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Fossil Fuels and the Carbon Cycle

Author(s): Nancy P. Moreno, PhD, Barbara Z. Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.

The Science of Earth's Crust

Earth’s crust is made of layers of rock and soil that contain fossil fuels. In this activity, students learned the following.

  • Fossil fuels are found within the Earth’s crust. Fossil fuels are remnants of ancient plants and other living things that were buried under intense heat and pressure over millions of years. Fossil fuels are very efficient sources of energy. Use of these fuels also is responsible for much of the world’s air and water pollution, and has increased the levels of heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, in the atmosphere.
  • The presence of certain layers of soil and rock helps to predict the presence of oil. Geologists often drill deep into the Earth to look for fossil fuels. They remove narrow cores of rock and sediment and examine them for clues about the possible presence of oil and other fuels.
  • Earth’s supply of fossil fuels cannot be replenished. The energy in fossil fuels originally came from the sun. It was trapped by plants and organisms during photosynthesis, which is responsible for the carbon now found in fossil fuels.


Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932


Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education