In this unit, we will be learning about ecosystems – communities of organisms interacting with their environments. We will have the opportunity to compare features of different types of ecosystems and to study how energy from the sun transfers through ecosystems through producers, consumers, and decomposers.
Over the course of this unit, we will also be completing an ecosystem group project. This will allow you and your group members to become an experts on one of the types of ecosystems that we study and share your knowledge of it with the class. As we go through this unit, some class periods will be designated as project work days, allowing most of your work on your project to be completed with your group in class. Complete project requirements, web quest links, and group evaluation forms can be found in the handouts and resources section for this unit.
Lesson 1: Ecosystems and Biomes In lesson 1, we define an ecosystem is a community of organisms interacting with their environment. When we talk about organisms, we are referring to living things. These living things can range from tiny single-celled organisms like bacteria to larger, multi-celled organisms like plants and animals. The environment includes all of the non-living things in an area. Living organisms need environmental factors such as air, water, sunlight, and soil in order to be able to survive. All of these factors can give an ecosystem its own individual and unique characteristics. A ecosystem can be any size from a large forest or body of water to a small tidal pool along a rocky coast. Regardless of size, an individual ecosystem will have similar organisms and environmental factors throughout. Biomes are large areas of earth with similarities in living organisms (also called biotic factors) and environmental (or abiotic) factors. All of our planet’s ecosystems can be classified as a part of one of seven biomes: arctic tundra, coniferous forest, deciduous forest, desert, rainforest, grassland, or aquatic. These biomes will be introduced in this lesson, but we will be studying each in detail later in this unit. Download PDF Notes
Lesson 2: Terrestrial Ecosystems In lesson 2, we will discuss how all ecosystems and biomes fall under two broad classifications – terrestrial and aquatic. Terrestrial ecosystems are simply land ecosystems. Within this broad category are a wide range of biomes and ecosystems, ranging from the snow-covered arctic tundra to the tropical rainforests. In this lesson, we will examine the six major terrestrial biomes. These include the arctic tundra, coniferous forest, desert, grasslands, deciduous forest, and rainforest. While these major classifications encompass most of Earth’s land, many distinct individual ecosystems exist within these biomes. We will explore many of the variations in the different types of ecosystems that make up the six terrestrial biomes. Download PDF Notes
Lesson 3: Aquatic Ecosystems In lesson 3, we will examine the aquatic biome. Simply put, aquatic ecosystems are water ecosystems. Nearly three fourths of Earth’s surface is covered with water that all living things on our planet rely on in some way for survival. In this lesson, we will look at several specific types of aquatic ecosystems and compare their biotic and abiotic factors. All aquatic ecosystems can be classified as either freshwater or marine. Freshwater ecosystems include lakes, ponds, rivers, swamps, springs, wetlands, and bogs. Marine ecosystems include coral reefs, costal waters, open oceans, continental shelves, polar oceans, and thermal vent communities. We will also examine ecosystems such as estuaries and lagoons which have a brackish mix of fresh and salt water. Download PDF Notes
Lesson 4: Energy Flow in Ecosystems Each ecosystem has a limited amount of energy that can be passed from one organism to another. The sun provides light energy that plants use to produce food through a process known as photosynthesis. Some organisms can get energy from eating these plants, while other organisms get energy by eating other animals. The organisms in an ecosystem that are able to make their own food from the sun’s energy are called producers. Consumers get energy either from eating producers or from eating other consumers. Decomposers also play a key role in the flow of energy, breaking down waste and dead organisms and transferring energy back to the environment. Through this cycle of energy flow, all organisms in an ecosystem are able to get what they need to grow; while they are also, whether directly or indirectly, dependent on the other biotic and abiotic factors of their ecosystem. Download PDF Notes
Lesson 5: Food Chains and Food Webs In lesson 5, we conclude unit 1 by exploring how all organisms within an ecosystem depend on one another. A food chain is a diagram that can be used to show a single path that energy can take through an ecosystem. Food webs, however, are much more complex diagrams showing the relationship between all organisms in an ecosystem. We will be comparing these two types of diagrams and the information that we can learn from them. Food chains and food webs help show interdependence between organisms. They also help us understand the impact of extinctions and overpopulations of individual species. In this lesson, we will also create a food web consisting of species that we are able to observe in our own ecosystem. Download PDF Notes
Resources and Other Documentation
Group Presentation: Biomes For this project the class will be divided into seven groups. Each group will prepare a presentation about one of Earth’s major biomes – tundra, coniferous forest, deciduous forest, grassland, desert, rainforest, or aquatic. Each group will present important information about their biome, as well as a video that they create related to their topic. Each group member will be responsible for researching their topic, preparing presentation materials, and presenting their biome to the class. We will have several designated project work days during our science block as we go through this unit to allow class me to get the majority of the work for the projects completed. The biome presentations will take place at the conclusion of our Ecosystem unit.
Group Presentation: Presentation Evaluation Form While portions of group presentation grades will be based on my assessment of each group’s presentation and students’ individual work on the projects, a part of the grade will come from classmates’ evaluations. Each student will complete an evaluation form for each presentation except for their own group’s. Students will evaluate their classmates’ presentations based on the quality of information presented, visual aides and demonstrations, presentation skills, and group balance. The evaluation should also include something learned from the presentation and one question that you still have about the topic. When evaluating others’ work, it is important to remember to be fair and objective in your scores and assessments.
Group Presentation: Peer Evaluation Form An important part of any group project is the ability of each group member to be able to work together, share responsibilities, and contribute to the success of the group’s efforts. At the conclusion of the group project, each student will complete a peer evaluation form to assess each group member’s contributions. Each group member will be scored based on their research, attitude, reliability, teamwork, and overall contribution to the group. It is also important to consider specific contributions and areas for improvement for each group member. In addition to evaluating their group members, students will also assess their own group work. Remember that it important to remain objective when evaluating your group members’ work on your project.
Unit 1 Guided Notes The guided notes for each unit provide students with a printable copy of notes summarizing the content from each class. Blanks are inserted into the notes where key facts or content should appear. As information is covered during class, students should write missing content into the blanks to complete the guided notes. These guided notes may also be used as a review tool for unit tests. Students may print a copy of the guided notes and fill in the missing content. This can be checked using the complete PDF notes for each lesson.