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Carbon's role in Earth's past, present and future. (High School) (ESS2)

Created by NASA Wavelength Last updated 7/31/2018

The resources in this list support student understanding of the importance of carbon on out planet. Lessons from the "Carbon Connections" online curriculum are included, along with lessons featuring NASA data and images.

This list supports the following national standards:
Next Generation Science Standards

Carbon dioxide and the carbon cycle are included under NGSS ESS2.D (Earth's Systems / Weather and Climate).
  • Carbon and Climate in the Past

    Unit one of three in “Carbon Connections” -an online curriculum focused on the carbon cycle and the science of Earth’s climate. One indicator of past climate is carbon as CO2 in the atmosphere. Throughout the five lessons in this unit, students will use models and analyze data to examine the evidence and patterns of carbon dioxide in past climates.
    AAAS Benchmarks: 4B/H6, 11C/H6
  • Carbon Now

    Unit two of three in “Carbon Connections” -an online curriculum focused on the carbon cycle and the science of Earth’s climate. In this series of five lessons, scientific models and simulations are used to build an understanding of the role of the biosphere (plants, other organisms and humans) in moving carbon around Earth.
    AAAS Benchmarks: 4B/H6, 4C/H1
  • Carbon in the Future and You

    Unit three of three in “Carbon Connections” -an online curriculum focused on the carbon cycle and the science of Earth’s climate. The five lessons in this final unit focus on understanding the factors that influence average temperature of Earth. Students use climate models and an energy use monitor/carbon calculator to connect daily human activities to carbon and climate.
    AAAS Benchmarks: 4B/H4, 4B/H6, 11A/H2
  • A Year In The Life Of Earth’s CO2

    Carbon dioxide data from January-December of 2006 is compressed into a three-minute video through the use of a supercomputer model. Plumes of CO2 can be seen swirling and shifting in response to global weather patterns and seasonal changes. Several videos and stills are included; the featured informational version is narrated and links to a transcript. The site also includes a non-annotated version that can be used by students as an investigative “phenomenon.”
  • Vital Signs of the Planet: Carbon Dioxide

    One of Earth’s five vital signs, carbon dioxide, is released into the atmosphere through both human activities and natural processes. The concentration of atmospheric CO2 has increased over time. As evidence of that change, the site displays the latest actual CO2 measurement, and provides graphs and information on downloadable data for analyses, NASA missions that observe CO2, graphs of direct and indirect CO2 measurements, and a video time series of mid-tropospheric CO2 concentrations from 2002-2016.
  • Seasonal Changes in Carbon Dioxide

    The movement and distribution of atmospheric CO2 concentrations are influenced by Earth’s seasonal changes. This short (1:20) 3-D visualization displays the movement of CO2 at different altitudes in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres over a one- year period. The accompanying narrative offers insight into how NASA scientists used tools, technology and computations in making this model.
  • Exploring Remote Sensing

    The sun is the foundation of Earth’s global climate systems. The percentage of the sun’s radiation that reflects from different surfaces on Earth- albedo- is introduced. Targeting 9th grade, this activity simulates the process of remote sensing using common materials to represent different surface types. Allow one to two hours to complete the activity.
    AAAS Benchmarks:
  • Earth's Energy Budget: Seasonal Cycles in Net Radiative Flux

    Earth’s weather and climate are determined by the net amount of the sun’s energy reaching the surface. The tilt of Earth’s axis results in seasonal variations in the amount of energy at different locations on Earth. This lesson, requiring less than one hour to complete, uses images and an animation from NASA’s CERES instrument for investigation.
    AAAS Benchmarks: 4B/H5