This activity illustrates the carbon cycle using an age-appropriate hook, and it includes thorough discussion and hands-on experimentation. Students learn about the geological (ancient) carbon cycle; they investigate the role of dinosaurs in the carbon cycle, and the eventual storage of carbon in the form of chalk. Students discover how the carbon cycle has been occurring for millions of years and is necessary for life on Earth. Finally, they may extend their knowledge to the concept of global warming and how engineers are working to understand the carbon cycle and reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
In this audio slideshow, an ecologist from the University of Florida describes the radiocarbon dating technique that scientists use to determine the amount of carbon within the permafrost of the Arctic tundra. Understanding the rate of carbon released as permafrost thaws is necessary to understand how this positive feedback mechanism is contributing to climate change that may further increase global surface temperatures.
This simulation allows the user to project CO2 sources and sinks by adjusting the points on a graph and then running the simulation to see projections for the impact on atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures.
In this lab activity, students use a chemical indicator (bromothymol blue) to detect the presence of carbon dioxide in animal and plant respiration and in the burning of fossil fuels and its absence in the products of plant photosynthesis. After completing the five parts of this activity, students compare the colors of the chemical indicator in each part and interpret the results in terms of the qualitative importance of carbon sinks and sources.
This video highlights the work of climate scientists in the Amazon who research the relationship between deforestation, construction of new dams, and increased amounts of greenhouse gases being exchanged between the biosphere and the atmosphere.
Students explore the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 40 years with an interactive online model. They use the model and observations to estimate present emission rates and emission growth rates. The model is then used to estimate future levels of carbon dioxide using different future emission scenarios. These different scenarios are then linked by students to climate model predictions also used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In this classroom activity, students analyze visualizations and graphs that show the annual cycle of plant growth and decline. They explore patterns of annual change for the globe and several regions in each hemisphere that have different land cover and will match graphs that show annual green-up and green-down patterns with a specific land cover type.
In this activity, students work in groups, plotting carbon dioxide concentrations over time on overheads and estimating the rate of change over five years. Stacked together, the overheads for the whole class show an increase on carbon dioxide over five years and annual variation driven by photosynthesis. This exercise enables students to practice basic quantitative skills and understand how important sampling intervals can be when studying changes over time. A goal is to see how small sample size may give incomplete picture of data.