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Biogeochemical Cycles: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Carbon

Grade Levels
9th - 11th, Homeschool
Formats Included
  • Zip
26 pages
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This bundle of biogeochemical cycle lessons, labs, and activities is perfect for a high school environmental science course and will introduce your students to the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorus cycle, and the carbon cycle. Additionally, a discussion of human impacts on these cycles is included, as well as information on greenhouse gases and global warming. Student worksheets, web-quests, a board game, and an online quiz are all included for a cohesive and easy-to-follow unit.

Topics included in this lesson are: Nitrogen Cycle (molecular forms of nitrogen, nitrogen fixation, nitrogen gas, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, synthetic fertilizer, denitrification), Phosphorus Cycle (weathering and erosion, sedimentary rock, uplift), Carbon Cycle (decomposition, photosynthesis, respiration, carbon storage), human impacts to nutrient cycles, nutrient sources, sinks, and reservoirs, residence time, greenhouse gases, global warming, climate change

▶️Can I use this for virtual learning?

The PDFs included in this bundle can be assigned through various online learning platforms, however, students can NOT type on these directly without additional software. If you would like a digital version made specifically for virtual learning environments, please use the digital version of this lesson instead.

What's included?

  • Detailed teacher lesson plans including essential questions, standards, pacing guide, and materials list
  • Web-quest for content delivery with guided student notes
  • Biogeochemical cycle reference pages- Nitrogen Cycle, Carbon Cycle, and Phosphorus Cycle
  • Nitrogen cycle board game in which students review the processes of the nitrogen cycle by moving game pieces from nitrogen sources to nitrogen sinks
  • Math Extension- dimensional analysis and calculations with carbon reservoir data
  • Human Impact Extension- reading assignment and graph interpretation on greenhouse gases, the greenhouse effect, and global warming
  • Online quiz using Google Forms for easy grading

This is a large bundle of lessons. To see details about each activity, please click on the "PREVIEW" button above.

➤My Environmental Science Series includes lessons for each sphere of the earth:

1. Hydrosphere Bundle (in digital/paperless or print versions)

2. Biosphere Bundle (in digital/paperless or print versions)

3. Atmosphere Bundle (in digital/paperless or print versions)

4. Geosphere/Lithosphere (in digital/paperless or print versions)

How do I use this lesson?

Students independently gain vocabulary and basic concepts through internet web-quests and videos. Then in class activities, students are able to practice these concepts and see them come to life in real environments. This lesson bundle is perfect for substitutes because students can work independently.

What curriculum could I use with this lesson?

This lesson is ideally geared towards high school students, but some portions would work for middle school students, as well. A general level Environmental Science, Biology, or Earth Science textbook would coincide with these topics. It also addresses the following topics in AP Environmental Science (APES):

  • 1.4: The Carbon Cycle
  • 1.5: The Nitrogen Cycle
  • 1.6: The Phosphorus Cycle
  • 9.3: The Greenhouse Effect
Total Pages
26 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
4 days
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems. Examples should include climate feedbacks, such as how an increase in greenhouse gases causes a rise in global temperatures that melts glacial ice, which reduces the amount of sunlight reflected from Earth’s surface, increasing surface temperatures and further reducing the amount of ice. Examples could also be taken from other system interactions, such as how the loss of ground vegetation causes an increase in water runoff and soil erosion; how dammed rivers increase groundwater recharge, decrease sediment transport, and increase coastal erosion; or how the loss of wetlands causes a decrease in local humidity that further reduces the wetland extent.
Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth's systems. Examples of evidence, for both data and climate model outputs, are for climate changes (such as precipitation and temperature) and their associated impacts (such as on sea level, glacial ice volumes, or atmosphere and ocean composition). Assessment is limited to one example of a climate change and its associated impacts.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity. Examples of key natural resources include access to fresh water (such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater), regions of fertile soils such as river deltas, and high concentrations of minerals and fossil fuels. Examples of natural hazards can be from interior processes (such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes), surface processes (such as tsunamis, mass wasting and soil erosion), and severe weather (such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts). Examples of the results of changes in climate that can affect populations or drive mass migrations include changes to sea level, regional patterns of temperature and precipitation, and the types of crops and livestock that can be raised.
Develop a quantitative model to describe the cycling of carbon among the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere. Emphasis is on modeling biogeochemical cycles that include the cycling of carbon through the ocean, atmosphere, soil, and biosphere (including humans), providing the foundation for living organisms.
Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere. Examples of models could include simulations and mathematical models. Assessment does not include the specific chemical steps of photosynthesis and respiration.


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