Plants: Carbon, Energy, and Sustainability
© Les Taylor
We have Bilingual Educators! Let us know if any students or chaperones in your class might benefit from activities taught in: Cantonese, Mandarin, or Spanish.
By the end of this program students will be able to:
- use observations as evidence to construct an explanation for ways carbon changes over time
- identify ways carbon cycles between the biosphere, atmosphere, and geosphere
- analyze cause and effect relationships of human impacts on the atmosphere (both beneficial and harmful)
What is carbon, and what forms can it take as it cycles around the planet? Students take on the role of working as scientists who explore how plants grow, and what happens to their matter when the plants die. Student scientists create microscope slides to investigate how plants take up carbon dioxide. They gather observations of plant structures and construct explanations for how air flows in and out of the leaf. Students then use media-rich visualizations, role-playing, and fossil fuel specimens to bolster the evidence for how plants affect the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, and some ways that carbon cycles throughout the world.
Through facilitated discussion the class explores a few major causes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that students have control over. Students then brainstorm ways they can positively affect ecosystems by thinking about ways to minimize impacts of ocean acidification.
This field trip program compliments the FOSS Curriculum: Living Systems.
Additionally, you may also use one our lessons to help your students connect their museum experience to their classroom experiences.
Science and Engineering Practices
- Planning and Carrying out investigations: Conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence.
- Constructing explanations and designing solutions: Apply scientific ideas to solve design problems.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
- 4 LS1.A: Structure and Function: Plants and animals have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth.
- 5LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms: Plants acquire their material for growth chiefly from air and water.
- 5LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems: Matter cycles between the air and soil and among plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die. Organisms obtain gases, and water, from the environment, and release waste matter (gas, liquid, or solid) back into the environment.
- 4ESS3.A: Natural Resources: Energy and fuels that humans use are derived from natural sources, and their use affects the environment in multiple ways.
- 5ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems: Human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have had major effects on the land, vegetation, streams, ocean, air, and even outer space.
- 5PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter: Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means.
- Structure and Function: Substructures have shapes and parts that can serve functions.
- Cause and Effect: Cause and effect relationships are identified and used to explain change.
Related Performance Expectations
This activity or unit is just one of many that could help prepare your students to perform the following hypothetical tasks that demonstrate their understanding:
- Grade 5-LS2-1 - Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
- Grade 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about the ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
- Physical Sciences 1h. Students know living organisms and most materials are composed of just a few elements.
- Life Sciences 2f. Students know plants use carbon dioxide (CO2) and energy from sunlight to build molecules of sugar and release oxygen.