The Carbon Cycle

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The lesson introduces students to one of the Earth’s cycles necessary for animal and plant survival, the carbon cycle.  Many students may not understand carbon and its value, so background information about carbon is also included.  It is important for students to learn the steps in the carbon cycle, as well as how burning fossil fuels can lead to environmental problems.  The lesson may be used in conjunction with other lessons related to ecosystems, biomes, and the Earth’s cycles.

The Carbon Cycle Lesson Plan Includes:

  • Full Teacher Guidelines with Creative Teaching Ideas
  • Instructional Content Pages about The Carbon Cycle
  • Hands-on homework activities
  • Answer Keys
  • Common Core State Standards
  • Many Additional Links and Resources
  • Built for Grades 4-6 but can be adapted for other grade levels.

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Description

The lesson introduces students to one of the Earth’s cycles necessary for animal and plant survival, the carbon cycle. Carbon is described at the opening of the lesson, and several examples of its use are listed so students understand how important carbon is to life on Earth. Next the steps of the carbon cycle are listed, with relevant vocabulary for example, greenhouse gas and global warming are defined. The lesson may be used in conjunction with other lessons related to ecosystems, biomes or Earth’s cycles.

Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instructions:   

  1. Display a piece of coal or charcoal for students to view. (You may choose to distribute small pieces to groups of students.)  Ask students:  What is this?  What is it used for?  What connection does it have for the survival of life on Earth?
  2. Allow for responses and discussion. Ask students what happens when the charcoal or coal is burned.  Where do the chemicals travel?
  3. Allow for responses and discussion. Introduce The Carbon Cycle.
  4. Distribute The Carbon Cycle content pages. Read and review the information with the students.  Save the final question for the lesson closing.  Use the additional resources to enhance understanding.
  5. Distribute Activity page. Read and review the instructions.  Distribute supplies.  Students may use the Internet and other sources for more information and images to use if they choose not to draw.  Encourage students to use the scratch paper for rough drafts of each step.  Allow sufficient time for completion of the 6 drawings.
  6. Once completed, students will share the drawings with a partner, and an option is for students to share with the class. Teachers should check for understanding of each step and allow students to explain the cycle using their own words.
  7. Distribute Practice page. Check and review the students’ responses.
  8. Distribute the Homework page and explain the instructions for the story. The next day, check and review the homework answers.  Allow student volunteers to read their story to the class.
  9. In closing, ask students: If you were a single CO2 molecule moving through the carbon cycle, which part of the cycle would you like to reside and why?   
  10. Allow for responses and discussion. Ask students to think about their homework stories for help in deciding.

Common Core State Standards:  

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.3, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.4, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.3

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.4, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6.2, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6.4

Class Sessions (45 minutes): At least 2 class sessions

Additional Resources:

Want more science resources? Check out our other Science Lesson Plans!

Additional information

Grade Level

4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade

Subject

Science