Investigations into the Carbon Cycle

Lesson Plan

State Standards:

6.4 Explain how water, carbon, and nitrogen cycle between abiotic resources and organic matter in an ecosystem, and how oxygen cycles through photosynthesis and respiration.

Essential Question:

How do carbon cycles work?

Lesson Question:

Why is carbon important to biological life? What do forests have to do with the carbon cycle? What do human do to the carbon cycle?


Carbon is an essential element to biological life. Carbon is has some very unique chemical properties. Carbon can be found in lipids, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, DNA, volcanoes, the Earth's crust, and may other places. It is important to know that carbon has the ability to cycle through ecosystems. It does so by changing forms and location. In recent years, carbon has played a large role in understand climate and climate change. There appears to be a direct correlation between the amount of carbon (as carbon dioxide) and global temperatures.


Your task over the next few days is to investigate the carbon cycle using some Web 2.0 methods. In your investigations will understand the basics of the carbon cycle, demonstrate how carbon recycles, answer the essential questions, and work with real world data on carbon levels.

Lesson Experiences:

Day 1: Black Box Investigation and Knowledge Survey

Task 1: Your job today is to determine word on the bottom of the black box on your lab table. You may not remove the box from the table. The bottom must remain hidden. Make observations about the words on the box. Provide an inference using observations to determine the identity of the word on the bottom of the box.


Task 2 : Obtain a computer and sign in to your student account. Take the following online pre-quiz .

Materials: Pens, Paper, Black Box cube, computer with internet access


Day 2: Carbon Cycle Video analysis

Task 1: Obtain a computer and sign in to your student account.

Watch the BBC and EPA videos about the carbon cycle.


As you watch these videos, fill in the following chart.

Carbon Cycle Chart


You may need to add more rows for each type of process.

Type of process

Name of Process

Location: Where does this part occur?

How does it occur?

Form of Carbon (example CO2)

Why is this important?





Day 3: Use “Choose your own adventure book” and Prezi

Task 1: It is story time! Grab a partner and find a quiet space in the classroom. Make sure to bring a writing utensil and notebook with you. When you are ready raise you hand and you teacher will give you a book. This book is a pick your own adventure book. With you partner, read through the book following all the instructions within. As you read, write down the steps that you go through.

An alternative to the hardcopy book is to use “The Carbon Cycle Game” with the same instructions as above.


Task 2: Make a Prezi! Using your “story path” from today and the chart from yesterday you are to create a Prezi to show your journey.

You will be graded with the rubric found below. If you are unfamiliar with Prezi, use “How to create a Prezi-Part 1” and "Part-2" to help get you started. Remember to give citations for images that you use in the Prezi.

To conclude, back to the pre-knowledge survey and take the quiz again. Indicate with you name that you are taking the quiz for the second time. Did you get a better score?



Over the past few days, you have explored the carbon cycle and how it relates to climate change. Think about what you have done.

Can you answer the essential questions: What do forests have to do with the carbon cycle? What do humans do to the carbon cycle?




  1. Observations of black box
  2. Online pre-quiz
  3. Carbon Cycle Chart.docx
  4. “Pick your own adventure Prezi”
  5. Post-knowledge quiz (Same as pre-quiz)

Assessment Rubric: Assessments 1, 2, and 5 will be graded for completion. Assessment 3 will be graded on completion and accuracy. Assessment 3 will be graded using the following rubric.

Students will be able to....





Carbon Cycle Content

Follows the journey of a carbon atom from start to finish. Gives correct details about each sink/source locations.

Missing a few steps on the journey of a carbon atom from start to finish. And/or missing some details about each sink/source locations.

Missing many steps on the journey
from start to finish and/or missing lots of details about sink/source



Strong use of prezi to convey information.
Good smooth transitions between steps.

Adequate prezi to convey information.
Transitions often not smooth between steps.



Source Citations

No errors in MLA citations.

Some errors in MLA citations.

A score of zero will given on the entire project without a citation sheet.





Not Included


Grammar, Spelling, and Mechanics

No errors in grammar, spelling, and mechanics

Some errors in grammar, spelling, and mechanics

Many errors in grammar, spelling, and mechanics




Teacher Notes:


Image Credit: "Pine forest at Leningrad Region" (2009) by Макс Колчин, from Wikimedia Commons