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Carbon Cycle Caper

  • Overview
  • Using this resource
  • Learning outcomes

In this activity students 'play out' the carbon cycle, to understand how it has been affected by our use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution and how this underlies current worries about climate change.

The documents below explain how to run the activity and provide all the templates and materials you will need: 

Find additional guidance for using this resource on the tab above.

Watch this film for an overview of the activity in action:


Carbon Cycle Caper is a series of four games depicting the carbon cycle.

It is intended to take place in a school hall with up to 60 students and at least two adults.

It lasts about 70 minutes as follows:

  • Introduction (approx. 5 minutes)
  • Game 1: Where’s carbon? (approx. 10 minutes)
  • Game 2: Move that carbon! (approx. 20 minutes)
  • Game 3: Carbon cycle shuffle (approx. 20 minutes):Before Industrial Revolution (carbon in balance)
  • Game 4: Carbon cycle shuffle (approx. 10 minutes) After Industrial Revolution (carbon is out of balance)
  • Wrap up (approx. 5 minutes)

Full instructions for preparing and running this activity are given in the Carbon Cycle Caper Teachers' Notes downloadable from the Overview tab above. There's also a Crib Sheet for you to use as a ready reference on the day.

Background science

Use the following documents to find out about the latest climate science research to support your own knowledge and to give you the background information you may need when running this activity:

Climate Science Background Briefing (pdf): key terminology, stats, background science, discussion ideas and links for further information.

Impacts of Climate Change (pdf): a summary of how higher temperatures can lead to different sorts of climatic changes, and the impacts of these changes.

Overall learning objective for Carbon Cycle Caper:

Through this activity students will understand the carbon cycle, how it has been affected by our use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, and how this underlies current concerns about climate change.


Learning outcomes for each game within Carbon Cycle Caper:

  • Game 1: To identify the six areas where carbon is present in the biosphere – and in what form.
  • Game 2: Introduce or reinforce the key processes by which carbon moves around the carbon cycle.
  • Game 3: To understand what the carbon cycle was like before the Industrial Revolution.
  • Game 4: To understand what the carbon cycle has been like since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and how that has affected the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.