Carbon Cycle Lesson for Kids: Definition & Steps

Instructor: Emily Lockhart

Emily has taught science and has a master's degree in education.

Carbon is found in every living thing on earth; in fact, without it, there would be no life. In this lesson, we will follow carbon as it cycles from non-living things to living things and back to non-living and learn more about this very important element.

Carbon-The Foundation of Life

Life is great, right? Nothing like waking up every morning to a new day, not knowing what that day is going to bring! Well, without carbon, there would be no life on Earth, so, thank carbon and read on to find out how this important element affects all life on Earth.

Getting To Know Carbon

Carbon is not only found in every living thing on Earth, but is also found in some non-living things. Carbon is found in you, in the ground, and even in the air. The carbon cycle is the process of how carbon travels from living to non-living objects.

Atoms are the smallest particle found in any object. If you were to shred a paper to pieces so small you couldn't see the paper anymore, you would find the paper is made of different types of atoms and one of these atoms is carbon. Remember, paper is made from trees which are living, and all living things are made from carbon.

Carbon is also found in the air as a gas called carbon dioxide (CO2). This gas is made of three atoms: one carbon and two oxygen atoms. This lesson is going to look at the carbon cycle to see exactly how carbon gets in the air and ground from living things, and then back into living things again.

The Carbon Cycle

Air to Plants->Plants to Animals->Animals to Air

Plants take in carbon dioxide (CO2), water and light from the sun. The plants' leaves then use a special process to convert the CO2, water and sunlight into oxygen and sugar. The sugar provides food for the plant and it breathes the oxygen out into the atmosphere. This process is called photosynthesis, and it is necessary for plant life.

The sugar that the plants create contains carbon. Humans and animals that eat the plants will digest this sugar with carbon and use the carbon to make many different compounds. Carbon is found in every part of your body. Skin, organs, bone, nerves, you name it, and it's made of carbon. You really are what you eat!

Also, just like when humans or animals eat plants, when humans eat animals, the carbon that was retained in the animal's body now becomes part of our body.

However, human and animal bodies don't use all of the carbon from the food they eat. Some of the carbon is made into energy and this carbon is turned back into carbon dioxide, which we breathe back into the atmosphere.

Part of the Carbon Cycle
Carbon Cycle Partial

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account