A, B, C s of Ecology 4 th Grade

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1 TIME/AIDS INTRODUCTION 10 minutes ENERGY PYRAMID minutes White board Markers Ecosystem board Predawn triangle with four horizontal sections FOOD CHAIN minutes Approximately popsicle sticks A play area of about 40x40 BIOME TEAMS minutes Animal cards Biome pyramids Journals ABCs of Ecology minutes White board and marker Abiotic and Biotic name cards Yarn CONTENTS Introduce yourself and other instructors and welcome students to the Desert Discovery Center. Give logistics bathrooms & drinking fountain. Give some background on the partnership and the Jr. Naturalist program. Show them the coyote sign for being quiet. Split up the group. Discuss with students the origination of energy and the way in which it moves through all living creatures. Explain how it is then recycled back into the base of the pyramid. Demonstrate the stability of pyramids and their significance in ecosystems. Play game with students demonstrating the way that energy moves through food chains and how energy is replenished. Also demo waves of energy through living systems and see what can happen to the energy in certain circumstances. Students will be split into groups in which they are searching for the home biome of an animal they are assigned. They are to visit each biome read and visualize the biome and take note. Have students share extremes they observed. Students are introduced to the idea that all things on this planet can be divided into two different categories. The students will be appointed abiotic or biotic names of things that they will symbolize. They will then use their knowledge of categories learned earlier to identify themselves. The teacher will then create a physical representation that shows the connections that bind an ecosystem and what occurs when these ties are severed. revised, Sept. 07 1

2 1. Energy? Introduce students to the concept that all living things need energy for a variety of reasons. Ask students what the source of all energy on the planet is. (The sun of course) Then draw a sun on the board. Point out that they cannot extract energy directly from the sun, but they get energy from plants which get it from the sun. Write plant (Producer) in the second space from the bottom on the pyramid. Then ask what eats a plant? ANIMALS eat plants (Primary Consumers), specifically herbivores or omnivores. Don t go too into depth with students, but if they grasp information then share more scientific terms. Ask students what animals eat meat and what we call them? CARNIVORES and OMNIVORES (Secondary Consumers), this will be written above the Primary consumers or herbivores/omnivores. Then ask What happens to living things when they die? What do the living things turn into? Who/what is responsible for this? The desired guesses are they rot; turn into soil and the decomposers are the responsible party. Decomposers will be listed in the bottom of the pyramid. The Decomposers are made up of the FFBI or Fire, Fungus, Bacteria and Insects. These creatures continue the cycle of energy and without them the students would not be alive and well. Show students why the pyramid is an excellent representation of a stable energy shape by making a human version. Request some volunteers and make a human pyramid with the base representing plants and the highest point equating to top predators. Discuss with students what would happen to the pyramid if the bottom or plants were replaced by a mall. Obviously the pyramid would fall; threaten to let the student pyramid fall but then just have someone share an explanation of the repercussions of destabilizing the pyramid, and then share how stable the pyramid was before the mall. 2. Food Chains Take students outside to play a game that allows them to see the way in which energy moves through a food chain. Start by having students line up on one edge of the boundary, and then disperse Popsicle sticks throughout playing area. Ask students to name the basic needs of every living thing. The WAFS water, air, food and shelter are the main needs and animals get these within a particular area referred to as habitats. The area in which you dispersed the sticks is a habitat and in this case the sticks represent energy. Energy that they will need to survive. The sticks represent plant energy and the students will be representing different animals in a food chain. Make sure the students understand a food chain and have them share an example. Allow them to share a few examples and then proceed to describe that in this game the kids will be bugs, snakes and hawks. Appoint approximately 60% of the students to be bugs, 30% snakes, and 10% hawks. Once everyone has been appointed a role explain that each group will be called upon to get their food in order to survive. The bugs want to pick up as many plants as possible, snakes they will tag or eat the revised, Sept. 07 2

3 bugs, and the bugs are to pass or handoff their plant energy to the snakes and the same is true of the hawks. Once they have died they are to sit down. At end of the first game ask students to freeze, and make observation of who died and who survived. Have students realize that although Hawks are primarily carnivores they were still able to get energy from plant life. Play another round appointing students different roles from the earlier ones. After the second game, make the children aware that the snakes and bugs are primarily dead. Ask if it is possible for the higher predators to live with such a small portion of food left. Share that the game was missing something that would make it more realistic. Reproduction. This would allow the numbers to return to the original balance. Do one more demonstration to reiterate just what goes on with the energy cycle. Have students make a circle and send a wave of energy through the students. The way represents the food chain. Allow an enjoyable number of waves to pass and then break it abruptly because of deforestation, development or something of that nature. Then show that there are ways for humans to continue the energy cycle=reduce, reuse, recycle and rot all allow energy to reenter and keep the wave going. Provide explanation of energy resupplement as the wave passes through them. 3. Exploring Ecosystems and biomes? Express to students that everything living exists in an ecosystem. The word ECO System can be better understood when broken down. System is pretty understandable and eco is synonymous with relationships. Everything survives by having relationships. It is not possible to live in a completely independent state. Just as the pyramid demonstrated that energy must travel through plants to pass on to higher organisms, plants also are dependent upon the decomposers to survive. Ask students with whom they share relationships. Begin to expose connections to parents and the supply of not only love but food, water and shelter and how it would not be possible for their needs to be provided for without the parent s employer as well as the natural resources used to create the raw goods for products made or used for successful businesses that employ their family. These ecosystems that are everywhere are pretty different looking just as the arctic and the Mojave are very different in appearance. An example of an ecosystem could be wetlands, a forest, etc. These ecosystems usually describe localized nature. There is another way to describe larger landscapes or areas that are significantly different usually due to average temperature aka how long winter is. These places or Biomes are all over the world and have many different versions of each ecosystem within them just as the high desert can have trees and low desert dunes. Again the significant difference is the mean (average) temperature. The students will be given the opportunity to explore the many biomes as they set off to become world travelers bent on seeing everything. The names of the Biomes to visit are Tundra, Taiga, Temperate Deciduous Forest, Grassland, Desert, and Tropical Rain Forest. revised, Sept. 07 3

4 Students will be given a card of an animal that makes its home in a particular biome. They will know which Biome they should visit by glancing at the section of the card that provides a visual representation and has the name of the Biome listed. Give as much explanation as needed comparing forest types and so forth, until it is understood that the goal is to ID the Biome in which their creature belongs. Once the students have figured out what they are searching for they will visit the appropriate Biome/biome pyramid. They are to draw an example of the biome and then read the information listed on the back of the pyramid and write a cool fact in their journals. To close the activity, have students share neat things they learned and extremes of the places visited. Ask questions that draw on the differences amongst the Biomes. Have them compare animals, plant life etc. of the various places. Ask if they learned new information and encourage them to always explore and learn more. 4. What are the A, B, and C s of ecology? All things existing in our world fall into one of the three categories of ecology. A=Abiotic or never living, non-renewable resources in an ecosystem. S.A.W.S.-Sun, Air, Soil, Water. Use leading questions to drive these answers out of students. B is the opposite of A. B=Biotic or living and once living things. What sorts of living and once living things are there in an ecosystem? Lead students to answer plants, animals, and decomposers. Continually reinforce that one cannot exist without the other and all play a very important role in an ecosystem. Use the ecosystem board as an aid. Since students have learned an abundance of information regarding ecosystems and life they will now put it to use and will be initiated into an ecosystem. Express that you will be providing them with name tags (names of Abiotic- Soil, Air, Water, Sun as well as Biotic representatives of each organism in the food pyramid). These name tags will be put on their back so that they will not be aware of what they are until they have figured themselves out. They will ask yes or no questions to determine their identity. Teacher should act as one of the students to demonstrate the activity by asking yes or no questions, such as Am I Abiotic?, Am I a decomposer? etc. Be sure to reinforce the difference between a yes and no questions vs. open-ended questions. Once a student has figured out their identity have them wear their nametag proudly across their chest. They may now provide one hint to anyone who has not figured out their identity, so long as the hint is not a dead giveaway. revised, Sept. 07 4

5 Once all students have accomplished this or are close to accomplishment gather them in a circle bearing their nametags across their front. Explain that since they have completed learning all this information about their world you are now going to initiate them into an ecosystem and demonstrate just how connected each of them is to one another. Beginning with the sun verbally explain each connection that exists amongst one another and have students hold a string as it is passed to one another until all students are included in this web of life. Have a specific individual pull upon the string and observe who is affected by the tug. Express this is the reality of the world and its natural systems. However they are only representatives of the A s (Abiotic) and B s (Biotic) and that C has not gotten involved. What in an ecosystem could the C represent? C=culture. Lead students to understand that it is humans that have an effect on an ecosystem. Provide examples such as litter, pollution, development, etc. These cultural effects will sever one of the ties. When there is a weakness in the web there is a tendency for the strands to break. The same is true of this web. So anyone that feels a weakness in his or her line is to drop it. Allow this to continue until the entire web is lost. Ask if students feel this is a realistic representation, (the answer should by YES!). Culture can take away the balance that the abiotic and biotic have. Ask if they know of ways to stop or reduce this cultural influence. Let them share, but include in the discussion reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. These should be more familiar to them and easy to remember. Close by asking if they felt they learned new information and if they will make an effort to take better care of the Earth. Encourage them to share what they have learned and how they will use this information. revised, Sept. 07 5

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