Communities & Ecosystems (Day# 2 of 4)

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Students will understand the structure of ecosystems and how their members interact in complex ways in order to survive.

Big Idea

All living organisms and the environment are interconnected.

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson...

I hope you get some value from my work! Please find the more intricate details of this lesson plan there.

Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resistance/Food chains & food webs (HS-LS2-2 & HS-LS2-6)

Social Interactions and Group Behavior/Group behavior and increased chances of survival (HS-LS2-8)

Adaptation/Relationship between human use of natural resources and impacts on biodiversity (HS-LS4-6)

Organization for Matter and Energy/ Flow of energy in Organisms, cell respiration, photosynthesis, and metabolism (HS-LS1-5-7)

Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text (CCSS-ELA RST.9-10.2)

In sum, I want my students to understand the structure of ecosystems and how their members interact in complex ways in order to survive. Furthermore, students will see multiple ways in which humans are affected by their environment and how, reciprocally, humans impact the environment. Knowing this, they can begin to consider wise ways to steward the amazing resources we have at our fingertips!

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

20 minutes

Please click here to return to the previous lesson in this series.

Teaching Challenge: How can I develop my students' ability to apply unifying ideas to make connections across science content?

KWL: Prompt#2- Exploring a local historical case study of natural disaster. 8:32 AM. May 18, 1980. Mount Saint Helens. Students will complete the K, W, and, L portions of the handout.

The topic is "Mt. St. Helens".


Students will complete the W column and then watch pre-selected segments of this volcano video and complete the L column*.

Earth has been marked by a huge quantity and variety of natural disturbances. Yet, given enough time, its ecology has been restored, albeit in ways different than it was before.

My home state (WA) is quite incomparable. In our figurative backyard we can gaze at two significant mountain ranges: the Olympics (located between the Pacific Ocean and Seattle) and the Cascades (running down the center of the state originating in Canada to the north and extending far into California to the south). This region is a mecca for many research geologists and vulcanologists from far flung places. Yet, we don't have to travel far to enjoy their beauty. Or terror.

None of my students were alive when Mt. St. Helens blew; heck I was a really young kid myself. But what is astonishing is the rate of restoration over these 35 odd years since. Even in the first three years post-eruption, there were signs of life when no one expected it. Thus, this case study of our most famous volcano is both intriguing and marvelous to investigate. This is how I want my students to begin considering the concept of "succession".

*Note: I chose to show 0:00-8:09 and then 18:10-21:00, 25:45-30:13, and 30:40-34 which balances the "before" and "after" scenes for greatest effect.

Instructional Input/Student Activities

25 minutes

1. Lecture Main Idea #2-Succession and Disturbance

With this lecture series, I want to use a variety of case studies as discussion points with my students. Yes, they do take notes but I am wary to have my voice be the lone one in class. By using discussion, I can draw out some great comments and questions. And let's face it, we remember stories very vividly!

-Points of Emphasis:

-Eutrophication (slides 29-34)

-Natural Disturbances (slides 35-39)

-Primary & Secondary Succession (slides 40-44)


*As a side note, whenever I lecture in class, there is a specific format for students to follow; that is Cornell Notes. Please link to this lesson for a more thorough explanation of my expectations.

Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

10 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How do I support my student's to compose, communicate, and evaluate a clearly stated, evidence-based, compelling argument?

Elsewhere I describe how I use the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) model as a scaffold for my students to grow in the skill of argumentation. In this instance, I want to gauge my students recall from yesterday's main idea.

Quick Write Prompt: "Prepare an argument that organisms both cooperate and compete in an ecosystem. Describe two separate evidences (cases in nature) that support this claim. Be sure to explain the reasoning as to why ecosystems operate in this way."

Sample responses could include:

  • remora and sharks cooperate: remora clean the shark and in turn receive protection and food scraps. Principle: If you can't beat 'em, then join 'em.
  • plants and parasatoid wasps: when attacked by herbivorous caterpillars, the plant emits a pheromone that attracts the wasps who then lay their eggs on the caterpillar. As the eggs pupate, they will consume the caterpillar. Principle: Give payment for protection. It seems to work in organized crime! Also, know who you are messing with (esp. if you are the caterpillar)
  • Wolves hunt in packs and use cooperative hunting strategies. Principle: Life is better together.


Please click here to advance to the next lesson in this series.

Lesson Extension & Follow-Up Activities

To underscore the importance of academic vocabulary, I create and regularly use the resource in my classroom. Tonight's homework is to self-study terms #1-10 for this unit's vocabulary list.