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Fossil Fuels and the Carbon Cycle

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


Students may work individually or in groups. 

Teacher Materials

  • 24 aluminum baking cups and a cookie sheet (or 24 paper liners and a muffin pan)
  • 2 envelopes of bran muffin mix (plus ingredients)
  • 2 envelopes of corn muffin mix (plus ingredients)
  • Green and red food coloring
  • Copy of “GeoMuffin Baking Instructions” page

Materials per Student

  • Prepared GeoMuffin (see Setup)
  • Cotton swab
  • Crayons or colored markers
  • Plastic serrated knife
  • Section of plastic straw, about 8 cm (3 in.) in length
  • Toothpick
  • Copy of “GeoMuffin Observations” page


As an alternative to baking, have students make layered GeoMuffins from clay or modeling dough.


  1. You will need to bake 24 GeoMuffins (see recipe, teacher’s guide) in advance, using two envelopes of prepared bran muffin mix and two envelopes of prepared corn muffin mix, plus ingredients listed on the packages. Other flavors may be substituted as long as they are different colors and contain no fruit or nuts. (The colored layers in the GeoMuffins represent the following: red = oil; green = predicting layer for oil; yellow = soil or rock layer; brown = soil or rock layer.) See the teacher’s guide for full details.

  2. Cut straws into 3-in. lengths for students to use.

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