Investigating Combustion and the Carbon Cycle

In this activity, students explore the role of combustion in the carbon cycle. They learn that carbon flows among reservoirs on Earth through processes such as respiration, photosynthesis, combustion, and decomposition, and that combustion of fossil fuels is causing an imbalance. This activity is one in a series of 9 activities.

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Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS)
Lawrence Hall of Science

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Some teacher preparation is required - printing student worksheets and two-sided cards.

The lesson includes burning a paraffin candle to show unburned carbon/soot; this can either be done as a demonstration by the teacher or by older students themselves.

After the paraffin burning activity, have a microscope set up so students can look at the carbon soot. Note that this soot makes up the particulates/air pollution given off by burning any fossil fuel.

This lesson is part of a larger collection, so it refers several times to the students' "Investigation Notebook." The necessary pages from this are included (3) at the end of the teacher pages and can be printed out for students.