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Climate Change and the Carbon Cycle

Southwest Climate Hub, Asombro Institute for Science Education

This unit introduces high school students to climate change, the carbon cycle, and the effects of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth's climate. Students create a model from string, toss bean bags, and sort chemical cards to review key processes in the carbon cycle. Then they quantitatively model the carbon cycle by playing a board game.

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Notes from our reviewers

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  • The first lesson may be too difficult for some high school students and is likely too abstract for many ELL students without additional support. Educators may wish to pre-teach important vocabulary (reactants, products, reservoirs, etc.). The first lesson is the most complicated logistically and conceptually, whereas the two subsequent lessons are simpler. Review the answer key and instructions thoroughly before each activity. It may take some time to orient themselves with the activity. This activity would work well for use in the middle or toward the end of a unit about carbon cycles and their relation to climate change because it requires too much background knowledge for the introduction to the unit. For the third lesson (pros/cons of different mitigation strategies), teachers could have more advanced students conduct their own research and come up with their own ideas rather than using the prepared handouts. The list of challenges associated with the "One Fewer Child" mitigation strategy is very thorough, however, educators may still need to proceed with caution when discussing this controversial subject.