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The Incredible Carbon Journey

NOAA (adapted from Kentucky Association for Environmental Education), Oceanservice.noaa.gov

In this activity, students explore the way that human activities have changed the way that carbon is distributed in Earth's atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere.

Lesson takes about 40-60 minutes. Some additional materials are required.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 2 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Biogeochemical cycles of greenhouse gases / Carbon cycle
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2d
Human activities have increased GHG levels and altered global climate patterns
About Teaching Principle 6
Other materials addressing 6c

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
Other materials addressing:
7.3 Environmental quality.
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.

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

  • Instead of a 'Game Record' for each player to record their journey at the end of the lesson, students could map out their journey to the 4 different stations for each round and compare and contrast the pattern of their journey between the two.
  • "Want To Do More?" suggestions are good for elaborating on the learning.

About the Science

  • Focus of the activity is how human activities have changed the distribution of carbon among Earth's atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere.
  • Compares the carbon cycle before the Industrial Revolution with the carbon cycle after humans began burning large quantities of fossil fuels.
  • Comments from expert scientist: A neat approach to understanding the carbon cycle, the magnitudes of the flows, and humans--incorporates physical activity and probability. The activity doesn't communicate the size of each stock, only the flows between them--a really important part of the basic carbon cycle concept to communicate.

About the Pedagogy

  • The activity outlines questions for each section of the game, suggesting stopping points for students to think and evaluate what they have done to that point.
  • Provides additional activity ideas such as story boards and graphing the data.
  • Activity is one of 10 in the NOAA activity book Discover Your Changing World with NOAA http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/discoverclimate/.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Must build game cubes; templates are provided.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN


Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Cause and effect

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

MS-C4.1: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C5.1:Matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes.

Science and Engineering Practices: 2

Developing and Using Models, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

MS-P2.3:Use and/or develop a model of simple systems with uncertain and less predictable factors.

MS-P6.2:Construct an explanation using models or representations.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ESS2.D3:Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate.

HS-LS2.B3:Photosynthesis and cellular respiration are important components of the carbon cycle, in which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and geosphere through chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes.

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