Carbon Dioxide Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Did you know that carbon dioxide can be found all over the universe? Come and learn about what carbon dioxide is, where it can be found, as well as its positive and negative attributes.

What is Carbon Dioxide?

CO2 is the chemical formula for carbon dioxide, but what does that stand for? A cat and two oranges? No. A car and two olives? No. One carbon and two oxygen atoms? Yes! Atoms are the basic units of matter, which means that atoms are in everything. Think about the tiniest thing you have ever seen. Got it in your mind? Good. Now, cut it in half. Cut it in half again. Cut it in half again. Pretty small, huh? Well, believe it or not, atoms are even tinier than that!

Sometimes, atoms come together to form elements, which is something that cannot be broken down any further, as it is already in its simple form. Carbon and oxygen are examples of elements. When one carbon and two oxygen come together the compound called carbon dioxide is formed. Compounds are when more than one element combines to create something new.

A model of a carbon dioxide molecule

Carbon dioxide is one of the most common compounds in the world. You can't see it. It is an invisible gas with no color. Some people claim to be able to taste or smell carbon dioxide, but in fact, it has no smell and no taste. What people are smelling is the burning of carbon dioxide.

Where is Carbon Dioxide?

Carbon dioxide can be found all over the world, in the air and the ocean. However, it is not always produced naturally. There are many man-made sources of carbon dioxide. One source of carbon dioxide is the burning of fossil fuels. People burn fossil fuels when they are using most forms of electricity or driving their cars. As of 2016, carbon dioxide accounts for less than 1% of the Earth's atmosphere. However, with human beings producing carbon dioxide every day, that number is increasing.

Plants remove excess carbon dioxide from the air. They breathe in a way that is opposite of humans. Did you know that when you breathe in oxygen, you end up breathing out carbon dioxide? The carbon dioxide produced is made from the carbon that is in the food that you eat and excess oxygen. Plants, however, breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe it out as oxygen.

How plants use carbon dioxide

So, it was already mentioned that carbon dioxide is a gas. However, it can also be solid. Have you ever seen dry ice? It is pretty 'cool', and it can cool a drink, clean and even make fog for special effects. Outer space is freezing. Carbon dioxide found there is in the form of dry ice, as well.

Carbon Dioxide in its Solid Form, Dry Ice

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