The Carbon Cycle

Brief description

In this set of three activities, students will learn about the carbon cycle and use it to identify actions at the individual and community level to reduce the amount of carbon being emitted to the atmosphere. A practical activity using household materials considers the impact of ocean acidification, allowing students to design a more precise experiment to carry out in a laboratory setting. In the final activity, students use real climate data in the Climate from Space web application to investigate a question about one part of the carbon cycle. 

Subject Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth Science, Geography

Learning Objectives
  • Learn to create a diagram showing the carbon cycle, including fast and slow components
  • Use the carbon cycle to identify actions to reduce human-induced climate change
  • Structure a scientific explanation of why such an action is likely to have an impact
  • Empathise with the viewpoints of others
  • Describe the effect of increased ocean acidity on marine organisms
  • Evaluate experimental techniques and estimates, extending existing methods to find additional information
  • Use the Climate from Space web application to investigate a question related to the carbon cycle
  • Select key information to inform others
Age range
11- 14 years old
approximately 45 minutes per activity
Resource available in:
Activity 1: The Carbon Cycle
In this activity, students will develop an understanding of the carbon cycle, how human activities are disrupting it, and how consideration of it can help us identify actions to mitigate climate change. The tasks support students in the literacy skills of reading for understanding and writing to inform and persuade, as well as encouraging them to think critically about their knowledge and use empathy to consider another point of view. Some or alll of the teasks on the worksheet may be assigned as homework: the description below suggests a way of using it in the classroom, supplemented by an addtional activity. 
Activity 2: Acid Oceans
In this activity, pupils will see the effects of ocean acidification through practical activities. They will relate ocean acidification to the chemical reaction that occurs, and consider how they could find out more using the same simple equipment. The use of everyday matrials makes the activities appropriate for home or remote learning. 
  • Student worksheet 2 (3 pages)
  • 3 jars or beakers per group
  • 2 bottles or smaller jars per group
  • Distilled vinegar – enough to half-fill the larger jar or beaker and fill both bottles or smaller jars
  • Lemon or lime juice – to half-fill one jar
  • 4 eggshells per group
  • 2 balloons per group
  • Eye protection
  • Cloths or paper towels
  • Tweezers or forceps
Activity 3: Tracking Carbon from Space 
In this activity, pupils will use the Climate from Space web application to investigate a question about part of the carbon cycle and prepare a presentation to explain their findings to others. It may be carried out by individuals or pairs or small groups. If students are working together or/and are unfamiliar with the web application, it would be useful to do at least the first part of the excercise in class, although the activity is suitable for independent learning.

Did you know?

Human activities are contributing to global warming by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and adding to the greenhouse effect. Scientists warn that there will be many negative consequences for humans, economies and the natural world, if this continues. Many people have, therefore, started making changes to reduce their carbon footprint. They may be avoiding flying, using the car less, thinking about the impact of the food they eat or avoiding products that are produced by destroying rainforests. 

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