The Carbon Cycle Game
(Adapted by Jennifer Ceven from “The Incredible Journey,” Project Wet)
The movement of carbon through various aspects of the natural environment is the focus of much scientific research. Climate change can be attributed to the increased amount of heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide. Students will develop an understanding of how carbon moves through the environment in order to appreciate the complexity of developing solutions to address problems associated with climate change. By rolling a die, students will simulate a molecule of carbon’s movement throughout various locations within the carbon cycle.
• 7 dice
• 7 station signs
• Data record sheets for each student
• Categorize the places carbon can be found into these stations:Atmosphere, Plants, Animals, Soil, Ocean, Deep Ocean, and Fossil Fuels. Point out the areas of the room that are labeled with each station and contain the directions for movement from that station.
• Assign students to each station randomly and evenly. Have students identify the different places carbon could go from that given station. Discuss the processes that allow for the transfer of carbon between stations. Students should make a line and roll the die individually to follow the directions for movement from (or retention at) each station. Remind them that they are representing atoms of carbon moving through the carbon cycle and that they should record their movements on the data sheet.
• Students will realize the routine movements (or non-movements) in the carbon cycle.
• Once the carbon atoms (students) have had a chance to roll the die ten times, have each student create a bar graph using the data they collected. The bar graph should represent the number of times the carbon atom (student) was at each station.
• Using graph paper, create a large bar graph recording the number of carbon atoms (students) at each station.