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The Carbon Cycle and its Role in Climate Change

United States Global Research Program

In this activity, students use a physical model to learn the basics of photosynthesis and respiration within the carbon cycle.

Activity takes about one 45-minute class period.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices

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

  • Instructors may want to expand the final discussion to include other aspects of the carbon cycle.
  • Prepare students ahead of time for the simulation by assigning roles and discussing rules.
  • To teach the entire carbon cycle, associated activities 2 and 3 at http://www.globalchange.gov/resources/educators/toolkit/materials would be very beneficial.
  • A good assessment for this assignment might be to have students watch a video of this and summarize what is happening in the process.

About the Science

  • Model demonstrates how atoms break and make bonds in the processes of photosynthesis and respiration.

About the Pedagogy

  • A rare attempt at trying a hands-on physical model to explain important aspects of the carbon cycle.
  • Students will likely be very engaged in this activity but it will be easy for them to lose focus.
  • Some misconceptions are present about how bonds are created and should be addressed by the educator.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Well organized and a complete resource.
  • While this activity requires preparation of both materials and student roles, it is well worth it.
  • Appropriate guidance before and during the activity will enable long-term learning.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

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