No Series: Carbon Cycling: Create Your Own Biology Lab


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RST:  Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6-12
  • 9-10:  9th & 10th Grades
  • 3: 
    Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure
    when carrying out experiments, taking
    measurements, or performing technical tasks,
    attending to special cases or exceptions defined
    in the text.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Carbon Cycling: Create Your Own Biology Lab

Lesson Objective: Design and conduct your own biology lab to examine carbon cycling
Grade 9 / Science / Experiments


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. What activities in the pre-lab prepared students to successfully design their experiments?
  2. How does letting students design their own experiments make this a richer experience?
  3. What aspects of the reflection will help students improve their work?


  • Private message to Janet Lee
Ive done something similar to a lot of my labs and the key is really spending time in the set-up. For a lot of kids, they have never developed an experiment so its key to give them some boundaries the first couple of times, such as materials and time. Its a different experience as a teacher, but well worth it.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to matthew hendrickson
This is great! I'm doing the carbon cycle in a 9th grade Earth science class. Could anyone point me in the right direction for helping students control the experiment? I don't know a ton about chemically replicating photosynthesis and respiration, but understand the basics.
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  • Private message to Virginie MICHEL
Wow ! I'm just dreaming when I see this material, this room...and the student/teacher ratio...In France, I have a 28:1 student teacher ratio ! It's awfull for me to see that such ideas would surely work, if we only had the opportunity ! That IS science ! Congratulations !
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  • Private message to L Washington
Thank You! Wonderful Lab
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  • Private message to Elva Carlos
Very powerful. This lesson gave the students an opportunity for the students to go through the process of not only conducting a lab, but creating it as well. Was there any preparation prior to this lesson?
Recommended (0)


  • 01:00:00 Title Open
    01:00:04 KRUBSKI: My name is Alexandra Krubski. I teach ninth grade biology at Staples High School in

    01:00:00 Title Open
    01:00:04 KRUBSKI: My name is Alexandra Krubski. I teach ninth grade biology at Staples High School in Westport Connecticut. The course is really an introduction to biology; it’s a little bit of everything. It’s really up to the students to design the experiment and carry it out. And everyone’s idea was a little different which is what makes the lab so unique.
    01:00:24 KRUBSKI: They’re really writing what I call an investigation article. The idea being that students given the freedom and the opportunities will learn how to write and develop really solid evidence based arguments.
    01:00:35 GIRL 1: Why don’t we label the cups then, like A, B, C- or 1, 2, 3, 4, and then test tube 1, 2, 3, 4 so they correspond wit the paper cup?
    GIRL 2: OK
    01:00:42 KRUBSKI: We’re really looking at how is carbon cycled in an environment. And it’s a safe enough lab where it gives them a lot of opportunity to kind of explore things and see how they work and how they don’t.
    01:00:53: KRUBSKI: So, cycling sheets out from yesterday.
    01:00:55 KRUBSKI: Last class period we met, we did a pre-lab. They were put up into their lab groups and asked to read a very brief description of photosynthesis and cellular respiration, and fill out a K/W/L chart – so what did they know coming into the pre-lab, what do they need to know to conduct the lab, and then they were given a way to research and figure out what they learned.
    01:01:14 KRUBSKI: So they came into lab, ready to go, having an idea of what an experiment would look like, um, the ideas of the concepts and the methodologies behind it, and then it was their job to collaborate and actually carry out the experiment today.
    01:01:25 KRUBSKI: Today we’re actually going to be setting up and doing the experiments that we planned yesterday and you guys did your homework.
    01:01:32 KRUBSKI: So this is really an immersion essentially, an immersion into inquiry and learning how to draft and write a scientific argument based on their experience today. They have their claim that they need to state which is essentially a conclusion or a summary of their big idea, what was the lab really about, what were they testing. And then to give them planning time, um, to meet in their groups and actually write out a procedure, so this is the information I learned in my research, collaborate with other students in the group, and then go through and draft a rough procedure of what they would need to do to test their ideas.
    01:02:07 KRUBSKI: You need to do the exhaling into a cup.
    GIRL 3: Oh right.
    KRUBSKI: And then you can pour it into the test tube.
    01:02:13 GIRL 4: Blow through the straw, into the solution, for sixty seconds we decided?
    01:02:22 KRUBSKI: The next section that follows is their hard evidence, their data tables, their charts, pictures from labs, and very brief descriptions of each thing. It’s really, how is your evidence valid? And can you support that or not?
    01:02: 32 BOY 1: So that means the oxygen didn’t make it and photosynthesis is happening.
    01:02:36 KRUBSKI: They have the second half of the lab period to really set up an experiment and collect data on their own terms.
    01:02:41 GIRL 5: So what are our observations? The liquid was bubbling-
    BOY 1: Bubbling and started to change its tone and shade of color
    GIRL 5: Change. OK what happened with the plant?
    BOY 1: The plant was um, it started to kind of break off.
    01:02:55 KRUBSKI: Today was really their first fully collaborative experience. They all had to come together with stuff that they had researched beforehand, rather than just dealing with something I had given them.
    01:03:03 GIRL 6: Test tube one, no change. We should add that right? There was no change
    GIRL 7: No change for any of them.
    01:03:09 KRUBSKI: Then the longer piece is the reflection part and that’s really does my evidence support my claim? Does my evidence count as good evidence? What would I do to make my evidence better? What did I miss in my data collection? What could I have changed to make the evidence stronger?
    01:03:23 KRUBSKI: I like to see them get excited about you know, having free reign of the materials and free reign of the lab, and bounce ideas off each other.
    01:03:30 GIRL 6: Let’s do the control first. So, how many drops of BTB?
    GIRL 7: We could do like, two.
    01:03:36 KRUBSKI: There’s no right or wrong answer. I’m really looking for how you defend your argument. How do you back up your analysis? What is the evidence you are giving me to say this works or this doesn’t?
    01:03:46 KRUBSKI: Where’s your chart? Oh! You can do that chart? Great. That needs to get into your report though. That diagram. But that’s awesome. Nice job.
    01:03:54 KRUBSKI: So taking away that fault, that right or wrong, opens up a safe place to take an academic risk in the classroom. I like watching them just explore. It’s great.
    01:04:03 BOY 2: But the control is BTB with no plants. You are testing the plants and you need something like the re-entrance of the bromothymol blue itself. So-
    01:04:12 KRUBSKI: I’m hoping that through this process their writing becomes more developed. I have a lot of kids who come in and they’re like, lab report is all they’ve ever written. They’ve never read a journal article. They don’t see things like National Geographic or scientific publications as science. To have them come in with that mindset and to leave realizing that science is about, really about literacy and how you write and how you present yourself on paper uh, is huge, because that’s a skill that’s going to carry them through all of the subjects for the rest of their lives.
    01:04:40 CREDITS

School Details

Staples High School
70 North Avenue
Westport CT 06880
Population: 1885

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Alexandra Krubski


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