Poker Chip Model of Global Carbon Pools and Fluxes

Contributor
Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Activity , Data , Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

In this activity, students create a 3-D visual of global carbon pools and net fluxes between pools with anthropogenic influences. Students work in teams of 2-4 to complete the activity. On day one, students discuss carbon pools and forms of carbon, are introduced to gigatonne units, model carbon pool sizes, and identify carbon fluxes. On day two, students calculate dynamic equilibrium and net flux rates, discuss net flux rates, calculate net flux into the atmosphere, discuss implications for climate change, and brainstorm and model mitigation strategies.

 

The time needed to complete this activity is suggested as two days. Teachers will need to have supplies such as petri dishes, poker chips, bingo chips, and a bag. An alternate version using paper to represent carbon pools is also provided.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 12
  • Grade 11
  • Grade 10
  • Grade 9
  • High School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.

Clarification Statement: Examples should include climate feedbacks, such as how an increase in greenhouse gases causes a rise in global temperatures that melts glacial ice, which reduces the amount of sunlight reflected from Earth's surface, increasing surface temperatures and further reducing the amount of ice. Examples could also be taken from other system interactions, such as how the loss of ground vegetation causes an increase in water runoff and soil erosion; how dammed rivers increase groundwater recharge, decrease sediment transport, and increase coastal erosion; or how the loss of wetlands causes a decrease in local humidity that further reduces the wetland extent.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Throughout the activity, students identify and compute how much carbon is moving through various carbon pools (atmosphere, vegetation, soil, fossil fuel reserves, upper ocean, deep ocean, and ocean floor surface sediment). They identify carbon fluxes and distinguish them as either naturally occurring or associated with human activity. Students then calculate net flux for each of the carbon pools.

HS-ESS3-6 Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.

Clarification Statement: Examples of Earth systems to be considered are the hydrosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, and/or biosphere. An example of the far-reaching impacts from a human activity is how an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide results in an increase in photosynthetic biomass on land and an increase in ocean acidification, with resulting impacts on sea organism health and marine populations.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include running computational representations but is limited to using the published results of scientific computational models.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Throughout the activity, students identify and compute how much carbon is moving through various carbon pools (atmosphere, vegetation, soil, fossil fuel reserves, upper ocean, deep ocean, and ocean floor surface sediment). They identify carbon fluxes and distinguish them as either naturally occurring or associated with human activity. Students then calculate net flux for each of the carbon pools and use this information to discuss implications for climate change and model mitigation strategies. Students should determine that it would take a 50% decrease in fossil fuel emissions to begin to decrease the net flux of the atmospheric carbon pool.

HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.

Clarification Statement: Examples of data on the impacts of human activities could include the quantities and types of pollutants released, changes to biomass and species diversity, or areal changes in land surface use (such as for urban development, agriculture and livestock, or surface mining). Examples for limiting future impacts could range from local efforts (such as reducing, reusing, and recycling resources) to large-scale geoengineering design solutions (such as altering global temperatures by making large changes to the atmosphere or ocean).

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students are engaged in the Performance Expectation when they are tasked with brainstorming and modeling mitigation strategies on day two. Suggestions are given for students to do research on mitigation plans such as carbon sequestration and use of biofuels. Teachers could have students complete Stabilization Wedges (http://ngss.nsta.org/Resource.aspx?ResourceID=612) to give them further ideas about current mitigation plans.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students use data to create a computational model of carbon pools and fluxes on Earth. They use this model to help them construct an explanation on the assessment asking about their position on the use of fossil fuels.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Throughout the activity students are tasked with calculating gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon in each pool and flux. Students then have to determine how to represent each unit using poker chips, petri dishes, or rolls of paper. When students calculate carbon flux rates, they determine the amount of movement in Gt/ year. Data is supplied to students from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC report from 2013. Teachers may have to support struggling students with these calculations or assign groups based on mathematical abilities.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students are only tasked with identifying ways to reduce environmental impact of fossil fuel use. Teachers are not instructed to have students consider other restraints or impacts. It would be up to teachers to have students consider the range on constraints and impacts when they are determining which mitigation strategies to use. By using the Stabilization Wedges resource, referenced in the HS-ESS3-4 Performance Expectation section, teachers would address the rest of the Disciplinary Core Idea.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students must identify which processes of carbon movement through pools are natural and influenced by human activities. Data is supplied to students from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC report from 2013. Students use information about net flux to various pools to discuss implications for climate change.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students must identify which processes of carbon movement through pools are natural and influenced by human activities. Data is supplied to students from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC report from 2013. Students then identify and model ways in changing human fossil fuel use can impact carbon movement through pools.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students are tasked with identifying different technologies, currently in existence, that would help mitigate fossil fuel use to reduce the influx of carbon to the atmosphere. Students then model what would happen if they used this strategy on how it would change the movement of carbon between pools.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students discuss flux rates at the end of day one and are asked, “how does the scale of movement compare with the size of the pools?” Students further examine scale when they determine how fossil fuel use must be reduced to influence the influx size of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While this is not explicit in f the activity on day two, teachers could have students think about it in terms of scale by comparing our current fossil fuel usage to what fossil fuel usage needs to be to decrease the flux size.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students are tasked with identifying what types of carbon and which processes move carbon through various pools on Earth. To fully address the Crosscutting Concept, teachers can introduce energy flows using the activity Global Energy Flows (http://ngss.nsta.org/Resource.aspx?ResourceID=643).

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students engage in the phenomenon of carbon flow in order to identify the problem of too much being moved into the atmospheric pool. They then identify different solutions to possible reduce the impact of carbon release from burning fossil fuels. Students are engaged in multiple practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts to make sense of how carbon, in various forms, flows through pools by various processes. While most of the questions require only gathering/recall of information, some questions require use of all three dimensions, especially numbers 14, 15, 16, and 18. Teachers would need to do some supplemental activities, described above, to address all portions of some disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts.

  • Instructional Supports: Students are engaged in a meaningful scenario in order to make sense of a phenomena, carbon movement, and solve a problem, reducing influx of carbon dioxide by reducing fossil fuel use. Prior knowledge is not identified, but students engage their prior knowledge during discussions of forms of carbon and carbon transforming processes on day one. Depending on student experience with strategies to reduce fossil fuel usage, some prior knowledge may be used when they are brainstorming different mitigation strategies. Some differentiated instruction guidance is included for the teacher. Teachers could choose groups with various learning levels or similar learning levels. Teachers may also need to help students that struggle with mathematics. Some extension questions are provided, but only one of them engages students in all three dimensions.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Teachers are only able to see evidence of three-dimensional learning in three questions posed to students. Formative assessment is embedded in the lesson. While score guidelines are included, no scoring rubric is included. Teachers would need to develop a rubric when scoring questions. Student proficiency is assessed using methods that are accessible and unbiased for all students.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Teachers will need a computer to download the lesson.