Lesson plan

Carbon cycle, fossil fuels and renewable energy

Review the carbon cycle and understand where fossil fuels enter the cycle. Explore a renewable alternative to fossil fuels.
Science content
Biology: Food Webs, Ecosystems, Biomes (3, 4)
Earth/Space: Rock cycle, Earth Materials, Natural resources (5)
Earth/Space: Sustainable practices, Interconnectedness (2, 5, 7)

Carbon cycles through living things, the atmosphere, the oceans, the Earth and rocks:
Carbon moves between the air and animals/plants in Fast carbon cycles (respiration, photosynthesis and fermentation).
Carbon moves between the air and ocean water in a Fast carbon cycle.
Carbon moves into animal shells and rocks, and through the rock cycle in Slow carbon cycles.
Carbon is returned to the atmosphere through weathering in a Slow carbon cycle.
Carbon is returned to the atmosphere in large amounts via outgassing of volcanoes.

Humans are putting carbon into the atmosphere at a fast rate by burning fossil fuels.
Sometimes rocks form from plants and animals to make fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas.
We burn fossil fuels for energy.
Demonstrate burning fossil fuels using a candle (wax is a petroleum product).
Burning fossil fuels puts carbon dioxide into the air very fast, faster than it can cycle back into living things and rocks.
We need to stop burning fossil fuels for energy and use renewable sources only.

Wind energy is renewable.
Students make a device that turns in the wind, and learn about the key parts of a wind turbine (a part that spins and blades to catch the wind).
Wind turbines are hooked to a generator, to make electricity.
Demonstrate a wind turbine.
Wind turbine videos:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQpbTTGe_gk (2.5 mins)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xy9nj94xvKA (5 mins)


Lesson 6 of 6 of a series on the Carbon Cycle.
Good image of the whole carbon cycle at https://www.britannica.com/science/carbon-cycle (drawing in photo is simplified version of this)

Grades taught
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 5
Gr 6