Guiding Question: How can we change the flow of carbon into the atmosphere?

  1. Rebalancing carbon flow. Explain to students that the total amount of carbon on Earth stays the same, but carbon is constantly flowing from one reservoir to another, it does so naturally and it does so because of human activities, this is the Carbon Cycle. Because of human activities, there is more carbon flowing into the atmosphere than out of the atmosphere.
  2. Show All Flows View. Project the All Flows view and have the students discuss the following three prompts:
    1. What are some ways carbon gets into the atmosphere? [Animal and plant respiration; animal and plant decomposition; humans burn fossil fuels.]
    2. What are some ways carbon is taken out of the atmosphere? [Plant photosynthesis; carbon dioxide absorbed by ocean.]
    3. What are some places carbon is stored (carbon reservoirs)? [Limestone and other rocks; deep ocean water; fossil fuels.]
  3. Explaining the Model. This simulation is very similar to the Interactive Carbon Cycle diagram simulation introduced earlier. This simulation allows the user to select a scenario from a menu of 5 scenarios, and it will prompt us into making predictions about which reservoirs and flows will increase and decrease if certain changes are made.
  4. Select Stop Making Cement and make predictions. Select the Stop Making Cement view. The simulation provides the prompt to make predictions—first about certain flows and then about certain reservoirs. Ask the students to make their predictions and support them with evidence. There may be disagreement about what will happen in this scenario, for example about whether carbon in the atmosphere will decrease, stay the same, or increase but more slowly than it might otherwise. Encourage students to disagree respectfully and to explain their evidence and reasoning.
  5. Discuss secondary effects. Ask students to think about if there is less carbon than there otherwise would be in the atmosphere, what other flows or reservoirs might that affect? [Less flow of carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean.]
  6. Make predictions for other scenarios. Have students identify scenarios from the menu that they think could decrease the carbon in the atmosphere. Have them choose one of these and discuss predictions, following the prompts on the simulation.

These animations and simulations support understanding of the Ocean-Atmosphere Connection and Climate Change. They were developed for the Ocean Sciences Sequence curriculum for grades 6–8: The Ocean-Atmosphere Connection and Climate Change.