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.
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:
- Climate Science Background Briefing (PDF)
Contains terminology, stats, background science, discussion ideas and links for further information.
- Impacts of Climate Change (PDF)
A summary of how higher temperatures can lead to different sorts of climatic changes, and the impacts of these changes.
- 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.
KS3 Science: Chemistry – Earth and atmosphere
KS3 Science: Chemistry – Atoms, elements and compounds
KS3 Geography: Human and physical geography
KS4 Science: Chemistry – Earth and atmospheric science
KS4 Science: Chemistry – Chemical and allied industries
KS4 Science: Biology – Ecosystems
KS4 Geography: Supports work in the AQA, OCR and Edexcel areas of climate and the environment
- 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.
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)