Activity Introduction

gum-leaves-bidiversity-heroQuick summary: Students will explore the relationship between CO2, plants and people. Students will begin by observing two experiments: the first one demonstrating how carbon dioxide produced by plants during respiration; the second one demonstrating how humans exhale carbon dioxide. Students are asked to use the Predict, Observe, Explain thinking tool when observing the experiments. Finally, they are asked to create an infographic showing the role of plants in the carbon cycle.

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 recognise the role of CO2 in respiration and photosynthesis.
  • Students observe the effects of photosynthesis and respiration of plants.
  • Students understand the role of plants in the carbon cycle.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.1, OI.2.

Australian Curriculum content description:

Year 10 Science

  • Global systems, including the carbon cycle, rely on interactions involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere (ACSSU189)
  • Different types of chemical reactions are used to produce a range of products and can occur at different rates (ACSSU187)

Syllabus OutcomesSC5-16CW, SC5-12ES

Topic: Are we the weather makers?

Time required: 60 mins+ – this activity can be conducted over two sessions.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – Oversee activity, conduct experiment, facilitate discussion.

Resources required:

  • Experiment 1. Small leafy plant, large jar with lid (big enough to contain the plant), small container with lime water
  • Experiment 2. Cup of lime-water, straw, student volunteer.

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

Homework and extension opportunities: Includes opportunities for homework or extension.

Key reading from We Are the Weather Makers: Introduction – What Is Climate Change?

Further reading from the book: Chapter 3 – The Greenhouse Gases

Keywords: Carbon dioxide (CO2), plants, respiration, photosynthesis, 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



Teacher Worksheet

gum-leaves-bidiversity-heroTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students recognise the role of CO2 in respiration and photosynthesis. Students will observe the effects of photosynthesis and respiration of plants and will understand the role of plants in the carbon cycle.

Teacher content information: For information on the role of plants in the carbon cycle and the relationship between plants and global warming, see the information below -

NASA - The Carbon Cycle

Video: NASA - Global Warming Reduces Plant Productivity -

NOTE: This video is on Youtube. Some schools have disabled access to Youtube. If you want students to see this video, you may need to ask them to watch it at home prior to conducting this activity.

For more reliable information about climate change in Australia, visit the Climate Council.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to c

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: If CO2 smelled like baby poo instead of being odourless, do you think we’d be working harder to make less of it?

Read the following quotes from We Are the Weather Makers and answer the question below:


After reading these quotes, explain your response to the following statement: “Plants are a person’s best friend.”

Experiment 1. Testing for carbon dioxide produced by plants during respiration.

In this experiment you will be testing for CO2 produced by plants in respiration. During the day, plants use sunlight and water to create their own energy – so what do they do at night or in the absence of sunlight?

For this experiment you will need:

  • Small leafy plant
  • Large jar with lid (big enough to contain the plant)
  • Small container with lime water

Steps for conducting experiment:

  1. Place the plant inside the jar.
  2. Fill the small container with lime water and place it inside the jar.
  3. Close the jar and store it in a dark place overnight.


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