Dinosaur Breath

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Through discussion and hands-on experimentation, learners examine the geological (ancient) carbon cycle. They investigate the role of dinosaurs in the carbon cycle and the eventual storage of carbon in the form of chalk. Learners discover how the carbon cycle has been occurring for millions of years and is necessary for life on Earth. Finally, they may extend their knowledge to the concept of global warming and how engineers are working to understand the carbon cycle and reduce harmful CO2 emissions.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • splash-proof goggles
  • Student Background Reading: Life of a Carbon Atom
  • Dinosaur Breath Worksheets
  • 3-4 pieces of chalk (NOT dustless chalk)
  • rolling pin and hard surface to crush chalk
  • 1 small sandwich bag in which to crush chalk
  • ¼ cup vinegar (either red or white)
  • 2 small beakers, graduated cylinders, or small glass jars
  • 1 small balloon (optional)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda (see Troubleshooting Tips) (optional)
  • a few scales, to measure mass


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics
      • Geochemical Cycles
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Atmosphere
    • Earth's History
      • Geologic Time
      • Dinosaurs
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Environmental Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
    • Ecology
      • Populations
      • Energy Flow and Chemical Cycles
      • Human Impact
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and the Environment

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, 2007