Poker Chip Model: Global Carbon Pools and Fluxes

Middle School High School Undergraduate Nonformal
Stand-Alone Activity

This activity helps students visualize and model a commonly published diagram of global carbon pools and fluxes. Students create a scaled 3-D visual of global carbon pools and net fluxes between pools with anthropogenic influences. The relative sizes of the pools can be modeled with stacks of poker chips, rolled columns of printer paper or similar. The fluxes can be represented by bingo chips, pennies or similar. Supplemental discussion questions guide students through considering the forms of carbon in pools, key carbon transforming processes associated with fluxes, and the implications for climate change.

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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. Familiarity with units of mass, especially the gigatonne (Gt)

Two 50-minute class periods (including discussion)

Version 1: Poker chips, bingo chips, CDs or DVDs, drawstring bag to hold all chips. Version 2: paper, ruler, tape.