This activity is part of the Carbon Trackers unit.

1. Provide time for students to finalize their collaborative carbon cycle model.
  • Give students access to the class model that they created in the previous activity, Final Carbon Cycle Model Creation, as well as the relevant supplies that they used to create their model.
  • Prompt students to finish creating or add their final creative touches to the model.
  • Emphasize yet again who their audience will be and what the ultimate goal is: to effectively explain the carbon cycle and the importance of understanding fossil fuels.
2. Introduce the presentation format and criteria.
  • Tell students that everyone will have a short time (20-30 seconds) to speak in their collaborative presentation. Each student is responsible for planning what they will say and coordinating with their team and class to ensure that, collectively, they adequately explain the model during the presentation, and do so in an inspiring way.
  • Review the second row of the Cycle Model Rubric that is focused on presentation skills and the Model Presentation Audience Feedback Form so that students are clear on guidelines.
      • Emphasize the criterion that students need to “Describe the flow of energy and matter in the global carbon cycle to the audience, using appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, clear pronunciation, while effectively utilizing the model to guide and enhance your presentation.”
  • You may want to show a short video clip or two of powerful presenters, and/or model elements of effective presentation skills. One example could be Felix Finkbeiner’s presentation, Plant-for-the-Planet Initiative: The Trillion Tree Campaign (he begins at minute 3:00).
3. Assign roles for the presentation and review the presentation format with students.
  • Choose specific students to do the following: one student to introduce the whole presentation and another to conclude the presentation.
  • Of the remaining students, divide them into the same teams from the Matter and Energy Cycles: Modeling activity, representing the lithosphere (including rock cycle), the atmosphere (including greenhouse effect), the hydrosphere (including water cycle), and the biosphere (including photosynthesis and respiration). 
  • The order of speaking can be set up in many ways (after all, this is a cycle!), but one option is:
      1. Introduction - one student
      2. Biosphere - team
      3. Lithosphere - team
      4. Atmosphere - team
      5. Hydrosphere - team
      6. Conclusion - one student
  • Students should know the order of the presentation so they can effectively show the connections between movement of matter (with a focus on carbon) or energy from one reservoir to another.
  • Explain that in addition to teaching their audience about the global carbon cycle and the supporting sub-cycles, students also need to answer the questions in their presentation that they previously completed for homework. You may wish to share general feedback you gleaned after grading the classes’ answers and also hand back your feedback to their individual responses. The questions can be integrated into the presentation as follows:
      • Describe what matter and energy cycling is, and why matter and energy cycles are important for the Earth as a system. For living things? (presentation introduction)
      • What are fossil fuels? Where do they come from? How are they made? (lithosphere group and biosphere group)
      • How are they extracted and used? When used, where does the energy and matter in them go? (lithosphere group and atmosphere group)
      • How does the use of fossil fuels by humans impact the normal matter and energy cycles? (each team will contribute to this)
      • How does carbon move through the large Earth system? (each team will contribute to this)
      • Why is understanding Earth’s matter and energy cycles important? (each team will contribute to this)

Prepare for model presentation.

  • Provide time (30 minutes) for each team or individual to develop and finalize their parts of the presentation. Students should share speaking time roughly equally and practice their presentation several times during class in their teams, if possible. 
  • Each team can determine what order their members speak in that makes the most sense.
  • Ask students to write their 20-30 seconds of information on an index card to use as a reminder while they speak.
  • While students work on their presentation, circulate to review their ideas, ensure the sequence they have decided on makes sense, and provide support.
  • If some groups finish early, they should practice and provide one another with feedback based on the Cycle Model Rubric.
  • Be sure to have the first and last student of each reservoir compare notes to ensure the transitions are fluid.
  • If time permits, have the whole class read through each of their parts and practice using the model as they will in the final presentation.

5. Facilitate presentation of the collaborative carbon cycle model.

  • Welcome audience members and introduce the project and goal of the unit and presentations. You may want to give a basic definition of a “model” so the audience is familiar with what students attempted to construct in this project.
  • Pass out copies of the Model Presentation Audience Feedback Form
  • Prompt audience members to ask questions after students present.

6. Guide students in reflecting on their learning during the Carbon Trackers unit. 

  • Collectively revisit the unit driving question. Students will likely have a much deeper response to this than in Lesson 1.  
  • Ask students to respond individually to some of the following prompts:
      • What will you remember about creating this model? Why?
      • How is this model like Earth’s actual cycles and how is it different?
      • What would you change about this unit and the project? What would you keep the same?
      • How was your experience of working with various teams in this unit?
      • What could your team have done better?
      • What is the most important thing you learned during the Carbon Trackers unit?
  • Use a collaboration rubric (such as this one from the Buck Institute for Education) for students to assess themselves and/or their peers on their collaboration skills. 

7. Extend the impact of the Carbon Trackers unit by engaging students in an Opportunity for Action.

  • Consider extending this project to larger audiences by having students display or create their artistic representations of the global matter and energy cycles to both inspire and inform others about how these cycles interact. These art pieces can be displayed in a science museum, an art museum, a local energy company’s lobby, a local gallery, or coffee shop, depending on local possibilities. 


Use the Cycle Model Rubric to assess students’ content knowledge, as well as modeling and communication skills, for the final product for the Carbon Trackers unit.

The audience feedback forms, student responses to the unit driving question, and/or the collaboration rubric, can all be used to inform your final assessment of each student’s individual understanding and contribution to the project.

Extending the Learning

Opportunity for Action: Consider extending this project to larger audiences by having students display or create their artistic representations of the global matter and energy cycles to both inspire and inform others about how these cycles interact. These art pieces can be displayed in a science museum, an art museum, a local energy company’s lobby, a local gallery, or coffee shop, depending on local possibilities. Some great examples of artistic representations of real science can be found here and here.

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Earth Science

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Engage in public speaking with confidence and clarity.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative learning
  • Reflection
  • Visual instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.4:  Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. 
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.5:  Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.

Next Generation Science Standards

  • Crosscutting Concept 2:  Cause and Effect 
  • Crosscutting Concept 4:  Systems and system models
  • Crosscutting Concept 5:  Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
  • Crosscutting Concept 7:  Stability and change
  • ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems:  All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms.   The planet’s systems interact over scales that range from microscopic to global in size, and they operate over fractions of a second to billions of years. These interactions have shaped Earth’s history and will determine its future.
  • MS-ESS2-1:  Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
  • Science and Engineering Practice 2:  Developing and using models

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Optional
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Presentation software, Projector

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Make the environment for the final presentation fun and engaging for students and audience members. Celebrate the completion of the Carbon Trackers unit!
  • Technology: Any technology involved in the model or presentation (such as audio systems or projectors) should be tested ahead of time. 
  • Prepare a venue for the presentation and gather anything that will be required for the exhibition or guests, such as additional chairs or clipboards.
  • Organize the room beforehand in a way that makes sense for the format of the final presentations.
  • Print or provide digital access to the Model Presentation Audience Feedback Form.
  • If desired, print additional copies of the Cycle Model Rubric to share with audience members.


  • Cross-age teaching
  • Large-group instruction
  • Large-group learning

Background Information

Prior Knowledge

  • Matter and energy cycles (including carbon cycle, water cycle, rock cycle, and photosynthesis and respiration)
  • Types of fossil fuel resources
  • Greenhouse effect


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