Rotten Log Lab - Background

Teacher Background
I used this activity as a lab-based test that the kids didn’t actually think was a test. It was a super way for them to reveal the holes in their understanding before the written test. Some of the major concepts that can be assessed in this lab include differentiating between a community and an ecosystem, creating food webs, identifying interactions between organisms and between organisms and their environment, predicting the effects of human impact on populations, and assessing ecosystem sustainability.

In addition, I was able to show them an amazing symbiotic relationship between termites and protozoa. Termites eat wood but cannot completely digest the wood on their own. Many varieties of protozoa, single celled animals with amazingly varied modes of locomotion, live in the termites hindgut and help digest the cellulose in the wood. They attach themselves to the inner wall of the termite’s gut to keep from being excreted with undigested wood particles. In return for their invaluable services, the protozoa get a nice, safe home and a constant supply of food.

Student Prerequisites
Knowledge of food webs, ecosystems, organism-environment interdependence, and sustainability.