Carbon Dioxide Exercise

In this activity, students work in groups, plotting carbon dioxide concentrations over time on overheads and estimating the rate of change over five years. Stacked together, the overheads for the whole class show an increase on carbon dioxide over five years and annual variation driven by photosynthesis. This exercise enables students to practice basic quantitative skills and understand how important sampling intervals can be when studying changes over time. A goal is to see how small sample size may give incomplete picture of data.

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Randy Richardson
SERC - Starting Point Collection

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Clear instructions are in the student handout. Note that there are two options for distributing the data points.

If part 2 on the student handout is used for homework, educator must provide compiled CO2 curve ahead of time.

Students could be challenged to investigate why CO2 is increasing (natural variation and/or anthropogenic sources).