The Carbon Cycle and its Role in Climate Change: Activity 3

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In this activity, learners explore the human influences on the carbon cycle and examine how fossil fuels release carbon. Learners role play as miners, power plant operators, car drivers, and home owners in a city. Learners will act out how each member of society contributes to the carbon cycle and then create a classroom mural depicting the path of carbon. Learners can reflect on this process as well as brainstorm ways to lower their carbon footprints. This activity is the third in a series of three activities that introduce learners to the carbon cycle (see related sources), although it is not mandatory that all three activities are completed as a set.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Supplies from Activity #1
  • Supplies to set up a city in miniature, one set for the class to share. You can use toys or boxes to represent a power plant, oil refinery, gas station, houses, cars, or any other buildings of your choice.
  • Signs to label buildings
  • String (to represent power lines)
  • Dirt or sand
  • Blanket (labeled CO2)
  • Materials to create a mural


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Geochemical Cycles
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
      • Atmosphere
    • Earth's History
  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Energy Flow and Chemical Cycles
      • Human Impact
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Mineral and Mining Engineering
    • Technology
      • Transportation
      • Manufacturing
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
      • Thermodynamics and Entropy
    • Energy
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding
      • Chemical Reactions
    • States of Matter
      • Gases
      • Changes of Phase
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elements and Periodic Table
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and the Environment

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Nature and Environment
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities