No Place Like Home....Ecosystems in the Rain Forest

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SWBAT explain the concept of habitat, ecosystem and biome.

Big Idea

With the Rain Forest as a theme and the bromeliad as an object to teach the concept of homes to organisms, this lesson brings in the diversity within the size of homes to organisms.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

LS4-1 is all about diversity of life in habitats, but what if that habitat is only the size of a small flower? For students to understand the idea or concept of a habitat, they must also understand the continuum of habitats.

Multiple habitats build ecosystems and multiple ecosystems build biomes. This lesson helps students to understand that habitats can be as large as the forest or the ocean or as a small as a plant in the rain forest. 

I remind students that when a scientist is not sure of a new concept they are researching, they will compare it to something they know about already in their learning.  Scientists often use analogies in this cases, because the lesson is beginning with pictures of something the students may not be familiar with as a way to engage them in the lesson, an analogy is used to pique their interest and their background knowledge. 



15 minutes

I explain to the children that I am going to bring each team a folder with a couple of pictures in them. Also in the folder are four or five pages for the students to document their observations and then take those observations and create analogies (SP7).

I further explain to them that the pictures may not be recognizable to them.  Their job will be to observe the pictures and make connections that they see to anything they know about in their own experiences. I remind them that when a scientist is unfamiliar with something they try to find connections.  I show them the documenting page and remind them how to write an analogy (SP4).

I allow the children about ten minutes to make their observations and documenting.  I do not offer any support or suggestions about what they might be observing. I want them to begin to make the observations and analogies independently. 

We have practiced these often with my support, but at this time of the school year, it is time to begin releasing the locus of control and encourage the independence. 


10 minutes

This part of the lesson is out of sequence from the 5E model.  In this lesson it is important to teach the children about the plant before creating it.  It will offer more information for the children as they begin to create their own bromeliad. 

I begin with Slide one...and work through slide six. When we reach slide seven, the slide appears to be half full and missing something.  The slide explains about a particular bromeliad that has invaded a habitat that it is not native to.  It uses the term, "alien species." When I use this phrase in the slide show, I click one more time and the purple alien pops up.  I want to clarify for the children that the phrase does not mean aliens from space.  

I think this is important to point out to the children so they understand that diversity within habitats can be transplanted and not native to the area.  

I stop at slide seven. I save slide eight to introduce the concept of the habitat, ecosystem, and biome when the bromeliad are made. 


10 minutes

I show the children a toilet paper tube and ask the children if they believe we could create a flower similar to the bromeliad with this tube (SP2)?

I show the children the papers I have ready for them and explain that they will cut out the designs and we will glue them around the tube.  When we are finished, we will turn it into a beautiful bromeliad with a few surprises. 

I have made ahead of time patterns to make the "leaves" of the plant run on dark and light green paper, as well as, dark and light pink paper.  There are many websites on the internet with free patterns to create these flowers.  Each pattern is a tiny bit different and uses many different bases for the center of the flower.  They all turn out beautifully. (Here is one site that could be used....).

It takes some time for the children to cut and glue their flowers together.  As the children are working, many discover that it can be tricky to glue the pieces together and some will work together.

When the flowers are completed, I ask the children to look back at the screen one more time.  The power point has moved to slide eight.  The slide shows the pictures the children observed back in the beginning of the lesson and also includes information about the 'system' of a bromeliad.

I explain to the children that we have used the words: habitat, biome, and ecosystem all year, but we really have not ever discussed what those words really mean. We just keep using them like they all mean the same thing. 

I move to the next slide and explain to the children that a habitat is really a home.  And then, an ecosystem is a group of homes, while a group of homes becomes a biome.  The slides have pictures that show the concepts building with community clip art.  They are not complicated, but clean and simple.  I want the concept to be very clear.

I offer a couple more examples, I stand next to a table team and explain that the desk of one student can be sort of like their home at school. They spend a good amount of their time sitting at that one particular desk. The desks of their table mates sitting next to them in a group, makes them an ecosystem.  All the teams together in the classroom, makes them a biome.  

Instantly, they make the connection. 


25 minutes

I look to our classroom diorama. It is really a shelf with a small tree that came from a friend's orchard. The tree is stands in a Christmas tree stand that has been wired to the wall for stability and safety.  I cover the stand with green fabric and the tree is covered with green silk leaves. The tree changes through the seasons in the classroom and through our learning.  As we discover new information about our learning themes, the children help to create artwork to transform the tree.  It is an ever evolving learning tool.  

I explain to the children that now that we have created these amazing bromeliads, we need to do something with them. Of course, they know this means we will add them to our three dimensional jungle.  

I stop and ask them, if they believe their flowers are complete habitats yet? I anticipate that most of the children will realize that they are missing creatures.  I bring them small stickers that they are able to choose and add to their flower.  When the stickers are added, we add their flowers to the tree and the forest floor.  

As I am adding the flowers, I ask the children to tell me what type of bromeliad they will have, a ground grower, rock grower or growing on another plant? The children can easily tell me where their flower should go.  I like to make this distinction because it ties the learning back to the beginning power point information that delineated the three different areas that bromeliads can be found. 


5 minutes

Evaluation of the lesson does not happen with paper and pencil...I use the language of the lesson repeatedly during the day and days that follow intentionally.  

I use it three words (habitat, ecosystem, and biome) as often as I can in the daily speaking and listening of teaching.  Whenever possible, I will pull the language in and listen for the students use of the language as well.  

What I discover is the children using the words often and as strategically as if I had planned it.  They embrace the words and use them at every opportunity.  

This is my formative assessment of their internalization of the new vocabulary and the concept of the continuum of diversity within environmental homes.