Activity Introduction


In this lesson, students will investigate the measurement of CO2 as outputs per individual and household, in terms of kilograms of CO2 per annum. They will examine the carbon footprint of average Australians in comparison to the world average and to countries such as Bangladesh, as featured in a clip from 2040.


Students will then engage in some mathematical problem solving by seeking to maximise their ‘household’ carbon savings given a set of constraints. This lesson can be used by students to extend on learning covered in 2040 – The Maths of Carbon – 5 & 6.


Learning Intentions

  • Students will understand about densities and masses of substances – solids, liquids, and gases
  • Students will learn how CO2 output by humans and their households can be measured in kilograms produced ‘per annum’
  • Students will learn that human CO2 outputs can be reduced and then develop teamwork skills by calculating ‘household’ CO2 footprints using addition, subtraction, and multiplication of large numbers
  • Students will develop teamwork skills as they calculate household CO2 footprints using addition, subtraction, and multiplication of large numbers
  • Students will realise that they can make a difference to global carbon dioxide levels by acting locally and encouraging others to do the same

Lesson & Curriculum Details

  • Topic: Learning Through Film, Climate Change, Consumption, Sustainability
  • Unit of work: 2040 – Mathematics – Years 5 & 6
  • Time required: 65 mins.
  • Level of teacher scaffolding:  High – Direct teacher instruction required in the warm-up and in Part B (explicit instruction), and scaffolding and guidance is needed to explain the activity for Part C (group work and problem-solving).
  • Keywords: 2040 documentary, sustainability, climate change, pollution, carbon absorption, greenhouse gas, Carbon Dioxide (CO2), global warming, non-renewable energy, renewable energy, atmosphere, average, carbon footprint, carbon storage, density, drawdown, household, kilograms, mass, per annum, percentage, tonnes, metric, volume, weight

To view our Australian Curriculum alignment click here.

To view our NZ Curriculum alignment click here.

Resources Required

  • Student Worksheets – one copy per student.
  • A device capable of presenting a video to the class. 
  • 1 plastic or glass 1 litre jug – with measurement markings. 
  • 1 litre of water in a separate container.
  • 1 small packet of rigatoni or penne pasta shells (uncooked).
  • 1 litre bag or container of small pebbles or stones or sand. 
  • Small measuring scales capable of being set to zero (e.g. nutrition scales). 
  • Whiteboard and markers. 
  • CO2 Saver Choice & Fact’ cards – 1 per 2 or 3 students of page 1 and 1 copy of page 2 only.
  • Our CO2 Saver Household’ Worksheet – 1 per 2 or 3 students.
  • Access to the ‘Household CO2 Calculator‘. 
  • Summary slides – Optional. 
  • Sustainability Factsheet – Optional.

Accessing the Film

2040 is an innovative feature documentary that looks to the future, but is vitally important NOW!  Director Damon Gameau embarks on a journey to explore what the future could look like by the year 2040 if we simply embraced the best solutions already available to us to improve our planet and shifted them rapidly into the mainstream. 

In Australia: Order the Schools Version of the 2040 DVD. The Schools Version includes an educational license and is for Australian primary and secondary schools that wish to utilise the film as a learning tool or host free on-site screenings for the school community.

In New Zealand: Find out how to see the film here. 2040 is currently only available in NZ cinemas and you can make a group booking for your class at your local cinema. The Schools Version of the DVD and BluRay will be released in New Zealand on 7th November 2019. This version includes an educational licence that covers classroom use and on-site screenings for the school community. To pre-order a copy for your school, please email: [email protected].


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

Cool Australia, GoodThing Productions and Regen Pictures would like to acknowledge the generous contributions of Good Pitch AustraliaShark Island InstituteDocumentary Australia FoundationThe Caledonia Foundation and our philanthropic partners in the development of these teaching resources.


Teacher Worksheet

Still from 2040 documentaryTeacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • … understand about densities and masses of solids, liquids and gases
  • … learn how CO2 output by humans can be measured in kilograms produced ‘per annum’
  • … learn that human CO2 outputs can be reduced either through consuming less CO2 or by absorbing or ‘drawing down’ CO2 from the atmosphere
  • … develop teamwork skills as they calculate household CO2 footprints using addition, subtraction and multiplication of large numbers
  • … realise that they can make a difference to global carbon dioxide levels by acting locally and encouraging others to do the same

Success criteria: Students can…

  • ... explain in simple terms why liquids, solids and gases have different densities
  • ... convert kilograms of CO2 into a given approximate volume at room temperature, using multiplication
  • ... use provided data and successfully use addition, subtraction and multiplication to calculate and solve aggregate amounts of CO2 for individua
- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Thought starter: What is a Carbon Footprint and how is it measured?

In Lesson 1, we looked at CO2 in the atmosphere by using the measurement ‘Parts per Million’ - or the percentage of gas in the atmosphere. Now, however, we’re going to measure CO2 in a different way. This will allow us to look at the amount of CO2 produced by each of us - as individuals, and within our families or our households.

The Weight of Greenhouse Gas

1. Watch as your teacher and the class measure three different substances. Record the different masses (or ‘weights’) of each of these substances, even though they are all filling up a container to the volume of exactly 1 Litre (by the way, this is the same as saying a capacity of 1000 cm3).

Substance 1:  Substance 2:  Substance 3: 
Weight diagram Weight diagram
Weight diagram

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Write down the reasons for the different masses of these three substances, even though they’re the same volume.

2. As a class, we’ll watch a second short clip fr

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