- Big Ideas/Enduring Understandings (EU’s)
- Essential Questions
- Concepts to Discover
- Standards Addressed
- Background Information
- Common Misconceptions for Lessons 3 and 4
- Pre- and Post-Assessment
- Investigation 1: Schoolyard Habitats
- Extension Activity
Big Ideas/Enduring Understandings (EU’s)
- The sun is the source of energy on Earth.
- In an ecosystem, plants and animals live and interact with each other and their environment.
- What are the needs of all living things?
- How are human and animal habitats similar?
- How do living things depend on each other and on nonliving parts of the environment?
Concepts to Discover
- Living things all need food, water, shelter, and a suitable place to live.
- Living things are interconnected.
- Different habitats may have different plant and animal communities.
- Disciplinary Core Ideas: ESS3.A (K-2), LS1.C (K-2) (3-5), LS2.A (K-2) (3-5), LS4.C (3-5), LS4.D (K-2) (3-5)
- Science and Engineering Practices: 1-8
- Crosscutting Concepts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
- Reading: RI.3.1, RI.3.2, RI.3.3, RI.3.7, RI.4.7, RI.5.7, RI.5.9
- Writing: W.3.2, W.3.7, W.3.8, W.4.2, W.4.7,W.4.8, W.5.7, W.5.8
- Speaking and Listening: SL.3.4
- Mathematical Practice: MP.2
National Geography Standards:
1, 2, 4, 5, 8
The biosphere is the area of Earth where living things exist. The biosphere is divided into regions known as biomes. In general, biomes are areas with a particular type of climate and similar plant and animal species. Biomes can be further subdivided into dynamic, interrelated systems of plants and animals, nonliving matter, and the energy of the system. These are called ecosystems. Ecosystems vary in size. They can be as small as a puddle or as large as Earth itself. Any group of living and nonliving things interacting with each other can be considered as an ecosystem.
Within each ecosystem, there are habitats which may also vary in size. A habitat is a place where plants and animals normally live. Some habitats have lots of plants and animals, some do not. Some habitats are near water, some are on top of mountains. Each habitat has a different mixture of species living there. A habitat is the place where a population lives. A population is a group of living organisms of the same kind living in the same place at the same time. All of the plant and animal populations living in a habitat interact and form a community.
The community of living (biotic) things interacts with the nonliving (abiotic) world around it to form the ecosystem. The habitat must supply the needs of organisms, such as food, water, air, and space to grow. If the population’s needs are not met, it will move to a better habitat or die.
No organism on Earth is an isolated individual. Every form of life is part of an ecosystem. In reality, the entire planet is one ecosystem. The study of ecosystems is a branch of biology known as ecology.
A change and/or interruption of an interrelationship in an ecosystem can cause large-scale changes in the ecosystem. Human actions or their results are often the cause of these changes. (Source: South Brunswick Public Schools, Science Curriculum: Eat or Be Eaten, NJ, 2008.)
Common Misconceptions for Lessons 3 and 4
- Students may believe that humans are independent and not part of any ecosystems or food chain.
- They may also see other species as independent from an ecosystem and think that their elimination will not affect the ecosystem (e.g. “Let’s get rid of all the mosquitoes … mice… milkweed, etc.”)
- This may be tied to a belief that species that they don’t like are not valuable.
- biosphere: the part of the world in which life can exist
- biome: regions of the biosphere with a particular type of climate and similar plant and animal species
- ecosystem: a system made up of an ecological community of living things interacting with their environment, especially under natural conditions
- habitat: the place or type of place where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives or grows
- species: a class of things of the same kind and with the same name
- population: a group of one or more species of organisms living in a particular area or habitat
- community: a group of living things that belongs to one or more species, interact ecologically, and are located in one place (such as a bog or pond)
- biotic: living things
- abiotic: nonliving things
- food chain/ food web: a series of organisms where each uses the next usually lower member of the series as a food source
Pre- and Post-Assessment
What do we already know? Predict, draw, and/or journal:
- What do all living things need to live?
- What happens when humans build close to wild animal homes?
Student responses to these pre-assessment questions will reveal common misconceptions and indicate the growth of concept development. At the end of the unit, check again for understanding to see what has been learned.
Investigation 1: Schoolyard Habitats
- observation recording sheets (see Worksheet 1: Habitats & Communities) or science notebooks
- pencils/drawing materials
- plant and animal cards from previous lessons
- What are the habitats of our schoolyard?
- How do you think they are the same and different?
- Are all things in a habitat actually possible to see?
Activity 1: Habitats
- Review the plant and animal cards students made in their earlier explorations (Lessons #1 and #2).
- Using the cards, have students group the types of plants they found together in their outdoor explorations. These groupings represent a habitat. A habitat usually is named for the dominant type of plants found there, and it contains the food, water, and shelter an animal needs to survive. Common schoolyard habitats may include playground, parking lot, a wooded area, lawn, garden, and fields.
- Next have them place evidence of animals cards in each habitat where they were seen.
- Have the groups share their findings.
- Questions for Discussion:
- What connections do you notice between the plant and animal life seen?
- How are animals using the plants? (shelter, food, nests, etc.)
- Do plants need animals in any way? (transporting seeds, fertilizer, etc.)
- What is a habitat? Describe the plants and animals in the various habitats investigated.
- What questions do you have?
- Record in pictures and words the different habitats and both the plants and animals found there.
- Have students describe the habitat in which they themselves live. What do they need to survive? Have them draw their habitat.
Activity 2 The Web of Life
Play the Web of Life game to demonstrate how all the players in an ecosystem depend on each other to survive. Everyone playing the game should help come up with relationships.
- ball of twine or yarn
- index cards
- marker or pen
List of Connections
(Choose from below, add your own, or elicit a list from your students of living and nonliving things found in your local habitat.)
Sun, earthworm, dead leaf
ant, living leaf, butterfly
bumblebee, mushroom, spider
flower, owl, deer
squirrel, grass, tree
river, rock, soil
frog, rain, mouse
- Write the names of each organism or object from the list of connections on an index card. Choose the cards you will use in the activity based on your location and the students’ familiarity with the plants and animals on the cards.
- Sit in a circle. Each player takes a card from a pile in the middle and holds it up so that everyone can see the name of the organism or object on the card.
- The leader should begin with the Sun card. Explain that you will represent the Sun. You will start because all energy comes from the Sun. Model the game by saying, “I am the Sun. I am passing the ball of string to the tree, because I give the tree energy to grow.” (Pass the ball of string to the student holding the tree card).
- Next, the person who caught the ball holds onto the string and tosses the ball to another person who explains how the organism on his or her card interacts with the second person’s organism. If the player gets stuck, anyone in the game can help make the connection.
- The game continues until everyone has had a turn at catching the twine. The twine is now complex and tangled—everyone in the group is connected to everyone else. Players can also talk about how their organisms are connected to others that came up earlier in the game.
- Choose one of the organisms in the game. Can anyone predict what would happen if it was removed from the web? Which other organisms would be affected? What would happen if you cut the twine with scissors? What effect would this have on the ecosystem?
- Show the power of the Sun. Explain that you, representing the Sun, are very important. Ask what might happen if the Sun suddenly stopped shining. Briefly discuss some of the consequences. (Obviously, it would be dark! Without the Sun to provide warmth, Earth would cool off. The wind would stop blowing. Plants would eventually die. Animals that eat the plants would die. When we used up our food reserves, we would die, too.) Ask everyone to sit still. Begin to tug gently on your part of the string. Tell the students that when they feel the tug, they should begin to tug gently. Ask them to watch as the tug moves through the web. Finally, the whole web will be shaking! Everything is connected to everything else (Adapted from Invaders of the Forest, © 2005 WEEB, WDNR, Park People of Milwaukee County).
- Big Idea: The tangled ball of twine has formed a web, just like the complicated web of life in an ecosystem. The web shows how closely organisms in an ecosystem interact with one another. Anything that happens to part of the web has an effect on the whole system.
Conduct research to learn more about animals. As students discover and observe new animals in their local investigations, encourage them to create new cards for the class collection. Use the animal card template (see Worksheet 6: Animal Card Template from Lesson 1) as a guide. In addition to drawing a picture of the animal, here are some topics for the students to research:
- Common Name
- Friends and Foes
- Conservation Status
- Size and Weight