VCE programs

Print Page

AoS 1 How life is sustained on earth - Carbon and nitrogen cycles

Full Day
Book Program
Year Levels
Unit 1 — How are Earth’s systems connected?


Carbon is an element present in all living things. The total amount of Carbon on the earth does not change. Instead the element changes from cycling between living and non living things.

One important nutrient essential to living things is Nitrogen. It exists in abundance in the atmosphere as Nitrogen gas. However, it needs to be fixed to be in a useable form for living things. Nitrogen cycles through an ecosystem and also moves between living and non-living things.

Students will investigate both the Carbon and Nitrogen cycles, looking at how these elements cycle through ecosystems.

Prior Knowledge

No prior knowledge necessary.

Learning Intentions

In this program students will:

  • Relate their findings on CO2 levels in the atmosphere and in different water levels to their knowledge of the Carbon Cycle
  • Relate their findings on Nitrate levels in soils and water samples to their knowledge of the Nitrogen cycle
  • Discuss natural and anthropogenic sources of Carbon and Nitrogen
  • Discuss the impacts of changing levels of Carbon Dioxide and Nitrates on different Ecosystems.


Students will:

  • Use the Labquest equipment to measure the levels of CO2 in various locations around Ecolinc
  • Use the CO2 test kits to measure the level of CO2 in various water samples
  • Determine the nitrogen content of various water samples as NO3
  • Extract nitrogen from different soil samples and measure the levels of nitrates.

Learn Online

Ecolinc Learn Online is a virtual outreach learning management system (LMS) offering interactive online courses for students and teachers. These courses can be undertaken either as a pre-visit, post-visit or stand-alone.

Students are encouraged to do the pre-learning course on Ecolinc Learn Online called Safe Labs prior to coming to Ecolinc. In this course students will cover all the necessary aspects of laboratory safety during their time at Ecolinc. When planning any work in a laboratory the risk of exposure to laboratory hazards is an important consideration. This course is part of Ecolinc’s risk minimisation for student safety.

VCE links

  • Bio-geochemical cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) and processes that provide energy, minerals, soil, clean air and water (surface water and groundwater) to sustain life on Earth.
  • The cycling of matter across systems where waste outputs from one system become inputs for another system.