Energy In The Cell: Producers, Consumers, Decomposers, and the Carbon Cycle
Teacher Name: Shaina Drew
Subject Area: Life Science
Grade: 8th
The concept of producers, consumers and decomposers is interconnected with the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. It is important for students to understand the mechanisms of their own bodies, what interactions make them possible, and how they fit into a bigger picture (the carbon cycle).
- understand the difference between producers, consumers, and decomposers
- explain the carbon cycle and its components
- model the carbon cycle
- describe how the carbon cycle affects us as a human population
- explain the problems arising with components of the carbon cycle
Florida Sunshine State Standards:
- SC.8.L.18.2: Describe and investigate how cellular respiration breaks down food to provide energy and releases carbon dioxide.
- LA. The student will use new vocabulary that is introduced and taught directly
- LA. The student will listen to, read, and discuss familiar and conceptually challenging text
- LA. The student will identify cause-and-effect relationships in text

National Science Education Standards:
- Systems, order, and organization
- Structure and function in living systems
- Science as a human endeavor
- Nature of science
- Evidence, models, and explanation
- Form and function
Half sheets of poster board (1 sheet @ $0.80 from Walmart), markers or colored pencils, pencils, internet access, reference books on fossil fuels, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, decay, carbon recycling, global warming, etc.

- Photo of the carbon cycle:
- ABC brainstorming worksheet
- Food web info
- Video of the carbon cycle cartoon
- Animated, non speaking version of the carbon cycle
- Article “the case of the missing carbon”
- Text used page 480-481 in Glencoe Science, Florida Science
Possible Safety Concerns:
Not applicable
Outline of Content:
I. Producers
a. Remove CO2 from the air during photosynthesis
b. Use CO2, water, and sunlight to produce energy rich sugar molecules
II. Consumers (contribute to the processes of cellular respiration)
a. Primary consumers
i. Herbivores
ii. Plant eaters
iii. Squirrel, elk, etc
b. Secondary consumers
i. Eat the primary consumers
ii. Ex. Mouse is primary cat would be secondary
iii. Carnivores
c. Tertiary consumer
i. Eat secondary and primary consumers
ii. Ex. Wolf that eats a cat and a mouse
iii. Omnivores- humans are omnivores
d. Energy is released from these cells during cellular respiration, using up oxygen and releasing CO2
e. Photosynthesis uses CO2 and releases oxygen so these two processes work together to help recycle carbon on the Earth

III. Decomposers
a. When something alive dies decomposers break down the nutrients in the dead matter and return it to the soil
b. Producers can then use the nutrients and elements once it’s in the soil
c. Decomposers complete the system, returning essential molecules to the producers
IV. The Carbon cycle- describes how carbon molecules move between the living and non-living world
a. Air contains carbon in the form of carbon dioxide gas. Plants and algae use carbon dioxide to make sugars, which are energy rich, carbon containing compounds.
b. Organisms break down sugar molecules made by plants and algae to obtain energy for life and growth. Carbon Dioxide is released as waste.
c. Burning fossil fuels and wood releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
d. When organisms die their carbon containing molecules become part of the soil. The molecules are broken down by fungi, bacteria, and other decomposers. During this decay process carbon dioxide is released into the air.
e. Under certain conditions, the remains of some dead organisms may gradually be changed into fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil. These carbon compounds are energy rich.
Hand out an ABC brainstorming worksheet to the class and give the students 5-7 minutes to fill out the worksheet with the topic “Photosynthesis, Respiration, and its effects on the world”.


Have students come up with products and uses for the energy produced by both plant and animal cells through these processes. Once time is up ask students what they came up with and if they have any ideas as to what the “big picture” is with relation to how photosynthesis and cellular respiration factor into the biosphere as a whole. Write important points on the board and have students that did not finish fill out missing spaces as you go.
Review the products of photosynthesis and cellular respiration and review the concept of producers, consumers, and decomposers. Show powerpoint introducing the carbon cycle.
Day 2
Finish powerpoint on the carbon cycle (video clips included in powerpoint) and show students the following photo of the carbon cycle.
external image carboncycle_sm.jpg
Give each student half a piece of poster board and have them draw their own version of the carbon cycle. Group students together and assign each group one component of the cycle.
Explain to the class that while each student must complete his or her own drawing, tomorrow each group will get up to the front of the class and explain their component of the carbon cycle using both the information covered in class, their notes from the video clip, and any relevant internet research. Students will have the rest of the class today to plan what they are going to say with their groups and start their drawings. They can use computers (if available), their text, books that have been pulled from the library, or alternative sources.
Project must be finished tomorrow for in class presentations. Hand out rubric for the project (see attached).
Day 3:
Have the students meet with their groups for a few minutes at the beginning of the class to finish their presentations. Give each group 5-6 minutes to present.
Wrap up with a socratic discussion circle on the effects of the carbon cycle and its impact on the human population.

Assessment Plan for this part of the Unit:
Graded rubric for group presentation

Teaching strategies Used
- Project based learning
- Group work
- Technology (powerpoint)

Questions for students
- Most chemical fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If they do not contain carbon, how do plants obtain it?
- Describe an experiment that would determine whether extra carbon dioxide enhances the growth of tomato plants.
- What are some different ways carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere?
- How are producers and consumers interconnected in the carbon cycle?
- How are these processes negatively impacting our Earth?
- What can we do to limit the green house gasses?

Additional resources/extension activites:
- Field trip to an agricultural center where you could discuss the impact of the plants on the carbon cycle (how do they contribute positively) and the fertilizers and run off products that some farms produce (how do they negatively contribute).

- Guest speaker from NASA about the carbon cycle and its effect on our atmosphere

Create a reporter assignment where students go home and interview 3 people (over the age of 18) what they know about global warming and what they can do personally to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses.