Activity Introduction

co2-boardQuick summary: Students examine carbon dioxide and the carbon cycle. They begin by investigating the differences between carbon sinks and sources. They will then observe an experiment aimed at demonstrating how a carbon sink can become a carbon source. Finally they are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the carbon cycle by creating an animated 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 understand the carbon cycle and the interactions that occur within this cycle.
  • Students recognise the difference between a carbon source and a carbon sink.
  • Students are able to observe and report on an experiment involving a carbon sink.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Cross-curriculum priority: 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)
  • 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: We Are the Weather Makers

Time required: 60 mins

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

Resources required: Crushed chalk (not dustless – make sure this is composed of calcium carbonate), vinegar, glass jar or beaker, student worksheets, internet access.

Digital technology opportunities: Animation creation (e.g. Animoto, Wideo), digital sharing capabilities.

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

Key reading from We Are the Weather Makers: Chapter 1 – Everything Is Connected

Further reading from the book: Chapter 3 – The Greenhouse Gases, Chapter 8 – Digging Up The Dead

Keywords: Carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon cycle, carbon sink, carbon source.

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
textlogo_type purves_environ



Teacher Worksheet

plants-skyTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students will understand the carbon cycle and the interactions that occur within this cycle. They will recognise the difference between a carbon source and a carbon sink and will observe and report on an experiment involving a carbon sink.

Teacher content information:

  • A carbon source - Any process that releases carbon into the atmosphere. Natural sources of carbon include decomposition, ocean release and respiration. Human sources of include activities like cement production, deforestation, and burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.
  • A carbon sink - Anything that absorbs more carbon that it releases. It is either a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores some carbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite amount of time. Examples of carbon sinks include forests, soils, oceans and the atmosphere.


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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: Every time you open a bottle of fizzy drink you are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Part 1. Where is the carbon?

Read the following quotes from We Are the Weather Makers:


After reading these quotes, list all the things you can see around you that contain carbon:

Identify two items in your list that are completely different. Work both independently and with your neighbour to Think Pair Share how it is that carbon can be in both of them.

The two items are:



Think - Spend a moment thinking independently about how carbon can be in both of these items. Record your thoughts here:

Pair - Share your thoughts with the person next to you. Record these ideas here: 


Share - Share your thoughts with the whole class. Record these shared ideas here:

Part 2.  Sink or source?

If a carbon sink stores carbon, a carbon source releases carbon. Which of the following do you think are ‘sinks’ and which are ‘sources’?

Object or action

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