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Caught Up in the Carbon Cycle
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July 2, 2018
Green Teacher
Photos: Pamela Miller

IN ORDER TO teach students about a global issue such as climate change, we are required to pay attention to the many dynamic systems that make up our interconnected world. Often when we visualize a cycle of matter like the water cycle, we imagine a circular path. Closer inspection, however, reveals that most systems are a messy, tangled web of relationships that are hard to conceptualize and understand. By getting students to role-play a carbon molecule during an interactive simulation, they can better conceptualize the carbon cycle. Students can then begin to unravel and understand the many interwoven matter cycles (e.g. water cycle, nitrogen cycle), processes, relationships, and systems that both influence and are impacted by global climate change.
The following describes one such activity that I have had success with various sized groups. It can be conducted on a small scale indoors or on a larger scale outdoors.


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