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Carbon-Nitrogen-Oxygen Cycle Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Understanding the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen cycle is an important part of understanding chemistry. This lesson offers activities that will help your students make better sense of this cycle.

What Is the Carbon-Nitrogen-Oxygen Cycle?

Are you trying to teach your students about the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen cycle, often called the CNO cycle? This is a fusion reaction that occurs among the stars, and understanding it will help your students understand what is happening in the space around them. Yet the CNO cycle is far from simple, and many students require significant scaffolding in order to help it make sense.

One way to help your students understand and internalize the CNO cycle is to make sure to teach with plenty of activities. When you use activities in your science teaching, you appeal to a variety of learning styles, let students learn collaboratively, and give them a chance to work from their strengths. The activities in this lesson will help your students show and deepen their understanding of CNO cycles.

Visual Activities

Here, you will find activities that make the CNO cycle accessible to visual learners.

Map the Cycle Out

Ask students to work with partners to do this activity. Their job is to create a visual rendering of how the CNO cycle might work. They can diagram any of the cold CNO cycles. Their diagram should include a legend that has representations of protons, neutrons, and positrons, as well as gamma rays and neutrinos. Finally, give your students a chance to share their CNO cycle diagrams with their classmates and discuss any questions that came up.

Hot and Cold

Understanding the similarities and differences between different kinds of CNO cycles can really help students think critically about what each of the cycle types is. Break students into partnerships, and ask each pair to complete at least two different Venn Diagrams. Each diagram should compare and contrast two different kinds of CNO cycles. They might compare and contrast hot and cold cycles, or different kinds of cold cycles. Let students share their resulting diagrams with their classmates.

Tactile Activities

The activities in this section will make CNO cycles understandable to learners who like to use their hands and bodies.

Build a Model

Many students will benefit from building a model of how a CNO cycle works and then describing what it means. Students should pair up for this activity and use clay or recycled materials. You can assign each pair a different CNO cycle to model, or you can let students choose for themselves. The models they create should include all of the important components of the cycle, and they should be prepared to talk about what they are representing.

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