Climate Change and the Carbon Cycle – Curriculum Unit for 9-12 Grade Students

Welcome! Thank you for your interest in the USDA Southwest Climate Hub’s curriculum unit on Climate Change and the Carbon Cycle. This unit was designed to introduce 9-12 grade students to climate change, the carbon cycle, and the effects of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth’s climate. We partnered with the Asombro Institute for Science Education to design an engaging, fun, and scientifically rigorous education unit aligned with Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. This unit is freely available and intended for use by anyone, especially educators of 9-12 grade students. The unit consists of three activities and was designed to be conducted over four days. Each activity can also stand alone however, and the unit need not be completed in its entirety.


The curriculum is free to download. We only ask that you create a quick and free account to supply us with some basic information for our internal tracking purposes. We will not share your information or send high-frequency emails.


Interested in learning more about teaching these activities? Please help us organize an educator workshop in your area! Email for more information about this opportunity.





Day 1 - Up in the Air: Carbon Cycle and Climate Change, Part I  Students create a model from string, toss bean bags, and sort chemical cards to review key processes in the carbon cycle.


Day 2 -Up in the Air: Carbon Cycle and Climate Change, Part II  Students quantitatively model the carbon cycle by playing a board game.


Day 3 - The Ins and Outs of a Climate Feedback Loop  Students learn how increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is warming Earth’s climate. They use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Interactive Atmospheric Data Visualization tool to investigate atmospheric carbon dioxide locally, conduct an experiment to model the greenhouse effect, and examine a positive feedback loop.


Day 4 - What’s the Plan? Climate Change Mitigation (Coming Soon!)  Students will investigate actions that individuals can take to decrease their carbon footprint and mitigate climate change. They will consider a strategy from several perspectives and analyze its strengths and weaknesses. Students then present the mitigation strategy and the pros and cons of implementing it.