoir or how likely it is that they will move to another carbon reservoir.

The activity takes two class periods but can easily be extended if the content is discussed in detail and explored further. Activity requires beads and zip tie or string.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

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

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:B) Changes in matter
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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

  • Teachers are encouraged to have carbon journey activity stations ready in advance.
  • PowerPoint should be shown both at the beginning to introduce the concepts and then perhaps again at the end to reinforce the concepts.
  • Additional websites like http://www.education.noaa.gov/Climate/Carbon_Cycle.html might provide ample additional background for teacher and students to clarify misconceptions and take discussion to another level.
  • Carbon journey activity could be completed in pairs to foster discussion and reduce the material costs.

About the Science

  • In this activity, students model the pathways of carbon through different sinks and sources.
  • UNEP/GRID diagram in the PowerPoint presentation quantifies the carbon cycle nicely.
  • The activity does a first attempt at correcting for residence time. It would be very interesting to show students during the debrief how the numbers that were used for the game compare to the actual residence time. This would be a very powerful and important extension.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This teaching materials have covered reservoirs and fluxes of the carbon cycle in a comprehensive way. There is no doubt that this will give students a good idea about how carbon moves around in the earth system. The major weakness of this activity is that it would give students an impression that fossil fuels are recyclable. One simple way to solve this is to isolate the fossil fuel reservoir from the rest, and add a constant exchange rate of carbon from fossil fuel to the atmosphere.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity is a very useful tool for the middle school level to introduce the idea of interconnectedness of the carbon cycle sources and sinks. The bracelet gives students a tangible example of how carbon is collected or released through the different reservoirs.
  • The design of the activity is very carefully done. The teacher is supported with the necessary materials to prepare the dice. Supporting background information is available for the teacher as well as a short glossary, a PowerPoint file, and a video clip.
  • The scientific foundation to understanding of the different stations (reservoirs) and processes that are involved should be provided by the teacher after the game to strengthen the translation of knowledge acquired during the game.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Both PowerPoint slides and carbon journey activity are well-organized and easy to implement.
  • A glossary with relevant terms is included.

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