Hands-On Qualitative Introduction to the Carbon Cycle

Middle School High School Undergraduate Nonformal
Stand-Alone Activity

This introduction to the carbon cycle helps students visualize and model global carbon pools in the environment. Students will identify the primary forms of carbon in global pools as well as the carbon transforming process associated with key global carbon fluxes (i.e. photosynthesis, respiration, combustion, etc). Note: this activity can serve as an introduction to the Poker Chip Model of Global Carbon Pools and Fluxes activity.

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Earth Science


Environmental Science

Physical Science


Carbon Cycle & Climate Change

Carbon Cycle, Climate Change, Modeling, Photosynthesis, Respiration, Combustion

Basic understanding of the global carbon cycle, forms of carbon in various pools, and types of fluxes

One 50-minute class period (including discussion)

Poster-size version of “Carbon Pools and Exchanges” diagram, physical representations of pools, molecular models of compounds, memo clips and cards with processes