Activity Introduction

co2-boardQuick summary: Students explore the role of oceans as carbon sinks. they begin by watching a clip about ocean acidification and reading quotes from We Are the Weather Makers and responding to a series of related questions. They are then asked to create an infographic describing the role of oceans and sinks and the process of ocean acidification.

These activities “… are an invaluable tool for teachers to address climate change in an educationally relevant, scientifically sound, and action-­based way.” – Tim Flannery (Read more)

Learning goals:

  • Students understand the role of oceans in absorbing CO2.
  • Students understand how CO2 is absorbed by sea water.
  • Students recognise the impacts of ocean acidification on marine environments.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Cross-curriculum priorities: Sustainability OI.1.

Australian Curriculum content description:

Year 10 Science

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

Syllabus OutcomesSC5-12ES

Topic: We Are the Weather Makers

Time required: 60 mins

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low – oversee activity

Resources required: Internet access, student worksheet.

Digital technology opportunities: Infographic creation (DIY infographic background information), digital sharing capabilities.

Homework and extension opportunities: Includes opportunities for extension.

Key reading from We Are the Weather Makers: Chapter 3 – The Greenhouse Gases

Further reading from the book: Chapter 19 – How Can They Keep On Moving, Chapter 15 – Rising Waters

Keywords: Ocean acidification, sinks, Carbon Dioxide, carbon cycle.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.

Cool Australia would like to acknowledge:

  • Tim Flannery
  • David Harding, Rose Iser, Sally Stevens
  • Text Publishing and Purves Environmental Fund
  • Climate Council
climate-council-logo textlogo_type purves_environ


Teacher Worksheet

fish-reefTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students will understand the role of oceans in absorbing CO2 and how CO2 is absorbed by sea water. Students will also recognise the impacts of ocean acidification on marine environments.

Teacher content information: Climate change is predicted to have a range of effects on our environment, some barely noticeable, others devastating. One of those predicted devastating effects is the impact on our oceans.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the oceans are exchanged at the surface layer between these two environments. When the concentration in the atmosphere increases, the ocean takes in much of it, sequestering the CO2 from the atmosphere. In this way, the oceans are moderating the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Without the oceans, atmospheric CO2 levels would be even higher.

Unfortunately, this process may cause long-term damage to life in the oceans. As CO2 is  transferred into the ocea

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: Did you know that the top three metres of the ocean hold as much heat as our entire atmosphere?

Part 1. The oceans as a sink

Before watching the video and reading the quotes, answer the following question:



What role do the oceans play in the carbon cycle?

In what way are the oceans a 'sink'?


Read the quotes from We Are The Weather Makers and watch the video, then answer the questions below:


ACID TEST: 3 Minute Science of Ocean Acidification from Tristan Bayer on Vimeo -

 Answer the following questions:



In your own words, describe how and why sea water absorbs carbon dioxide:

What is one example of an animal that will be affected by ocean acidification? How will it be affected?

Rank the following global carbon reservoirs in terms of the volume of carbon they hold (1 being the most, 3 being the least):

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