Year 10

Science Support Materials

Science snapshot: Carbon cycle

Science/Science Understanding/Earth and space sciences

Content Description Relevant aspects of the Achievement Standards

Global systems, including the carbon cycle, rely on interactions involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere (ACSSU189)

Students describe and analyse interactions and cycles within and between Earth’s spheres.

Nature of the assessment

Students work together to research and teach each other central aspects of the carbon cycle.

Purpose of the assessment

To determine the level of student understanding of the processes and interactions between the spheres involved in the carbon cycle.

Stage in the teaching sequence

Towards the end of the teaching sequence.

Assessment task

Students were allocated to groups (five students per group). Each person in the group chose one of five processes in the carbon cycle: photosynthesis; respiration; feeding; death and decomposition; and burning of organic matter. They were required to research their chosen process and be ready to explain the essential elements in the process to their group.

After completing their research, the students grouped themselves according to their focus (e.g. photosynthesis) so that they could check and deepen their understanding of the process they had studied.

The students then reverted to their original groups of five and explained their particular process, and then discussed how the five processes were integrated into the carbon cycle.

Once that was completed the students were required to discuss and answer the following questions:

  • Name the major way that carbon is removed from the atmosphere and the process that is used.
  • Suggest two measures that could decrease the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere.
  • Why is it important to limit the amount of carbon in the atmosphere?

The teacher led a class discussion of the questions and used the discussion to extend students’ understanding of central concepts.

Assessment process

The teacher circulated between groups looking for evidence that the students understood the process they had researched, and then later that they could understand how each process fitted into the carbon cycle.

Using the information

The teacher’s observations of the student responses were used to determine future teaching of the concepts.

Overview of research

View the overview of research for this snapshot.