Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards
In this investigation, students finalize the work that will lead them to understand the Disciplinary Core Idea of Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics - Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems - that food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as "decomposers." Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of the ecosystem. (5-LS2-1); Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems - Matter cycles between the air and soil and among plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die. Organisms obtain gases, and water, from the environment, and release waste matter (gas, liquid, or solid) back into the environment. (5-LS2-1) and the Crosscutting Concept of Systems and System Models - A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions (5-LS2-1).
The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.
One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters In Ecosystems - Lab Booklet Lesson 16 (I copy this in booklet form using magazine sort-saddle stitch on the copier)
One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters In Ecosystems - Trophic Pyramid Plan
Resource Books - Such as: The Ecosystems Series Media Enhanced Books AV2 by Weigl
Introduce the Task
Today is the big day that students begin planning their model ecosystems! I ask them, "Why did Plaid Pete have to learn all of that information from his friends - Landen taught him about aquatic ecosystems, Joey taught him about plants, and Navjot taught him about terrestrial ecosystems?" I call on a student who responds, "To help him plan his proposal for the ecosystem in a jar for the community garden." I say, "Bingo." Then I say, "And a proposal is another word for plan - just like Plaid Pete - today we are going to plan our model ecosystems!"
I explain that there will be two phases to this. I want students to be able to apply everything they have learned to a specific ecosystem, so they will be creating "model ecosystems" in a shoebox. While I had initially wanted to bring an assorted variety of live animals into the classroom in order for them to create real ecosystems - that just didn't work out. First of all, it is February, and secondly, the variety of animals needed to construct a complete food chain would have been difficult to obtain and house. However, I also want them to view a natural ecosystem, so while they are creating a model ecosystem in their shoebox, we will also be creating a class ecosystem of fiddler crabs that they will observe and learn from.
Learning Objective & Success Criteria
Note: Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson. These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.
I share the learning objective and success criteria:
Learning Objective: I can collaboratively plan a model ecosystem to describe how energy in animals' food was once energy from the Sun; and that describes the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
Language Objective: I can recall information from previous experience and use it to collaboratively plan an investigation. [ELP.4-5.5]
Success Criteria: I can work cooperatively to plan and label a model on my Trophic Pyramid Planning Sheet
Teams Choose An Ecosystem for Study
At this point, I have my teams pair off into groups of 2 or 3. I have a complete set of the Ecosystems Series of books from AV2, which includes: Chapparrals; Wetlands; Freshwater; Mountains; Rainforests; Caves; Coral Reefs; Oceans; Polar Regions; Estuaries; Boreal Forests; Deserts; Tundras; and Grasslands. To make it fair, I pull a Popsicle stick from a cup and that student and partner(s), come up and choose which ecosystem they would like to research and construct. They choose from among the books I have assembled from the list above.
When all pairs have chosen - we are ready to begin!
Hand Out Planning Materials
I hand out a copy of Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters In Ecosystems - Trophic Pyramid Plan to each student.
I tell my students, "I am giving you each a blank trophic pyramid. You have learned that this pyramid represents the way that food energy in an ecosystem is passed from one trophic level to the next in a food chain. I want you to work with your partner to create an energy pyramid for your chosen ecosystem. Your energy pyramid should clearly show the food chains in your ecosystem."
I have a copy of the trophic pyramid under my document camera. I point to the bottom level of the pyramid and ask, "What is found at the first level - and is the basis of all food chains and food webs?" I call on a student who correctly responds that this level represents the primary producers, or plants.
I point to the next level and ask, "What is found on the second level?" I call on a student who is able to respond that this level represents primary consumers because they eat plants. We label the level on our Trophic Pyramid Plan. I ask, "What do we call an animal that eats plants?" I call on a student who correctly responds that this is an herbivore, and we write that next to the primary consumer label. I then ask students to name the following level and they are able to correctly respond that it represents the secondary consumer, and that this animal can be an omnivore, or a carnivore. We label the final level with tertiary consumer, and discuss the fact that this level represents the predators of the ecosystem, and they are primarily carnivores.
This review is important, particularly for my English Language Learners. Once students have labeled the different levels I tell them, "Now that you have labeled these, your job is to use the materials I have given you to plan a food chain for your chosen ecosystem. Be sure that you have included a decomposer. You will be using these to plan your model ecosystem."
This is a picture of a completed student's Trophic Pyramid.
As teams begin to work, the first question comes up, "How many living things do we include on each level?" I remind my students that their model ecosystem comes with limited space. However, they will need enough of each of the living organisms at each of the levels to adequately represent a simple food web. That means they will need to plan accordingly. I ask them to remember back to our lesson on Food Chains and Webs when we played the Decomposer game. I say, "What did the cards look like after you had used arrows to connect them?" I call on a student who correctly responds that at first the food chains created a straight line, but then as different organisms were added, new connections were made and they "webbed out." I suggest to them that perhaps they can also use arrows on their trophic pyramid to show relationships. Students are engrossed in the books! I am pleased to see that they are using both the skimming and scanning strategy that they have learned, and then use the close reading strategy to hone in on specific information. Students are working both with the printed text, and then when they need additional information - use the online codes to access the additional digital information that is provided.
Hand Out Lab Booklet
After each team has completed their plan, and I have approved it, I hand out the Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters In Ecosystems - Lab Booklet Lesson 16 to to each of the team members. I tell them to look through it carefully while the other teams are finishing up.
As soon as all teams have completed their plans, I place a copy of the Lab Booklet on the document camera, and we go over each of the sections, carefully reading the directions. I also ask, "On what page in your Science Notebook can you find the information that can help you with this section?" I call on a student and we write the correct page number next to the section heading in the Lab Booklet. I want my students to see their Science Notebooks as a resource and also as a source of reflection and learning , not just something they glue papers in. I also want them to see the diagrams/models they will be expected to construct, and that will be based on the shoebox model ecosystem they will build tomorrow.
By the time we are finished - my crew is excited and ready for tomorrow - Build Off Day!
Set the Task
Tomorrow will be a busy day! My students will run in the room and want to get started constructing their ecosystems right away. Before that happens, I set them up for tomorrow. I tell them, "When you come in tomorrow, those of you that have finished your Trophic Pyramid Plan will construct a paper model, or diagram of your ecosystem, showing where all of the factors in your ecosystem will be placed. Remember - ecosystems need to have both biotic and abiotic factors. Only when you have both of these plans in place, will you be allowed to gather materials and begin construction. I know if I don't set this expectation today, it will cause me problems tomorrow!