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Fossil Fuels and the Carbon Cycle

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

Carbon Dioxide and the Carbon Cycle

Carbon is the basic building block for many molecules in living organisms. Producers take carbon from carbon dioxide gas (CO2) and create substances such as glucose (a kind of sugar) through photosynthesis. All other living things rely on producers for food. When food is broken down or digested, carbon is converted back into CO2, which is released into the atmosphere. Other processes, such as burning and decomposition, also release CO2 back into the atmosphere. In the oceans, some carbon is incorporated into the shells of organisms and becomes deposited in sediments.

Challenge students to figure out what happens to the carbon in fossil fuels when the fuels are burned (carbon returns to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide).


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