Reflection: Vertical Alignment Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles (1 of 2) - Section 3: Traveling Through the Cycles


The idea that there is a limited amount of the materials needed for life is really abstract. To students, the concept of recycling has to do with the blue bins that are put out every week, water comes out of the tap, we eat "to stay alive", and carbon and nitrogen are elements on the periodic table. Even though they already studied the water cycle and photosynthesis - cell respiration the connection between all these ideas is tenuous at best. This is the main reason why I decided to present this lesson using the games. 

The students see the games as a fun activity - "If there is dice it must be fun", and gladly take on the task of travelling through the cycles. It isn't until they have gone a few turns that they realize there is no point to the games in the traditional way since there is no winner. "You can just keep on going forever!" is what one student exclaimed. This is what makes the games an invaluable tool. The students can see for themselves that the materials go into living things in a relatively random pattern, are used and transformed, only to be put back in the environment. This is the big idea of the lesson, which addresses the cross cutting concept that "matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes". Students that play the game move forward with this understanding and will be able to draw from this experience when they are required, in upper grades, to understand the specific reactions that take place.


  Simple activity - Big Concept
  Vertical Alignment: Simple activity - Big Concept
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Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles (1 of 2)

Unit 9: Interdependence of Organisms
Lesson 4 of 8

Objective: Students will be able to describe how carbon and nitrogen cycle through ecosystems.

Big Idea: Matter is constantly cycled between living and nonliving parts of the environment.

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90 teachers like this lesson
Science, Cycle of Matter, Natural Cycles, carbon cycle, endangered species, organism, Ecosystems, Biotic and Abiotic Factors, Interdependence of Organisms
  50 minutes
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