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.
Students consider why the observed atmospheric CO2 increase rate is only ~60% of the CO2 loading rate due to fossil fuel combustion. They develop a box-model to simulate the atmospheric CO2 increase during the industrial era and compare it to the historic observations of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The model is then used to forecast future concentrations of atmospheric CO2 during the next century.
This short video describes the Hestia project - a software tool and data model that provide visualizations of localized CO2 emissions from residential, commercial, and vehicle levels, as well as day versus night comparisons, in the city of Indianapolis.
In this activity, students compare carbon dioxide data from Mauna Loa Observatory, Barrow, Alaska, and the South Pole over the past 40 years. Students use the data to learn about what causes short-term and long-term changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide. This activity makes extensive use of Excel.
This short cartoon video uses a simple baseball analogy (steroid use increases probability of hitting home runs) to explain how small increases in greenhouse gases can cause global temperature changes and increase the probability of extreme weather events.
This activity involves plotting and comparing monthly data on atmospheric C02 concentrations over two years, as recorded in Mauna Loa and the South Pole, and postulating reasons for differences in their seasonal patterns. Longer-term data is then examined for both sites to see if seasonal variations from one site to the other carry over into longer term trends.
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.