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Carbon Cycle

Lesson Plans by Oliver Smith

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Carbon Cycle Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Carbon Cycle Include:

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.


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Carbon Cycle Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Label the Carbon Cycle

The Carbon Cycle Diagram
The Carbon Cycle Diagram

Example

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Using an image with some prompts 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.


Suggested Processes

Combustion

Also known as burning. Combustion is used in many areas of human society. The burning of fossil fuels is used in most forms of transportation and also in the generating of electricity. The general word equation for combustion is fuel + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water.


Photosynthesis

This is the process used by plants to create food. Plants use sunlight to synthesize (combine) water and carbon dioxide within cells that contain chlorophyll. The equation for photosynthesis is 6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2.


Respiration

This is a reaction that takes place in all living things. Energy is released from glucose using oxygen. The products of this reaction are carbon dioxide and water. The equation for aerobic respiration is C6H12O6 + 6O2 → 6CO2 + 6H2O (+ energy).


Decomposition

The process of breaking down organic matter by other living organisms such as worms, bacteria, and fungi. The decomposers then release the carbon into the atmosphere through respiration.


Oceans

The ocean has a large store of carbon dioxide. Some of the dissolved carbon dioxide is used in photosynthesis by organisms like phytoplankton. Some animals in the ocean convert some of the carbon in their diet to calcium carbonate to make their shells. Over time, these organisms fall to the seabed, build up and form limestone. This can be exposed over time and the carbon released back into the atmosphere through weathering.

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 decompose and fossil fuels are made.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

You are going to use your knowledge of The Carbon Cycle to create your own model on Storyboard That.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Find an appropriate scene to show the carbon cycle. Add characters and items as necessary.
  3. Use arrows to show the movement of carbon in the carbon cycle among the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and geosphere.
  4. Label the main parts of the carbon cycle with Textables and arrows.
  5. Add extra information about the carbon cycle with text boxes. You should describe what is happening at each stage.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Large Single Cell Diagram
Large Single Cell Diagram

Example

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Vocabulary for the Carbon Cycle

The Carbon Cycle Vocabulary
The Carbon Cycle Vocabulary

Example

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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

Fossil fuels are nonrenewable fuels formed from the remains of living organisms formed over millions of years.


Photosynthesis

The process used by green plants to create from from carbon dioxide and water using sunlight is called photosynthesis.The equation for photosynthesis is 6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2.


Respiration

A chemical reaction used by living things to release energy from glucose is called respiration; it can be aerobic or anaerobic. The equation for aerobic respiration is C6H12O6 + 6O2 → 6CO2 + 6H2O(+ energy)


Decomposition

The breaking down of organic material by other organisms is decomposition. It is also known as decay.


Combustion

Combustion is a chemical reaction involving oxygen and a fuel, also known as burning. The word equation for combustion is fuel + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water.


Other carbon cycle terms include:

  • Atmosphere
  • Biosphere
  • Carbonates
  • Hydrosphere
  • Dissolving
  • Decomposer
  • Carbon
  • Fungi
  • Geosphere
  • Bacteria
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Chloroplasts
  • Atmosphere
  • Diffusion
  • Aerobic Respiration
  • Anaerobic Respiration
  • Oxygen

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of key scientific vocabulary by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose five vocabulary words and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary and write it under the cell in a complete sentence.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to give examples of the words.
  4. Save and submit your storyboard. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


5 Word Vocabulary Template
5 Word Vocabulary Template

Example

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Carbon Cycle Discussion Storyboard

Discussion Storyboard - HS - The Carbon Cycle
Discussion Storyboard - HS - The Carbon Cycle

Example

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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. Students might support their position by creating visuals, including text and images, on Storyboard That. These visuals can easily be exported as PowerPoint slides. After students have prepared their argument, have your students discuss their ideas. This discussion can be carried out in a range of different formats. Students could discuss in pairs, small groups, or even in a teacher-led, whole class setting. It is important to agree on a list of discussion rules with students before they start so everybody gets a chance to participate. Students will also be able to practice adapting their speech to a formal debating context and can demonstrate their grasp of formal English.

Here are some other ideas to use these discussion storyboards in your lessons.

  1. Students add another cell on the end of the example you’ve given them to explain whom they think is correct and why.
  2. Students create a storyboard to describe why a student is incorrect, and then "teach" the concept.
  3. 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.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Read the discussion storyboard that shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. You are going to give your opinion on whom you think is correct and explain why. You will use your created storyboard to engage in discussion with your peers.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Add another cell at the end of the row.
  3. Use text and images to explain whom you think is correct and why.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Discussion Storyboard - Blank
Discussion Storyboard - Blank

Example

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Processes in the Carbon Cycle

Processes in the Carbon Cycle
Processes in the Carbon Cycle

Example

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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.


Combustion

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 release carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. The equation for this reaction is fuel + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water.


Photosynthesis

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 occurs in other green parts of the plant. It is a chemical reaction the uses sunlight to make glucose from water and carbon dioxide. The word equation for photosynthesis is water + carbon dioxide → glucose + oxygen. The symbol equation for photosynthesis is 6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2.


Cellular Respiration

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 aerobic reaction is glucose + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water. The symbol equation for aerobic respiration is C6H12O6 + 6O2 → 6CO2 + 6H2O(+ energy).

Alternatively, cut up the example storyboard and get students to put it together as a card sort.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a spider map that identifies and explains the different processes in the carbon cycle.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify each process of the carbon cycle and type each term in the title boxes.
  3. Create a visualization or representation in the cell.
  4. In the description boxes, write a short description to help describe the process.
  5. In the Textable, write the word equations for each of the processes.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Scientific Process Template
Scientific Process Template

Example

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Carbon Cycle Background

The carbon cycle is composed of a number of processes that cycle carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and geosphere. Students will have the opportunity to create models on Storyboard That to show these processes.

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, 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.

Cellular 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 animals, 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.

The oceans are also an important part of the carbon cycle. There is a large amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in the seas and oceans all over our planet. Some of the dissolved carbon dioxide is converted into biological carbon through photosynthesis. This is then exchanged from organism to organism through food chains. Some of the carbon is turned into calcium carbonate and used by some organisms to make their shells. When these organisms die, they fall to the ocean floor. Over time they build up and form limestone. Sometimes this limestone can be exposed due to movements in the Earth. Exposed limestone can be weathered, which can release carbon back into the atmosphere.

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

  1. How does carbon move from one living thing to another?
  2. How is carbon passed into the atmosphere?
  3. What can we do to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere?

Additional Carbon Cycle Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Create a public service announcement persuading people to reduce their carbon footprint.
  2. Make a narrative storyboard showing a carbon atom and its journey through the carbon cycle.
  3. Create a storyboard detailing the different uses of fossil fuels.

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•   (English) Carbon Cycle   •   (Español) Ciclo del Carbono   •   (Français) Cycle du Carbone   •   (Deutsch) Kohlenstoffzyklus   •   (Italiana) Ciclo del Carbonio   •   (Nederlands) Koolstof Cyclus   •   (Português) Ciclo de Carbono   •   (עברית) מחזור הפחמן   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) دورة الكربون   •   (हिन्दी) कार्बन चक्र   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Углеродный Цикл   •   (Dansk) Carbon Cycle   •   (Svenska) Kolsyra   •   (Suomi) Hiili Cycle   •   (Norsk) Carbon Cycle   •   (Türkçe) Karbon Döngüsü   •   (Polski) Obieg Węgla   •   (Româna) Ciclul de Carbon   •   (Ceština) Uhlíkový Cyklus   •   (Slovenský) Carbon Cycle   •   (Magyar) Szénciklus   •   (Hrvatski) Carbon Cycle   •   (български) Въглероден Цикъл   •   (Lietuvos) Anglies Ciklas   •   (Slovenščina) Ogljikov Cikel   •   (Latvijas) Oglekļa Cikls   •   (eesti) Süsinikuringe