Studying a Local Ecosystem Worksheet by npf51370

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									                                       UNIT: The System

Summary: In this unit, students will be able to identify and understand the different types
of roles that animals, plants, and decomposers play in an ecosystem. The students will
conduct investigations to build an understanding of the interdependence of plants and
animals within many ecosystems. The investigations will include describing and
comparing common ecosystems, analyzing the functions of organisms within the
population of the ecosystem, determining the interactions of organisms within an
ecosystem, and evaluating ways that humans affect ecosystems. The unit involves an in-
depth study of various ecosystems: first, the food chain (as reflected in a dissection of
owl “pellets”); the process of biodegrading in composting and landfills; and changes over
time in a terrarium with plants, crickets, earthworms, and chameleons.

Stage 1:

LA Benchmarks
LS-E-C1 examining the habitats of plants and animals and determining how basic
needs are met within each habitat;
LS-E-C2 describing how the features of some plants and animals enable them to live
in specific habitats;
LS-E-C3 observing animals and plants and describing interaction or interdependence;

LS-M-C1 constructing and using classification systems based on the structure of
LS-M-C2 modeling and interpreting food chains and food webs;
LS-M-C3 investigating major ecosystems and recognizing physical properties and
organisms within each;
LS-M-C4 explaining the interaction and interdependence of nonliving and living
components within ecosystems;

Students will understand that:

        Plants and animals depend on each other for survival, but competition among
         species and individuals, and via predators and prey, also play an important role in
         keeping an ecosystem stable.
        A healthy ecosystem is like a well-directed play. Each organism has its place
         within the 'drama' and when an organism is not doing its part, the other organisms
         are affected.
      Organisms in ecosystems exchange energy and nutrients among themselves and
       with the environment.
      What an animal eats provides us with valuable information relevant to other
       issues such as urban planning, extinction, habitat, pollution. Natural artifacts such
       as owl pellets tell a significant story about the organism and ecosystem that
       created it

Essential Questions

      What’s new and what’s old in any environment? What changes and what stays
       the same? How and to what extent does the old become new?
      How stable or fragile is any ecosystem? How much do we hurt our environment
       without realizing it? How much do we hurt the environment by trying to help it?
       Can we do anything to make a fragile system more stable? Should we?
      How important is it for humans to know what other organisms eat? What can be
       inferred about an ecosystem from a natural artifact (e. g. owl pellet) and patterns
       of eating?
      Under what conditions, if any, can every organism thrive in an ecosystem? How
       much competition is a good thing, ecologically speaking? How competitive
       should humans be to survive? How significant for the environment would it be if
       we destroyed the entire population of one annoying species – for example,
       mosquitoes or flies? Is species extinction always a danger, ecologically speaking?

Knowledge & Skills
  Students will know that:
   ecology is the study of the interactions between organisms and their environment
   a food chain is a series of organisms linked together in the order in which they
     feed on each other.
   Nutrients continually cycle, keeping systems in balance by ensuring fresh supplies
     of needed nutrients.
   Key terms: biotic, abiotic, population, community, ecosystem, producer,
     consumer, herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, scavenger, decomposer, food chain,
     food web, energy pyramid, habitat, niche
   An energy pyramid explains the relationships in a food chain and the likely
     relative size of the related populations
   a natural artifact is something an organism left in a specific place (e.g., an owl
     pellet), or the consequence of an organism being / doing something in a specific
     place (e.g., a deer track)
   predators can be the prey of other animals; prey can be predators of other animals

   Students will be able to:
    make accurate observations of micro-environments
    dissect an owl pellet, construct and identify a skeleton from the bones dissected
      from an owl pellet and identify the animal(s), distinguish (classify, compare and
       contrast) bones between different prey of barn owls (such as hip bone, skull), and
       deduce information about an owl’s diet
      justify their conclusions using factual information
      Create food webs, and energy pyramids.
      describe the functions of consumers, producers, and decomposers in an
      explain the difference between a food chain and a food web, and how energy
       flows through a food web.

                            Stage 2: Assessment Evidence

Performance Task(s)

Task: What do owls eat? You have found a mysterious natural object while walking in
fields near a barn. What is it? And what is the significance of its contents?

       How do owls eat? – Pellet Display Rubric

       Level 1: Excellent
       Complete, neat, on time, skeleton accurately formed and neatly glued, labels
       complete and accurate, identified accurately
       Level 2: Satisfactory
       incomplete or somewhat messy, most bones correctly placed and neatly glued,
       labels nearly complete but with errors, identified but inaccurate.
       Level 3: Needs improvement
       incomplete and messy, bones misplaced and poorly glues, labels incomplete and
       incorrect, animal not identified

   Resources: Materials:
       Plastic containers
       egg cartons
       owl pellet
       tweezers
       paper towels
       sandwich bags
       construction paper
       glue
       instruction sheets
       pen

   Have students respond to the following, either in writing or in a class
       Analyze the bone structure of the skeleton, and try to identify the small
           mammal that was eaten by the owl to survive.
          List all food possibly eaten by that small mammal for energy.
          Where does the energy in the food come from?
          What happens to the energy when the owl dies?

TASK: From Whoooo’s point of view?: Have half the class write a short story(and draw
pictures to accompany it), through the eyes of an owl; have the other half write a story,
with pictures, through the eyes of a mouse…

TASK: The Energy Flow in an Ecosystem: As an ecologist, you have been asked to
design a poster for use in 3rd-grade classrooms that explains the energy flow from the sun,
to producer, to first level consumer, to second level consumer and to decomposer. You
may include more higher level consumers if you'd like.

       1. Choose an ecosystem that is local to our area and research the organisms that
       exist in that system.
       2. Draw the energy pyramid showing the examples of organisms that you have
       3. Use words on your diagram that will explain to the reader how the energy is
       moving in your pyramid.
       4. Include a small inset on your poster that would show what would happen to
       your energy flow if a negative action would happen to one of your organisms. Use
       words to explain this action.

       Energy Pyramid Poster Rubric
       Level 1: Masterful
       The pyramid illustrates the sun as the beginning energy source and then continues to producers
       and so forth. The organisms pictured co-exist with the other organisms shown within the
       ecosystem listed on the title. The illustration explains the concept of more producers needed for
       next level consumers to exist, and so forth up the pyramid. The inset explains a plausible action
       that would disturb the energy flow negatively. The poster is easily understood with little oral
       explanation needed. The oral explanation given goes beyond the poster to give more depth to the
       understanding illustrated.
       Level 2: Skilled
       The pyramid illustrates the sun as the beginning energy source and then continues to producers.
       The organisms pictured co-exist with the other organisms shown within the ecosystem listed on
       the title. The illustration explains the concept of more producers needed for next level consumers
       to exist, and so forth up the pyramid. The inset explains an action that would disturb the energy
       flow negatively. The poster can be understood with oral explanation from the student.
       Level 3: Apprentice
       The pyramid illustrates the sun as the beginning energy source and then continues to producers.
       The organisms pictured may not co-exist with each other in the ecosystem listed. The illustration
       somewhat explains the concept of more producers needed for next level consumers to exist, and so
       forth up the pyramid. The inset explains an action that would disturb the energy flow negatively.
       The poster can't be understood without an oral explanation from the student.
       Level 4: Novice
       The pyramid is missing one or more components of the energy pyramid, such as the sun,
       producers, consumers, decomposers. The poster doesn't illustrate the relationship of energy flow
       between organisms. The student has difficulty giving an oral explanation to the teacher.
TASK: terrarium advice. Because of your knowledge of ecosystems, you have
been asked by a pet store owner to devise a brochure for kids your age on how
to maintain a terrarium so that all the organisms thrive the best they can in it.
Using your terrarium, you will need to propose some experiments involving
various life forms, temperature, and water to see what conditions are best.

TASK: Animals surviving humans – the commercial
Student Directions:
Your task will be to create a commercial to help any animal evade its human predator and
avoid extinction. To do this you must do the following:
1. Research survival techniques and answer the following questions. What are the
techniques animals use to survive in sometimes hostile environments created by humans?
How do the techniques work?
3. Create a commercial in which you encourage other animals to try your survival
techniques. Why are yours the best? Why should everyone try them? Create a script to
be used in the commercial.
4. You may act out the benefits, interview one another, compare it to another survival
technique, point out cool features, or any other idea you might have.
5. Once you have completed the draft of the ad and rehearsed it, go back and evaluate
what you wrote. Will the audience understand what your techniques for survival are?
Will they be convinced to try them? Will they know why it is good for them to use your
6. After rehearsing for commercials, present them for the class and videotape them.

OE     Other Evidence:


1. Have students write a short response to the following scenario:

 A farmer is trying to control the number of mice in his barn by using pesticide.
He put four containers of pesticide in the corners of his barn. He waited one
month and did not notice a huge difference in the number of mice running around
in his barn. He gathered up the empty containers and disposed of them using a
large black plastic bag, which he tossed in the garbage pile behind the barn. He
decided to purchase two barn cats from the local pet rescue. His land borders on
a local park, which is protected by law as a wildlife refuge. How might the barn
owls in this ecosystem be effected over the next three months by the farmers
attempt to solve his problem?

2. Based on the normal diet of a barn owl, students and teacher calculate how many
rodents the average barn owl eats in a year. With this information they calculate how
many rodents would survive without that owl. They contemplate this in a group
discussion, then write in their log: “What are the implications on a bigger scale?”
1. Trace a favorite food in a food web, after doing an informal web for two days on what
you eat (See page B59 in the textbook)

2. Prompt: Hoo eats who? A food web for owls, mice, and humans

3. Illustrate the scene you imagine when the predator and prey encountered each other.

4. Create a folk tale about what would happen if owls stopped eating mice.
        Where does sushi come from?

                              Stage 3: Learning Activities

Print Materials: The chief textbook resource for this unit is UNIT B in Science: Life
Sciences, from the Harcourt science series (5th grade),- online field guides
Field Detectives, an AIMS publication
Windows on Science, laser disk program, Life Sciences
Bill Nye Videos, "Biodiversity", "Food Web",
Brain Pop videos on Ecosystem, Food Chains, Decomposers,1607,7-155-13481_13487_13490-33350--,00.html
         unit plan with extensive lessons from the Michigan Dept. of Education a Thinkquest unit on ecosystems ProTeacher units on ecosystem, Click on
ExploraPond for a page with dozens of links
         Lessons from LessonplanSearch on ecosystems a
National Geographic lesson on estuaries        lessons
on rivers A link to a
teacher’s guide with many ecology lessons

Important Note: One month prior to the unit starting, students in small groups should
build a few terraria, across which a few variables have been altered, such as
temperature, light, and water.

Overview of the unit:

Part 1 involves studying a micro-ecosystem – a 1 meter by 1-meter plot of land
for each student. (See Lesson 1, p. B26-27). Alternatively, each student can study
one tree to see how it provides shelter for many different organisms. A 10-minute
segment from Lion King, where the ecosystem is portrayed and described by
father to son, would be helpful here for an overview of the idea of ecosystem.

Part 2 of the unit will involve solving the mystery of what owls eat, and what the
pellets reveal to us about the food chain and energy pyramid. Background
Reading: Lesson 2 (pp. B32 – B39 in the textbook). Using commercial owl
pellets, students try to identify the type of rodent eaten by the owl. (Students are
helped to infer that they are recycled in the soil). Students create the first of many
food chains. The focus here should also be on the inherent competition for
resources in nature (see Textbook, pp. B42 – B47).

Part 3 of the unit should involve a study of other food chains and systems,
preferably one involving Louisiana wetlands, leading to a compare and contrast
activity. A useful initial activity might be the Pond ecosystem described in the
Teacher’s Edition of the textbook, p. B38. and the Water Ecosystems Lesson on
pp. B74ff. This can be supported by the changing pond activity on pp. B90-91.
and the fertilizer in water activity on pp. B96-97.

the owl pellet activity:

    Ask the following questions:
          o Have you ever been camping at night?
          o What sounds did you hear?
          o Which were the scariest?
          o What do you know about owls?
          o What species of owls live in our area? What species live in North
 These questions should lead to a lively discussion which will allow you to
   find out what students already know about owls. After going over the
   questions, brainstorm a list of possible food sources for an owl that might
   live in a local ecosystem.

The mysterious object (the owl pellet):

Students are presented with an owl pellet without being told what it is. “Hmmm,
what is THIS? I received it from some scientists.” They are asked to imagine what it
could be and record their predictions individually. Students then share their
predictions with the group. Each offers a justification as to why she or he made that
prediction and what evidence she or he used to make it. (The teacher will use this to
gather student prior knowledge.)

Students are told in general terms where this artifact came from (farmers’ fields and
barns). The teacher leads a class discussion on how a scientist might go about
learning more about this artifact.

In groups of two, students dissect their owl pellet. They classify the items into
categories they determine as helpful.

   1. Instruct students to carefully unwrap the pellet.
   2. Students should carefully loosen the bones from the fur using tweezers/toothpicks.
   3. Have students sort the bones into sections of egg cartons for safe storage and future
   identification. Make sure students label the top of the egg carton with the their names and
   period. (Sorting may take 2-3 class periods, gluing and identification of bones 2-3
   4. Students should refer to the various anatomy charts to arrange the bones on a large
   5. Students should glue the bones in place and label them.
   6. Students may "trade" bones with other students to complete their skeleton.
   7. Any bones that may be missing can be drawn in using a fine tip black marker.
   8. Students should turn in the completed skeleton for evaluation. Refer to the essential
   questions to prepare them for the assessment.

 Students share what they think the natural artifact is. They tell the group what made
 them come to that conclusion. Students are told that the natural artifact is an owl
 Students write in their science notebooks, where they think owl pellets come from
 and why. They share their ideas.
 Students are prompted to consider how they could find out what animal the owl ate.

 Other ideas: Visit a learning center with the non fiction books "All about Owls",
 "Getting to Know Nature's Children-Owls", "Animals at Night" and "Owls: Owl
 Magic for Kids" so they can read the non-fiction books at their leisure and use them
 for the research report
    Create a K-W-L chart for owls to uncover misconceptions and allow for students to
    have input on what they will learn

    In cooperative learning groups, complete barn owl diets worksheet

Internet Resources:           owl study, with emphasis on
pellets, for middle level education.

     See Birds of Prey, a complementary Science NetLinks lesson that targets Benchmark 5D
     Interdependence of Life 6-8 #2, and extends the ideas in this lesson.

      You can also extend the ideas in this lesson with the Science NetLinks lesson called
     Burrowing Owls. Though targeted to high school students, this lesson includes suggestions
     that can make it appropriate for use with students at the 6-8 level. site with FAQs on
owl pellets and their dissection     A lab procedure for
an on-line course from Pima Community College.      A virtual dissection         an extensive look at owls and the
pellets. They also have a large number of online video clips at: A listing of web sites on owls             A close look at the digestive
process, from the owlpages site Has a brief video of kids doing the
m        close-up photos of the dissection and results
Various sites for purchasing pellets and equipment: A full set of sites and resources
   from the Franklin Institute online Information on terrarium building$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/webdoc1390?opendocument
        terrarium information from a Canadian government agency       A history of terrariums Guide to making terrarium from a
professional terrarium maker        Making a terrarium guide
from the North Dakota Extension Service           Making a
connected terrarium and aquarium, from the National Science Resources Center (useful
overview of a highly-regarded commercial kit series)

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