EarthLabs for Educators > Climate and the Carbon Cycle > Lab 2: The Carbon Cycle - What Goes Around Comes Around.

Lab 2:The Carbon Cycle-What Goes Around Comes Around

The lab activity described here was developed by Candace Dunlap of TERC for the EarthLabs project.

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Investigation Summary and Learning Objectives

carbon cycle interactive png
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Provenance: Informmotion.com and TERC
Reuse: This item is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ You may reuse this item for non-commercial purposes as long as you provide attribution and offer any derivative works under a similar license.

Students focus initially on a sub-section of Earth's natural carbon cycle related to the biosphere involving the cycling of carbon through the processes of photosynthesis, respiration, and decay. Following that, they study an annotated representation of the full carbon cycle with reservoirs and the processes that drive carbon from one reservoir to others. Finally, students learn about the interconnectedness of the Earth system, feedback loops, and how changes in the carbon cycle lead to other changes in the system.

After completing this investigation, students will be able to:

For more information about the TOPIC, read the section titled Background Information under Additional Resources below


Activity Overview

In Part A: Students learn about the role the biosphere plays in the global carbon cycle and the processes (photosynthesis, respiration, and decay) that move carbon between components of the Earth system. Some of these processes take place in a fraction of a second while others can take millions of years.

In Part B: Students get a broader introduction to the carbon cycle by using an interactive visualization that highlights the major carbon reservoirs (referred to as stores in the visualization) and the processes that drive the movement of carbon (fluxes) on a global scale.

In Part C: Students are introduced to the positive and negative feedback loops that play a critical role in either amplifying or damping change in the Earth system.


Printable Materials

To download one of the PDF or Word files below, right-click (control-click on a Mac) the link and choose "Save File As" or "Save Link As."

Student Notebooks

Student notebooks are optional. Here are just a few suggestions for what to include in student notebooks for Lab 2:

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