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The Ecology Box covers ecosystems, food webs, habitats, and water/soil quality monitoring. Students will investigate water and soil quality, study habitats ranging from a drop of pond water to a rotten log, and learn about population change through various case studies. At the core of this unit is a long term project where students build mini-ecosystems with water collected from a local creek, soil from the schoolyard, and seeds. Their ecosystem will be monitored over one month as the plants grow and the water quality changes (measured by pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and water volume). In the second month, students will design their own experiments with their mini-ecosystems. Student teams will model various human environmental impacts (pollution, acid rain, global warming, etc.) and observe the effects on the plants, soil, and water in their mini-ecosystem.
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 13:41.
Students discover what ecosystems are by exploring the relationships between him/herself, other living things, and the student's environment. Students create and study miniature ecosystems by building a terraqua column - a 2 story soda bottle tower with soil and plants on the top and a water source on the bottom. The terraqua columns will be used throughout the ecology unit for practice with water and soil quality monitoring and with making and recording observations. Later in the unit students can conduct independent investigations with their terraqua columns.
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 13:51.
30 min ecosystem lesson and discussion
20 min build terraqua column frame
20 min add soil, water, and seeds
* I recommend building the terraqua column frame on one day then adding the soil, water, and seeds the following day.
For each group:
- 1 clear 2 Liter soda bottles
- 1 foot wick (1-2 cm wide strip of old cotton towel)
For 2-3 groups to share:
- Awl OR electric drill with 3/8 inch bit
- Hole punch
- Box cutter
- Sharpie marker
For whole class to share:
- Soil, either store-bought potting soil or soil from outside
- Hand trowel
- 1 package radish seeds OR Wisconsin Fast Plant seeds
- Water, either tap water or pond/creek water
- Graduated cylinder
- Rubbing alcohol (for erasing sharpie marker lines)
- Clear tape
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 14:03.
Understanding ecosystems is the basis for all of the study of ecology. Students are introduced to the idea of an ecosystem by examining his or her interactions with other living things and the environment. The terraqua column that students build becomes the foundation for the following weeks of exploration of water, soil, living things, and the environment.
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 14:18.
- Build your own terraqua column as an example to show the students.
- You may want to pre-drill the holes in the bottle caps.
- Place bottles and wicks in an easily accessible place in the classroom.
- Create terraqua column building kits with the awl or electric drill, hole punch, box cutter, scissors, and sharpie markers for a few groups of students to share.
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 14:20.
Ecosystem lesson and discussion
- On a blank sheet of paper, ask each student to draw a small stick figure in the middle of the page to represent him/herself.
- Instruct students to write down as many living (or formerly living) things that you interact with in your daily life in the space around the stick figure. Connect each thing to the stick figure with a line. You may want to start an example on the board for students to build from. Think about family, friends, teachers, other people, pets, food, plants, garbage, etc. Give students at least 5 minutes to create a diagram.
- Around the diagram, draw or describe the environment in which these interactions take place. You may want to add to the example on the board. Think about home, school, the outdoors, the city, the neighborhood, etc.
- Spend 10-15 minutes discussing and sharing the diagrams that students created. Focus on the interactions between a student and the other organisms and on the interaction between a student and his/her environment. You may want to introduce the term "organism" as a living thing. Some questions to encourage discussion:
- How many interactions did you come up with? Are there more?
- What interactions did everyone have in common?
- What interactions did only some people have?
- What kind of interactions do you have with living things? With non-living things?
- Can we group interactions together into categories?
- Tell students that their diagrams illustrate their personal ecosystem. Encourage students to help come up with a definition of an ecosystem. Ecosystem - a group of organisms that interact among themselves and with the environment in which they live
- Describe other ecosystems (a forest, a meadow, a mountain) and the interactions that occur between organisms and between organisms and their environment. Consider both small (a fish tank) and large (planet Earth) ecosystems.
- Conclude the discussion with the question: Are we all part of the same ecosystem? Is someone in Asia part of our ecosystem?
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 14:21.
Create an ecosystem diagram for an animal of your choice. Be sure to include interactions between your animal and other organisms AND between your animal and its environment.
- Conduct soil analysis on the planter part of the terraqua column. See Soil Analysis lesson.
- Conduct water quality assessment on the reservoir part of the terraqua column. See Water Quality lesson.
- Conduct an independent investigation using terraqua columns. See Terraqua Column Experiment lesson.
- Study the life cycle of plants from seed to germination to maturity and flowering to the production of new seeds. Use Wisconsin Fast Plants as part of the Raising Plants lesson.
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 14:27.
Bottle Biology contains everything you wanted to know about terraqua columns.
The Learner website has wonderful pictures of terraqua columns in progress as well as many extensions to try.
Ecology (Life Sciences)
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 14:29.
The guiding mission behind MyScienceBox is that teachers should have free access to the best hands-on, classroom tested, science lessons. At MyScienceBox you will curriculum units that I have developed and tested in my own middle school classroom as well as teaching boxes and individual lessons created by other teachers. A flyer describing MyScienceBox in more detail can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 16:35.
Go to the summary page for the lesson plan (the one with the summary, objectives and vocabulary). At the bottom of the page, click on "printer-friendly version". Then print from your web browser.
Submitted by irene on Thu, 2005-07-14 16:36.