As a high school or undergraduate Chemistry or Earth Sciences teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to help you in teaching topics in environmental chemistry such as the carbon cycle or biogeochemical cycles.

This lesson plan allows students to understand the carbon cycle, its components, and the flow among the different components of this biogeochemical cycle. The activity will introduce the link between the carbon cycle and climate. It will also explore how human activity (such as increased fossil fuel use) may affect the natural carbon cycle, and may thus cause climate-related changes.

Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Chemistry.

Carbon Cycle by UCAR

Questions

Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:

  • 1. What is the role of weathering of rocks in the carbon cycle? What are the chemical reactions in this process?
  • 2. Which components in the carbon cycle act as carbon sinks?
  • 3. If fossil fuel usage increases, what would be the effect on the different carbon sinks? What would be the possible changes in the Earth’s climate?
  • 4. What are the possible impacts of deforestation on the natural carbon cycle? How might these changes affect the Earth’s climate?

Carbon Cycle by IPCC

About Lesson Plan

Grade Level High School, Undergraduate
Discipline Chemistry
Topic(s) in Discipline • Environmental Chemistry
• Carbon Cycle
• Biogeochemical Cycles
Climate Topic Long-term Cycles and Feedback Mechanisms
Location Global
Languages English
Access Online
Approximate Time Required 120-160 min

Contents

Interactive diagram (~30 min) An interactive diagram that introduces the global carbon cycle, its components, and the flow among the various components through video clips and images.
https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/image_maps/3-carbon-cycle
Reading (20 – 30 min) A reading that provides an overview of the carbon cycle, and explains the link between the carbon cycle and the Earth’s climate.

http://www.columbia.edu/~vjd1/carbon.htm

Classroom/ Laboratory activity
(Simulation and associated exercises) (60 – 90 min)
A classroom/laboratory activity using an interactive simulation and associated exercises to explore and analyze how human activities may affect the natural carbon cycle, and to discuss the potential effects on the Earth’s climate.
https://www.learner.org/courses/envsci/interactives/carbon/index.php
Step-by-Step User Guide
Questions/Assignments
Learning Outcomes
Additional Resources
Credits
Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.
1.Introduce the topic through an interactive diagram
  • • Introduce the topic of the global carbon cycle by using the interactive diagram “Carbon Cycle”, from the Science Learning Hub (New Zealand).
  • • Students can observe the components of the carbon cycle and observe the flow among these parts. They can interact with the components by clicking on them to learn more details.
  • • The interactive tool, “Carbon Cycle”, can be accessed at https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/image_maps/3-carbon-cycle
2. Read about the topic
3. Conduct a classroom/ laboratory activity
 

Use the tools and the concepts learned so far to discuss and determine answers to the following questions:

  • 1. What is the role of weathering of rocks in the carbon cycle? What are the chemical reactions in this process?
  • 2. Which components in the carbon cycle act as carbon sinks?
  • 3. If fossil fuel usage increases, what would be the effect on the different carbon sinks? What would be the possible changes in the Earth’s climate?
  • 4. What are the possible impacts of deforestation on the natural carbon cycle? How might these changes affect the Earth’s climate?

The tools in this lesson plan will enable students to:

  • • describe the global carbon cycle and its components
  • • explain the flow among the components in the carbon cycle
  • • discuss the role of the carbon cycle in climate
  • • analyze and discuss the impact of human activities (such as the use of fossil fuels) on CO2 levels in the carbon cycle
  • • predict the possible effects of excess carbon in the system on the Earth’s climate
If you or your students would like to explore the topic further, these additional resources will be useful.
Video A short video, “The carbon cycle”, from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8Y6L5TI_94
Model A carbon cycle model in InsightMaker, “The Carbon Cycle”, as initially proposed by Bill White of Cornell University, adapted and created by France Caron: https://insightmaker.com/insight/79473/Global-Carbon-Cycle
Interactive model An interactive model of the Terrestrial Carbon Cycle, “Land Carbon Budget with Growing Plants & Three Decomposing Pools,” from the Denning Research Group at Colorado State University: http://biocycle.atmos.colostate.edu/shiny/Land/
1 Interactive diagram, “Carbon Cycle" The Science Learning Hub, New Zealand
2 Reading, “The Carbon Cycle and Earth’s Climate” Columbia University (New York)
3 Classroom/Laboratory activity The Habitable Planet from Annenberg Learner
4 Additional Resources The World Meteorological Organization (WMO); Bill White (Cornell University) and France Caron; Denning Research Group (Colorado State University)
5 Images https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch7s7-3.html https://scied.ucar.edu/imagecontent/carbon-cycle-diagram https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/CarbonCycle/
All the teaching tools and images  in our collated list are owned by the corresponding creators/authors/organizations as  listed on their websites. Please view the individual copyright and ownership details for each tool by following the individual links provided. We have selected and analyzed the tools that align with the overall objective of our project and have provided the corresponding links. We do not claim ownership of or responsibility/liability for any of the listed tools.

The Fast carbon cycle