Name: __________________________________ Date: ________________ Block: __________
Background:
Carbon is an element that essential and important to living and nonliving things. All living things
contain carbon. Carbon can be found in the air from gases such as carbon dioxide and methane,
to liquids such as gasoline or vegetable oil, and even solids such as wood, coal, or rocks. Things
to keep in mind that are NOT made of carbon are metals, glass, and water. Similar to water,
carbon moves from place to place in an ecosystem. This is known as the carbon cycle.
Today, humans are influencing and changing the carbon cycle. Human activity, especially
burning large areas of the forest, has changed how plants and animals can cycle carbon dioxide
into and out of the atmosphere. During the Industrial Revolution in the 1700’s, humans began to
burn fossil fuels for power. This put carbon, which had been stored in the Earth, back into the
atmosphere. All of these factors have increased greenhouse gases causing a problem known as
global warming.
Activity:
For this activity, you will be taking on the role of an atom of carbon. Since carbon atoms tend to
move through biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) systems according to chance, you will be
gently rolling the dice to determine the random way carbon will move through the carbon cycle.
Each time you roll the die you may go to a station or be told to stay at the same station. Every
time this happens, place a bead from the station onto your bracelet (pipe cleaner) in the order you
visited each station. After you finish going through the carbon cycle each time, carefully fill out
the chart on the next page using your beads to tell you which stations you visited as a carbon
atom. Also, place tallies in the boxes for each station you visited. You may choose any station to
start at EXCEPT Ocean Sediments and 1 person may be at Fossil Fuels.
Chart of Bead Colors for Each Station.
Station
Atmosphere
Plant/Animal
Soil
Surface Ocean
Deep Ocean
Marine Life
Ocean Sediment
Fossil Fuels
Bead Colors
White
Green
Red
Pink
Blue
Orange
Yellow
Black
You will be going through the carbon cycle 4 times: 2 times pre-Industrial Revolution (<1700)
and 2 times post-Industrial Revolution (>1700). For each time period, there will be different dice
to use. Make sure you CHECK the bottom right hand corner of the dice for the date so you
know you are using the correct die.
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Forms of carbon:
You will find these at each lab station. Summarize the information on this page.
Atmosphere:
Plant/Animal:
Soil:
Surface Ocean:
Deep Ocean:
Marine Life:
Ocean Sediment:
Fossil Fuels:
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THE CARBON CYCLE
PRE-1700s:
Round 1
Round 2
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.
5.
5.
6.
6.
7.
7.
8.
8.
9.
9.
10.
10.
Station
Tallies of Times Visited for
both rounds pre-1700s
Atmosphere
Plant/Animal
Soil
Surface Ocean
Deep Ocean
Marine Life
Ocean Sediment
Fossil Fuels
3
THE CARBON CYCLE
POST-1700s:
Round 1
Round 2
1.
1.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.
5.
5.
6.
6.
7.
7.
8.
8.
9.
9.
10.
10.
Station
Tallies of Times Visited for
both rounds post-1700s
Atmosphere
Plant/Animal
Soil
Surface Ocean
Deep Ocean
Marine Life
Ocean Sediment
Fossil Fuels
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Questions
After completing the activity, answer the following questions:
1. This chart will be completed with data collected from the class.
Pre-1700s
Post-1700s
Atmosphere
Fossil Fuels
2. Create a line graph for the class data (two lines with key). Put the number of tallies (for
atmosphere and fossil fuels) on the Y-axis and pre-1700s and post-1700s on the X-axis.
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3. Why did some of you get “stuck” as carbon atoms during the Pre-1700’s in the Fossil Fuels
station, but not during the Post-1700’s?
4. Why should we look focus only on the data from visits to the Atmosphere and Fossil Fuels
stations?
5. If you were at the Ocean Sediments Station, why did you not end up at the Fossil Fuels
station in the post-1700s?
6. Why did you visit the Atmosphere station more than the Fossil Fuels station?
7. What are humans doing to move carbon from fossil fuels into the atmosphere?
8. How can humans decrease the amount of carbon being added into the atmosphere?
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Design a third set of dice reflecting what you believe will represent a carbon atom’s
journey Post-2050, knowing how humans have further impacted the carbon cycle in the
last three hundred years. Play the game a third time with the newly designed dice. Note
changes and have students explain the reasoning behind their results.
The Carbon Cycle:
Post-2050 Stations
Post-2050 Stations
1. ______________________________
(Begin)
2. ______________________________
1. ______________________________
(Begin)
2. ______________________________
3. ______________________________
3. ______________________________
4. ______________________________
4. ______________________________
5. ______________________________
5. ______________________________
6. ______________________________
6. ______________________________
7. ______________________________
7. ______________________________
8. ______________________________
8. ______________________________
9. ______________________________
9. ______________________________
10. ______________________________
10. ______________________________
Station
Atmosphere
Plant/Animal
Soil
Surface Ocean
Deep Ocean
Marine Life
Ocean Sediment
Fossil Fuels
Tallies of Times Visited
Station
Atmosphere
Plant/Animal
Soil
Surface Ocean
Deep Ocean
Marine Life
Ocean Sediment
Fossil Fuels
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Tallies of Times Visited
Dice template and
activity from:
http://www.du.edu/issa/documents/JosieElbertCarbonCycleLesson.pdf
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Atmosphere
Carbon is paired with two atoms of oxygen
in the form of carbon dioxide. It can remain
in the atmosphere, become part of
photosynthesis, or dissolve in the ocean
waters.
Deep Ocean
Carbon is dissolved in the deeper waters of
the ocean. It can remain in the deep ocean,
settle to the bottom of the ocean as
sediment, or move to the ocean’s surface by
currents.
Plant/Animal
Carbon is part of a chain, in a tree trunk,
sugar in a fruit, or in the muscle of an
animal. It can be respired by a plant or
animal into the atmosphere or become part
of the soil as the organism decays.
Marine Life
Carbon is part of a chain in algae or a
marine animal. It can be exhaled by marine
life and return to the surface of the ocean or
become part of the deep ocean when the
marine life dies.
Soil
Carbon is part of a chain, in plant material
such as a fallen leaf. It can remain in the
soil, be carried downstream to the ocean,
develop into a fossil fuel or be released into
the atmosphere as part of the decaying
process.
Ocean Sediment
Carbon is part of the material that settles to
the bottom of the ocean and will become
sedimentary rock. It can either become a
fossil fuel after ten million years or be
released into the atmosphere when a
volcano erupts, releasing carbon dioxide.
Surface Ocean
Carbon is dissolved in the surface of the
ocean. It can remain in the ocean, be
released into the atmosphere, be carried
deeper into the ocean by currents, or
become part of marine life through
photosynthesis.
Fossil Fuels
Carbon is part of a chain in oil, coal, or
natural gas. It can remain as a fossil fuel or
be released into the atmosphere after it’s
been burned for human use.
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Activity Carbon Cycle with beads