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TERC, Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College (SERC)


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Biology

Resource Types

  • Activity - Classroom
  • Videos, 2 minutes, 49 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Experiments
  • Assessments
  • Videos, 4 minutes, 26 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Videos, 4 minutes, 51 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Videos, 4 minutes, 9 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Videos, 12 minutes, 20 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Videos, 6 minutes, 48 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Videos, 3 minutes, 11 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Articles and Websites
  • Videos, 1 minute, 54 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus



PDF, Microsoft Word, YouTube Video

Soil and the Carbon Cycle Lab

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  • In this two-part lab, students will learn about how carbon is stored and cycled in the soil, the many types of soil microbes, and how melting permafrost may affect the climate.
  • Students also learn about the nitrogen cycle and then design and carry out a hands-on experiment to explain the relationship between temperature and cellular respiration.
Teaching Tips


  • This lab does a great job of connecting the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, and microbes to the bigger topic of climate change.
  • The hands-on lab will be fun for students to set up and observe.

Additional Prerequisites

  • If unfamiliar with the temperature and soil respiration experiment, consider a practice run before implementation.
  • The link to tundra slideshow is broken.


  • Students should understand that it is the microbes doing the respiring, not the inorganic soil particles, so make sure to reinforce this with younger students.
  • Expand this lab to other activities and labs that demonstrate microbial growth, such as growing cultures from fingerprints on agar, swabbing doorknobs and inoculating liquid media, or digging in soil to find fungal hyphae or mushrooms in the soil on school grounds.
  • Environmental science or ecology classes can connect this lab to lessons about ecosystem niches, nutrient cycling, the importance of biodiversity, decomposition, or important ecosystem functions that impact the global climate.
  • Biology classes can use this lab when discussing cellular respiration, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, soils, microbes, or decomposition.
  • Consider having students watch the videos as homework to allow for more time in class to do the experiment and discussion questions.
Scientist Notes
This resource including the activities are engaging and recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 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.
      • HS-ESS2-6 Develop a quantitative model to describe the cycling of carbon among the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 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.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • HS-LS2-3 Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for the cycling of matter and flow of energy in aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.3 Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.
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