Carbon is an element that is present in all living things, making up carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbon is constantly recycled on our planet by moving from the atmosphere to living things and back to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Carbon can also be passed from one living thing to another when one organism eats another. This cycle is essential to the survival of all living things.
Carbon Cycle Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers
Students are going to recreate a model of the carbon cycle using arrows to show the movement of carbon in the cycle. Have your students use Textables to then label and write descriptions of each of the processes. Modify this activity by giving students a list of processes to include in the their diagrams. Extend this activity by having students look at what happens when the organic remains don’t decomposes and fossil fuels are made.
Suggested Carbon Cycle Processes
Combustion, also known as burning, is used in many areas of human society. The burning of fossil fuels is used in most forms of transportation and also in electricity generation.
This process is used by plants to create food. It is a chemical reaction which takes place in green parts of the plant, especially in the leaves. The plants react water with carbon dioxide to produce glucose and oxygen.
Respiration is a reaction that takes place in all living things where energy is released from glucose using oxygen. The products of this reaction are carbon dioxide and water.
The process of breaking down organic matter by other living organisms such as worms, bacteria, and fungi, is decomposition. The decomposers then release the carbon into the atmosphere through respiration.
Have your students put key vocabulary into practice. One of the things students can find really difficult is using scientific vocabulary correctly and in the appropriate context. Using a visual representation or visual examples as well as a written one can really help students understand abstract concepts.
Fossil fuels are nonrenewable fuels formed from the remains of living organisms formed over millions of years.
The process used by green plants to create from from carbon dioxide and water using sunlight is called photosynthesis.
A chemical reaction used by living things to release energy from glucose is called respiration; it can be aerobic or anaerobic.
The breaking down of organic material by other organisms is decomposition. It is also known as decay.
Combustion is a chemical reaction involving oxygen and a fuel, also known as burning.
Discussion storyboards are a great way to get your students talking about their ideas in Science. They allow students to critique and evaluate different viewpoints without upsetting other students. This activity can be used at the start of the topic to elicit any misconceptions students may have.
At first, show students a discussion storyboard like the one below. Ask them to look at the problem on the discussion storyboard. It shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. Students should think about whom they think is the most correct and be prepared to explain why that person is correct.
Here are some other ideas to use these discussion storyboards in your lessons.
Students add another cell on the end of the example you’ve given them to explain whom they think is correct and why.
Students create their own discussion storyboards to share with peers on the current topic.
Note that the template in this assignment is blank. After clicking "Copy Assignment", add your desired problem and solutions to match the needs of your students.
This activity gets your students to look in more detail at the different processes in the carbon cycle. Students will also demonstrate their knowledge of the chemical reactions by including the word equations. Stretch your students even further by asking them to include the symbol equation for each reaction as well.
Alternatively, cut up the example storyboard and get students to put it together as a card sort.
Carbon Cycle Processes
Combustion is more commonly known as burning. Humans use this chemical reaction to generate electricity and power the vehicles we use to move around. It releases carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. The equation for this reaction is fuel + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water
This is a process that takes place in many autotrophic living things, such as plants and algae. In plants, it takes place mainly in leaves, but also in other green parts of the plant. It is a chemical reaction that uses sunlight to make glucose from water and carbon dioxide. The equation for photosynthesis is water + carbon dioxide → glucose + oxygen.
This is a process that takes place in all living things. Organisms use it to release energy from glucose. It is a chemical reaction that puts carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. The word equation for the reaction is glucose + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water.
The carbon cycle is composed of a number of processes that release carbon into the atmosphere or take carbon out of the atmosphere.
Combustion is commonly known as burning. It is a chemical reaction that needs oxygen and produces heat. The equation of this reaction is fuel + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water. Combustion is used for many different things in our modern society. It is used to generate electricity for our homes and offices, and it is used to move the cars, trains, and airplanes that people rely on to travel. Fossil fuels, like coal and gasoline, are made of the remains of once-living organisms from millions of years ago. When they are burned, the carbon inside them is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
Photosynthesis is the process plants use to create glucose. Unlike humans, plants are autotrophic, meaning they create their own food. Photosynthesis is a chemical reaction which takes place in all green parts of the plant, but especially in the leaves. The reaction takes place in a part of a plant cell called chloroplasts. Plants use sunlight with carbon dioxide and water to produce oxygen and glucose. The world equation is carbon dioxide + water → oxygen + glucose. The plants get water from the roots and water travels up the stem through tubes called xylem. The plant gets the carbon dioxide from the air that enters the leaves through holes called stomata.
Respiration is a process which living things use to produce energy. Respiration takes place inside the mitochondria in the cells of living things. Respiration doesn’t just occur in animal, it also occurs in plants and single-celled organisms. The word equation for this reaction is glucose + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water.
Decomposition is the process where dead organisms and waste products are broken down by organisms known as decomposers. The organisms release the carbon into the atmosphere through cellular respiration. Decomposers are essential for recycling the carbon inside dead organisms.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Increased levels of carbon dioxide, among other gases, in our atmosphere are what experts think is causing our planet to heat up. This effect is called the greenhouse effect. Governments around the world are calling on people to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they are releasing into the atmosphere.
Essential Questions for the Carbon Cycle
How does carbon move from one living thing to another?
How is carbon passed into the atmosphere?
What can we do to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere?