Skip to content

Carbon Cycle Caper

In this activity students ‘play out’ the carbon cycle to understand how it has been affected by our use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, and how this underlies current worries about climate change.

Watch this video for an overview of the activity in action:

The documents below explain how to run the activity and provide all the templates and materials you’ll need.

Additional guidance

Carbon Cycle Caper is a series of four games depicting the carbon cycle.

It is intended to take place in a school hall with up to 60 students and at least two adults.

It lasts about 70 minutes, broken down as follows:

  • Introduction (approx. 5 minutes)
  • Game 1: Where’s carbon? (approx. 10 minutes)
  • Game 2: Move that carbon! (approx. 20 minutes)
  • Game 3: Carbon cycle shuffle (approx. 20 minutes):Before Industrial Revolution (carbon in balance)
  • Game 4: Carbon cycle shuffle (approx. 10 minutes) After Industrial Revolution (carbon is out of balance)
  • Wrap up (approx. 5 minutes)

Full instructions for preparing and running this activity are given in the Carbon Cycle Caper Teachers’ Notes PDF below.

There’s also a Crib Sheet for you to use as a ready reference on the day.

Use the background science documents  below to find out about the latest climate science research to support your own knowledge and to give you the background information you may need when running this activity:

  • Game 1: To identify the six areas where carbon is present in the biosphere – and in what form.
  • Game 2: Introduce or reinforce the key processes by which carbon moves around the carbon cycle.
  • Game 3: To understand what the carbon cycle was like before the Industrial Revolution.
  • Game 4: To understand what the carbon cycle has been like since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and how that has affected the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Learning outcomes

  • Understand the carbon cycle.
  • Understand how it has been affected by our use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution.
  • Understand how this underlies current concerns about climate change.

Downloadable resources

Carbon Cycle Caper: teachers’ notes (PDF Document)

Carbon Cycle Caper: crib sheet (PDF Document)

Carbon station signs (PDF Document)

Carbon Cycle Caper: game 1 (PDF Document)

Carbon Cycle Caper: game 2 (PDF Document)

Carbon Cycle Caper: game 2 processes (PDF Document)

Carbon Cycle Caper: game 3 stickers (PDF Document)

Carbon Cycle Caper: game 3 processes (PDF Document)

Carbon Cycle Caper: game 4 (PDF Document)

Carbon cycle caper diagram (PDF Document)

Carbon Cycle Caper: where is carbon? (PDF Document)