1st Grade Trophy Links

Vermilion Parish Schools
Activity 3:  Cycles (SI GLEs: 11, 19; LS GLE: 7; SE GLEs: 41, 42)

Materials List: science learning logs, one empty cereal box per student, old magazines, newspaper, tape, glue, scissors, transparencies of the nitrogen and carbon cycles, long strips of paper (two per student), Cycles and More BLM (one per student), the video Carbon: The Element of Surprise or a similar video or program

Provide students a copy of the Cycles and More BLM, a split-page note taking sheet (view literacy strategy descriptions), to record information about each cycle.  This literacy strategy allows students to record important information in a two-column format (a sample comment has been provided), with the main ideas and key vocabulary in the left column and the supporting details in the right column. Demonstrate for students how to review their notes by covering information in one column and using the other column to recall the covered information.  Students should also be allowed to quiz each other over the content of their notes in preparation for tests and other class activities. (The BLM master has been started, but more information may be added as needed.)

Activating prior knowledge, display transparencies of the nitrogen cycle and the carbon cycle without labels. An explanation of each cycle, pictures of the carbon cycle  and pictures of the nitrogen cycle.

Through probing questions, review the major components of both cycles. Provide students with two long strips of paper and instruct them to list the steps of each cycle on one of the strips and to then create a paper moebius strip for each cycle, following the instructions  How to Make a Moebius StripUpon completion of the strips, discuss how cycles are continuous, having no beginning or end, relating this to the moebius strips that the students created.

Review and define the process of photosynthesis by directing students to illustrate this process in their science learning logs (view literacy strategy descriptions) through the use of pictures or student drawingsLearning logs are student created booklets used for recording information.  Allow time for students to share their illustrations.  Next, instruct students to add words to their illustrations.  Now, without help, students should write a word equation for photosynthesis.  Again, allow students to share their completed equation.  Discuss the proper equation and correct any misconceptions students may have encountered.  Using the same process, instruct students to write the word equation for cellular respiration following the same process until students are able to write a balanced chemical equation for both photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

Using a think-pair-share strategy, ask students to explain why the nitrogen cycle is important to organisms and jot down questions or thoughts they may have about the topic in their science learning log. During the pairing session, have students refer to the diagrams of the nitrogen and carbon cycles used from above for help in developing explanations and asking their partners questions. Continue teacher questioning and student sharing until you are satisfied with their level of understanding of the nitrogen cycle. Explain to students that the nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobium) are the only means on Earth for nitrogen gas to be converted into a compound usable by other living organisms.  Without these bacteria, they would not be able to consume nitrogen compounds used in making proteins and DNA in their bodies. Following this same strategy, have students explain how photosynthesis and respiration relate to the carbon cycle.

Students should view the video, Carbon:  The Element of Surprise, available from the LPB Cyberchannel (www.lpb.org/cyberchannel) or other similar video to help understand how carbon cycles through a system. Explain the importance of the carbon cycle and its by-products to humans. Ask students the following questions:

  • How is peat important in the formation of fossil fuels?

  • How is carbon obtained?

  • What types of carbon compounds are involved?

  • How do photosynthesis and cellular respiration relate to the carbon cycle?

Note: There are many school libraries and teachers who have copies of the LPB Envirotacklebox video, Carbon: The Element of Surprise.  The website also provides additional teacher information that could be useful for this activity.

As a review of the carbon and nitrogen cycles, instruct students to create a cycle box.  This can be created using empty cereal boxes that have been covered with construction or bulletin-board paper. Students should use old magazines and newspapers, to display pictures of items that relate to the cycle they choose. Students will present their cycle boxes to the class, explaining how the pictured items relate to their displayed cycle. The discussion of other cycles, such as the water and phosphorus cycles, can be included during this lesson.

Students are to write summarizing statements of their understandings of the nitrogen and carbon cycles in their science learning logs, using diagrams where appropriate.

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