Worksheets and lesson ideas to challenge students aged 11 to 16 to think hard about the carbon cycle (GCSE and Key Stage 3)
Where to start?
The dehydration of sucrose is a good demonstration to help students appreciate that plant sugars are made from carbon atoms. This can lead on to a discussion about where the carbon atoms came from – i.e. the air. How did the carbon atoms get into the plant? Through photosynthesis.
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.
GCSE activity on the carbon cycle. Students are challenged to draw a flow chart to show how atoms of carbon are cycled around an ecosystem, from a roast chicken to a root hair cell. 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)
- Have the number of carbon atoms on Earth increased, decreased or stayed the same over the past 4.5 billion years?
- What effect would a wildfire have on the carbon cycle of an ecosystem?
- Explain the role of microorganisms in
cycling materials through an ecosystem.