Activity 3.2: The Carbon Dice Game (30 min)

Target Student Performance

Students record and share data about their movement to different carbon pools when they play the role of carbon atoms in an ecosystem (the Carbon Dice Game).

Resources You Provide

  • Containers to put twist ties in (one for each pool)
  • Die (1 for each student)
  • Yellow twist ties (at least 300)

Resources Provided



1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.

Show slide 2 of the 3.2 The Carbon Dice Game PPT.


During the discussion after the game, formatively assess how well students are able to make connections between the pools in the game and the charts that are generated from the graph. If they do not see the connection, you may want to spend time helping them understand the different representations.


You may want to print more than one copy of the 3.2 Carbon Dice Game Posters, 3.2 Carbon Dice Game Tally Cards, and 3.2 Carbon Dice Game Energy Labels. Printing multiple copies allows more students to visit each pool at one time.

Stress that although we are using twist ties to represent energy, energy is actually not made of matter/molecules!


Have students play the game in pairs, rather than as individuals, with students in each pair sharing the work of reading the instructions, throwing the die, and recording the carbon pools that they visited on the tracking sheet.

Extending the Learning

Use Slides 15-16 (hidden in the PPT) to explain that the Carbon Dice game was a model, and therefore has some limitations when representing actual ecosystems. Ask students to brainstorm ways that a real ecosystem differs from the model ecosystem and share their ideas with the class.