Carbon Cycle Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

This video-based lesson plan defines the carbon and the carbon cycle, photosynthesis, and cellular respiration, then guides students through a hands-on activity to demonstrate concepts.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define and explain the carbon cycle
  • demonstrate understanding of the carbon cycle by creating a visual representation
  • ask and answer questions about the carbon cycle


  • 45 minutes for lesson, plus additional time to complete activity


  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Art supplies such as crayons, colored pencils, and markers

Key Vocabulary

  • Carbon cycle
  • Carbon
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Photosynthesis
  • Cellular respiration

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.7

Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).


  • Start class by asking students to write to the prompt 'The carbon cycle is…' Share answers and discuss prior knowledge.
  • Tell students they will be learning about the carbon cycle. Ask them to title their science notebooks, preview vocabulary, then start the video What Is the Carbon Cycle? - Diagram, Process & Definition. Allow students to take notes as the video plays.
  • Pause at 2:42. Define terms, answer questions, then discuss:
    • Where is carbon found abundantly?
    • In what form is carbon found in the atmosphere?
    • What form is carbon found in the earth?
  • Have students describe the carbon cycle to a seat partner; listen in to conversations to direct learning, then ask:
    • What does it mean that the Earth and atmosphere are a closed environment?
    • How does a closed atmosphere relate to carbon?
  • Resume the video. At the end, make sure students have notes and definitions as needed. Answer questions, then check for understanding by asking;
    • Describe how photosynthesis, decomposition, and cellular respiration are part of the carbon cycle.
    • How is some carbon suspended for long periods of time?
    • In what form are these carbons released?

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