- Big Ideas
- Essential Questions
- Content Outcomes Addressed
- Standards Addressed
- Pre- and Post-Assessment
- Investigation 1: Who Lives Here?
- Animals and other organisms adapt through evolution to better fit the environment they live in.
- Animals living in different ecosystems will evolve and adapt very differently.
- Animals living in an ecosystem are part of a complex food web so what affects one organism could have a great effect on the system as a whole.
- How have animals adapted to living in grasslands?
- What are the different niches occupied by grassland animals?
Content Outcomes Addressed
- Students will learn how different animals’ adaptations suit their role within the grasslands ecosystems.
- Students will understand the relationship between different members of an ecosystem, particularly within the context of African grasslands.
- Disciplinary Core Ideas: ESS2.E (K-2) (3-5), ESS3.A (K-2) (3-5) (6-8), LS1.A (K-2) (3-5), LS1.C (K-2) (3-5), LS2.A (3-5)(6-8), LS2.C (3-5) (6-8), LS4.C (K-2) (3-5) (6-8) (9-12), LS4.D (K-2) (3-5) (6-8)
- Science and Engineering Practices: 1, 3, 4, 6,7, 8
- Crosscutting Concepts: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7
- Writing: W.K.2, W.K.7, W.1.2, W.1.7, W.2.7
- Reading: R.K.1, R.K.3, R.K.10, R.1.1, R.1.3, R.1.10, R.2.1, R.2.3, R.2.10, R.3.1, R.3.3, R.4.1, R.4.3, R.5.1
- Speaking and Listening: SL.K.1, SL.K.2, SL.K.5, SL.K.6, SL.1.1, SL.1.2, SL.1.5, SL.1.6, SL.2.1, SL.2.2, SL.2.6, SL.3.1, SL.3.2, SL.3.6, SL.4.1, SL.4.2, SL.5.1, SL.5.2, SL.6.1
- Mathematical Practice: MP.1, MP.3
National Geography Standards: 2, 4, 8, 15
The term “ecosystem” refers to a community of living organisms and their habitat. This lesson will focus on the different relationships between different organisms in different ecosystems, with special emphasis on grassland systems. Many animals live in grasslands, including invertebrates (like grasshoppers and beetles) and large mammals (like antelopes and elephants). There are grazing animals (that eat the grass), burrowing animals, and predators. The animals that live in grasslands have adapted to dry, windy conditions and make up complex food webs and chains.
- ecosystem: a system made up of an ecological community of living things interacting with their environment, especially under natural conditions
- grassland: specific ecosystem characterized by its grasses; in Africa they are called savannas.
- food chain: a sequence of organisms arranged in such a way that each feeds on the organism below it in the chain and serves as a source of food for the organism above it
- food web: all the connected or linked food chains within an ecological community
Pre- and Post-Assessment
Assess prior knowledge by asking students to draw a food chain or food web that exists in their own ecosystem. Have students repeat this activity at the end of the lesson.
- Only linear relationships exist in an ecosystem.
- A food chain is the same as a food web.
Investigation 1: Who Lives Here?
- Notebooks and pencils/pens
- Pictures of African grassland animals (helpful, but not necessary)
- Computers with Internet access
- Grassland Species Organizer (print out from Resources, above right)
- Blank Grassland Species Organizer (print out from Resources, above right)
- Ask the students to brainstorm a list of animals they might see on African grasslands. These could include the aardvark, African elephant, antelope, buffalo, wild dog, cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus, spotted hyena, impala, jackals, kudu, leopard, lion, mongoose, honey badger, ostrich, rhinoceros, vulture, Grevy’s zebra, plains zebra, and any other animals the students want to add. Record their answers on the board.
- When you have finished brainstorming, have students attempt to categorize the organisms on the board (categories could be based on where they live within the ecosystem, what they eat, etc.). How do these different groups interact? What characteristics do these species have that are different from species in their backyards?
- Hand out copies the Grassland Species Organizer (printed out from Resources, above right) as a model and talk through the answers. Tell them that they can find out more about the animals listed by using their computers to link to the Field Guide for each animal at Mpala Live!
- Hand out copies of the blank Grassland Species Organizer (printed out from Resources, above right) or have the students create their own organizer charts in their notebooks, using the headings on the Grassland Species Organizer. Then tell them to choose animals from the list on the board to fill in the first column on their charts. They can complete the rest of their charts by using the Field Guides for their animals at Mpala Live!
- As an alternative, students can complete this activity as a jigsaw and fill it together. Or students can complete larger versions of each row of the organizer and then go on a gallery walk to complete their personal versions of the chart.
- Check student answers through class discussion, being sure to emphasize how these adaptations help animals survive. Also be sure to discuss what makes them different from the other animals in their charts.
1. Checking for Understanding
- As a check for understanding or as a warm-up for Unit 5, Lesson 4, post numbered descriptions of adaptations around room. Have students guess which animal each description is about. Discuss how students formulated their guesses, and review how these particular adaptations help the animal to survive.
2. Connecting to Your Own Ecosystem
- Have students identify what type of ecosystem they live in. For an overview of the different types of ecosystems, visit https://www.udemy.com/blog/types-of-ecosystems/
- On the board, have students brainstorm different types of animals and other organisms that live in this particular ecosystem. When you have finished brainstorming, have students attempt to categorize the organisms on the board (categories could be based on where the organisms live within the ecosystem, what they eat, etc.). How do these different groups interact? How are the adaptations of these organisms different from those of animals in African grasslands?
- Have students draw a picture of the ecosystem including at least four different organisms. Students can share in groups or with the class why they chose to include particular animals and should be able to explain the relationship between the different organisms pictured.
3. Putting it All Together
- Divide the students into groups. Then choose one of the methods below to have the groups answer the Discussion Questions (print out from Resources, above right).
4. Using Stories to Explain Adaptation
- Read How the Leopard Got His Spots, adapted from Rudyard Kipling, and Why Opossum Has a Bare Tail, adapted from a Creek/Muscogee myth by S.E. Schlosser (print out both from Resources, upper right). Then have students answer the following questions.
(a) What is each story trying to accomplish through its storytelling?
(b) Why do you think people would want to know how the leopard got its spots or why the opossum has a bare tail?
(c) Pick an animal that you have seen recently, and write your own story about how it received one of its adaptations, then tell it either orally or in writing. The idea isn’t to come up with a real scenario, but to have fun with an adaptation. For example, they could tell a story about an anteater whose tongue was stretched by another animal, or they could write about a Grevy’s zebra that was all white and fell into a mud puddle and decided to keep the stripes.