Worksheets and lesson ideas to challenge students aged 11 to 16 to think hard about the carbon cycle (GCSE and Key Stage 3)
The carbon cycle is a great topic to teach as it links together many areas of science e.g. combustion, respiration, decomposition and photosynthesis. Take time to help students understand that cell structures are made from atoms including carbon. Students may be able to label a cell membrane and tell you that it is made from lipid, but fail to realise that lipids are made from atoms. Many students will also think that plants obtain carbon from the soil, so this misconception is well worth tackling head on.
The dehydration of sucrose can be a good demonstration to help students appreciate that plant sugars are made from carbon atoms.
Carbon cycle and heather burning
GCSE worksheet on heather burning and the carbon cycle. In this activity we explore the carbon cycle through the context of heather burning in the Scottish highlands. It’s a simple context that I hope will give students a more concrete understanding of this abstract process. Students should already have been introduced to combustion, respiration and photosynthesis before they apply this knowledge to understanding the carbon cycle. Thanks to Pan and Rory at Balvarran for making this video possible.
The carbon cycle
GCSE worksheet on the carbon cycle. Students are challenged to draw a flow chart to show how atoms of carbon are cycled around an ecosystem. The activity is designed to tackle the misconception that plants obtain carbon from the soil. This activity can be easily adapted for the nitrogen cycle. (PDF)