Lesson Plan

Climate Change #1 - Carbon Cycle Capture

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Additional Standards:
LS1.C, LS2.A, LS2.B, ESS3.D
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience.


By the end of this activity:
1. Students will be able to describe the cyclical relationship between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and plants on earth which trap and store carbon.
2. Students will identify where carbon in the soil comes from.


The carbon cycle plays an important role in the formation of Wind Cave. Students should have a general understanding of where the CO2 that makes carbonic acid comes from. Rain water picks up COfrom decaying plants in the soil.

If you are studying caves this information can be tied in or this lesson can be used strictly for teaching climate change. 


1. Review the basic photosynthesis cycle. (Plants use CO2 and release Oxygen)

2. One student will be the "Fire" and wear the red bandana. Divide the remaining students -- half will be "trees" and half will be "CO2 molecules." (Feel free to have slightly more CO2 molecules.) Choose either group to wear the armbands.

3. To start the game, set the boundaries of the playing area and designate one side the soil and one side the atmosphere. Have each tree pick a spot on the soil side of the area. This is their roots. Their job will be to go out and tag a CO2 and bring it back to its roots to store it.

4. Scatter the CO2 around the atmosphere. Their job is to avoid the trees.

5. The fires job is to chase the trees. When the fire tags a tree, they bring it back to its roots (burns it up) and releases all the CO2.

6. The fire may not burn up a tree that is escorting a CO2 back. You can establish a safe zone around the roots that the fire can’t cross unless escorting a tree to its roots.


End the game by removing the Fire and allowing the trees to capture all the CO2.

Assessment Materials

Discussion Questions


What happens if the trees die naturally without being burned?
This causes CO2 to build up in the soil as biomass.


While fire releases CO2 into the atmosphere it also has important roles to play in a healthy ecosystem. What are they?
It returns nutrients to the soil. It pushes the forest back and increases prairie land. Certain plants need fire to compete naturally with other vegetation.

Supports for Struggling Learners

Feel free to start the activity as a walking-only game and switch to running as students become comfortable with the concept.

Enrichment Activities

You can continue the discussion by asking how well this mimics the real carbon cycle. (Do trees chase CO2? Are there other ways carbon is taken out of the atmosphere? [Oceans] What types of fire can destroy trees [Forest fires, people burning for heat])

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Last updated: September 21, 2016