Human Impact on the Carbon Cycle

Driving or Multi-dimensional Question:

What is the impact of my lifestyle on the planet, and what steps can I take to reduce my impact on the planet? Select a final student product/activity that will be assessed for content mastery.
1. Students complete in order the activities below.
2. Students will work in teams, in pairs and finally alone.
3. Students will research, create and spotlight designs in a Sustainability Showcase.

Unit Summary:

After students have determined their own area of carbon footprint impact (examples might include electricity use, fuel use, food waste, etc.), the culminating event will be a Sustainability Showcase.

For the Sustainability Showcase, students will repurpose something old into something new. They will share with each other if the event happens during the school day, or with parents if the event is at night. Students will create posters or slide shows detailing the before, after and during the process.

Hook Event:

Culminating Event:



Science Standards:

BIO1.LS2.2 Create a model tracking carbon atoms between inorganic and organic molecules in an ecosystem. Explain human impacts on climate based on this model.

Math Standards:

Algebra I
A1.S.ID.A.1 Represent single or multiple data sets with dot plots, histograms, stem plots (stem and leaf) and box plots.

ELA and Other Standards:

9-10.L.CSE.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Created By: Sandi Bigham
Grade Level or Subject: Biology

Tennessee Academic Standards for Science Connection

Disciplinary Core Idea: Humans Impact Climate by Way of the Carbon Cycle
Science and Engineering Practices: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Cross Cutting Concepts: Students Design or Define Systems in Order to Evaluate a Specific Problem

21st Century Skills

  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication Skills
  • Collaboration (Team Building)
  • Creativity and Innovation

Daily Activities

  Activities Resources and Materials
Activity One Growing/Changing Model on Wall

This changing model is updated on the wall (like graffiti) using either chalk markers directly on the wall, or on large paper squares changed out as new concepts are learned. This model wall will start at the beginning of the PBL and be continued throughout the school year.

Concepts related to the model on the wall will include:
• Scientific methodology
• Characteristics of living things
• Molecules, bonding
• pH
• Carbon compounds
• Earth systems
• Weather/biomes/ecosystems

Activity Two Save the Penguins

Save the Penguins Website:

(NOTE: materials list is fairly extensive)

Activity Three Human Involvement in the Carbon Cycle—BTB Solutions Lab

• TN Department of Education Biology Teacher Training Manual
• Paper for creating sketches to predict and change/improve model after activity (NOTE: final output stays on wall)



Activities Four & Five Student Assessment of Personal Carbon Footprint

Take-Home Assessment of Family’s Carbon Footprint:

Carbon Footprint Calculators:

 Graph Data to Add to Wall

Activity Six Extension Activity

For AP or Upper Students:
Research and report findings on biases of various carbon footprint calculators (government, oil companies, nonprofits, etc.).


Technology Integration:

Business Partner Contribution to Learning Experience Contact Information
Local Antique Dealers, Lumber Yards, Thrift SShops Provide materials and ideas Will vary by town/county
School Agriculture Department    
Local Farmer’s Co-Op Can provide fertilizer labels (some students may want to research their own farming techniques) Will vary by town/county

Capstone Presentation:

Students will present their carbon footprint data (graphs, photos, etc.) using their choice of poster presentation or slideshow presentation.

Students will showcase their reused products created from something old at the Sustainability Showcase event. They will present their posters showing the process, and be prepared to answer questions like, “How does this decrease your carbon footprint?”

Project files