Part of Unit: Ecology
Lesson Plan Overview / Details
What is one of today’s most popular buzzwords? If you said “carbon”, then this lab is for you. Students are inundated with comments about “carbon footprints” and “carbon emissions”, so what is so important about this little element? In this lab students connect previous knowledge with current information relating to the carbon cycle. Students identify the important role of carbon, discover the four main processes of the carbon cycle, and illustrate the process of the carbon cycle. Students conclude by analyzing the role of carbon in their own life, and how carbon gets a bad reputation.
- Preconceptions Parking Lot
- 5 Minutes
- The Important Role of Carbon
- 10 Minutes
- The Big 4
- 25 Minutes
- Illustrating the Carbon Cycle
- 30 Minutes
- Real Life Analysis
- 10 Minutes
- Conceptual Review and Assessment
- 10 Minutes
California Career and Technical Education Standards
- ANR.C.C11.2 Understand plant growth requirements.
- ANR.C.C11.5 Understand the photosynthesis process and the roles of the sun, chlorophyll, sug...
- ANR.C.C8.1 Know types of nutrients required by farm animals (e.g., proteins, minerals, vita...
- ANR.D.D2.1 Understand the flow of nutrients from the soil, through the animal, and back to ...
- ANR.FS.1.0 Academics
- ANR.FS.11.0 Demonstration and Application
- ANR.FS.9.3 Understand how to organize and structure work individually and in teams for effe...
California Academic Content Standards (Reinforced)
- ELA.9-10.LS.C.1.1 Formulate judgments about the ideas under discussion and support those judgments...
- ELA.9-10.LS.C.1.2 Compare and contrast the ways in which media genres (e.g., televised news, news ...
- ELA.9-10.R.CAGT.2.3 Generate relevant questions about readings on issues that can be researched.2
- ELA.9-10.W.2.3d Write expository compositions, including analytical essays and research reports ...
- S.9-12.LS.6.d Students know how water, carbon, and nitrogen cycle between abiotic resources an...1
Objectives and Goals
- Students will be able to identify the important role of carbon in human, plant and animal life.
- Students will be able to describe the four main processes of the carbon cycle.
- Students will demonstrate knowledge of the carbon cycle by applying knowledge and illustrating components.
- Students will be able to apply knowledge of carbon to current social issues.
Activities in this Lesson
- Preconceptions Parking Lot - Hooks / Set
Materials Needed: Sticky Notes (1 per student), Outline of Parking Lot on board (1)
Help students connect with previous knowledge through this engaging activity. Distribute one sticky-note to each student. Instruct students to quickly draw an outline of their favorite car on their sticky note. Within the outline, students are to respond to the following question, "What have you heard about carbon?" As students capture their ideas, post sticky-note "cars" on a share sheet or wipe board on which you have drawn a parking lot. Students share their previous knowledge as they park their cars in the parking lot.
- The Important Role of Carbon - Lecture
Materials Needed: PowerPoint or notes about carbon written on board
Through PowerPoint or engaging mini-lecture, share with students the important role of carbon in our daily lives. Students can preview information or follow along in their textbooks.
All living organisms need carbon to build tissues and carry out important life processes. Lucky for us, carbon is naturally occurring and cycles through our environment, in a pattern similar to the water cycle.
Let's break it down. First, carbon is an element, found on the periodic table of the elements. Second, where can I find it? Carbon is found in several kinds of rocks, and is released into the atmosphere in various forms by many different processes, such as respiration, volcanic activity, and decomposition. Third, why is it important? Carbon is essential for animals, as it provides an important component for animal skeletons in the form of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Consider livestock species and animals used for labor in agriculture. Horses, cattle, hogs, and sheep must have strong skeletal systems in order to be productive. When carbon and oxygen combine carbon dioxide gas (CO2) is formed. CO2 is an important part of our atmosphere. In addition, plants need to take in CO2 for the process of photosynthesis. Ornamental horticulture is a large part of the agriculture industry. Greenhouse and nursery producers, as well as large scale farming operations depend on carbon to enable plants to grow using photosynthesis.
- The Big 4 - Group Work
Materials Needed: "The Big 4" Labels Printed, Tape
In this kinesthetic activity, students discover the four main processes of the carbon cycle. Prior to class, print a label for each process, the definition of the process, and guiding questions on four separate sheets of paper. Before students arrive, carefully fold each paper and secretly tape beneath four student chairs. Leave labels taped below student chairs until this point in the lesson.
Guide students as they transition into this activity. "We are about to discover the four main processes of the carbon cycle. This class is full of tremendous knowledge, and in fact, you are sitting on the answers! Reach your hands out horizontally above your desk and freeze. When I say 'go', race to find the four processes which are taped mysteriously beneath four chairs in this room. If you find a process, bring it with you as you race to the front of the room. Go!"
After the four processes have been found, have students share the name of the process they discovered and post cards in four separate locations around the room. Divide the class into four groups. Start one group at each posted location. Groups rotate as they "gallery" the posted documents. Each station includes a definition as well as guiding questions. Students are to capture important notes relative to the four carbon cycle processes and respond to the guiding questions.
Ag Connection: After students complete the activity, pose these guiding questions to connect carbon to production agriculture. Think about a field of cotton, corn, or wheat. Why is photosynthesis important to plant growth? What would happen if carbon was not present in this process? Additional carbon can be released during the process of erosion. What do agriculturists do to prevent erosion?
The Big 4:
Biological Processes: Biological processes such as photosynthesis,
respiration, and decomposition, take up and release carbon and oxygen.
Take a moment to think back. What is photosynthesis? What is
respiration? What is decomposition? Define these terms before moving
Geochemical Processes: Geochemical processes, such as erosion and
volcanic activity, release carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere and
the oceans. What is erosion? Can you identify at least three active
volcanoes? Take a moment to answer these questions before moving on.
Mixed Biogeochemical Processes: Mixed biogeochemical processes
include the burial and decomposition of dead organisms. After
decomposition, the pressure from the earth causes these decomposed
organisms to turn into coal and petroleum, which are fossil fuels that
store carbon underground. What is one significant use of fossil fuels
in our society? Answer this question before moving on.
Human Activities: Mining, harvesting and burning forests, as well
as burning fossil fuels are human activities which release carbon
dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Why is this process inevitable? What
are we doing today which impacts this process?
- "The Big 4" Labels [ Download ] Print these labels prior to class and secure beneath student chairs.
- Illustrating the Carbon Cycle - Lab / Shop
Materials Needed: Blank Paper (1 sheet per student), Colored Pens/Pencils/Crayons
After discovering the four main processes of the carbon cycle, students are to create an illustration which depicts at least two examples of each process. Many text books have a similar illustration. You may elect to use this as a guide to students, or in order to prevent direct copying, challenge students to develop their illustration with different examples. Students should include at least two labeled examples of each of the four processes, as well as arrows depicting the flow of carbon.
Ag Connection: Have students include at least two production agriculture examples in their illustration.
- Real-Life Analysis - Group Work
Ask students if they believe people in general have a positive or negative view of carbon. Most will say negative, due to recent media publicity. So why does carbon get a bad rap? Have students work in pairs or collaborative working groups to identify at least two possible reasons for the negative public perception of carbon. Encourage students to identify specific examples which may lead to a negative perception, and while analyzing the associated validity and myths. Have students share their analysis out loud if time permits.
Example Responses: We never hear about how carbon is important, and we typically only hear about carbon dioxide emissions. Cars, tractors, equipment, and other pieces of machinery which rely on fuel for operation have been targeted as pollutants and contributors to the carbon footprint. In moving toward a "green" society, the term "carbon footprint" carries with it a negative connotation.
Ag Connection: Have students identify one step agriculturists can take to combat the negative image of carbon. What can agriculturists do to prevent excess carbon emissions?
- Conceptual Review - Closure
To review, take time to revisit the preconceptions parking lot created in the opening of this lesson. Bring a student volunteer forward to quickly read through the preconceptions out loud as the class determines which preconceptions were accurate, and which were not. The volunteer should move the cars to sort according to accuracy. For example, accurate statements may be parked on the right and inaccurate statements may be parked on the left. Students are to formulate an explanation for the accuracy of a statement using logic and evidence.
- Assessment Types:
- Writing Samples, Pair-Share, ,
To assess student learning, students are to individually craft two to three accurate statements about carbon and the carbon cycle. This occurs after the conceptual review, and can be done in class or as a take-home assignment. Students meet with a partner to pair-share their statements prior to leaving class. You may elect to collect statements for grading, or have students keep statements in their notebooks.