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Achievement objective PEB 6-2

Students will:

  • develop an understanding of how the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere interact to cycle carbon around Earth.


  • Recognises that carbon is an important part of many molecules that make up organic and inorganic matter.
  • Explains how carbon is added to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane by respiration, combustion, and volcanic eruptions.
  • Explains how carbon is removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis and dissolving in water.
  • Explains how carbon is stored in reservoirs, short term in forests and phytoplankton, and long term in sediments, fossil fuels, the ocean, and in carbonate rocks and other carbon-rich rocks.
  • Recognises that the atmosphere and ocean dynamically pass carbon between them and that the ocean is becoming saturated with carbon dioxide.
  • Recognises that cold water absorbs more carbon dioxide so any rise in global temperatures will result in carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by the ocean.
  • Links the different stages of the carbon cycle to develop understanding of the whole cycle.
  • Recognises the processes (subduction of sediments and rocks, subsequent formation of magma, and eruption of volcanoes) that return carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Possible context elaborations

  • Models showing that carbon can be made into different molecules such as carbon dioxide and methane and can also form large 3-dimentional structures.
  • A real or virtual field trip to a farm to observe and record the biological part of the carbon cycle – the photosynthesis of plants to make food and the feeding, respiration and excretion of farm animals.
  • DVDs of volcanic eruptions showing the gas clouds which contain vast amounts of carbon dioxide.
  • A virtual or real field trip to coal mines, oil rigs, or natural gas sites to observe fossil fuels being extracted.
  • Combustion experiments in the lab burning ethane, propane and selected alcohols to show combustion products.
  • A visit to limestone outcrops and testing of the rock with acid.
  • Demonstration of how agitation of cold water (for example, by wind and waves) increases the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed (by measuring the pH of the water with a pH meter).
  • The part plankton with calcium carbonate plates or shells play, not only by having carbon in their shells but also by locking up vast quantities of carbon in deep ocean sediments.
  • A poster showing how the subduction of sediments and rocks, the formation of magma, and the eruption of volcanoes are part of a continuous long-term process that cycles carbon.
  • A diagram (developed throughout the learning process) showing how the different stages of the carbon cycle are linked.

Assessment for qualifications

At the time of publication, achievement standards were in development to align them with The New Zealand Curriculum. Please ensure that you are using the correct version of the standards by going to the  NZQA website.

The NZQA subject-specific resources pages are very helpful. From there, you can find all the achievement standards and links to assessment resources, both internal and external.

Learn more with NZQA subject resources for:

Aligned level 1 achievement standards were registered for use in 2011 and level 2 for use in 2012; level 3 will be registered for use in 2013.

Learning described by this objective could be assessed using one or more of these achievement standards:

  • science AS90953 1.14

Last updated September 15, 2020