Miss Molly, 4th Grade
What comes to mind when you think of ecosystems? Most people think of rainforests, deserts, jungles, and coral reefs. A lot of students don’t realize that you can have an ecosystem in your own backyard. At the beginning of our life science unit, students were taught that ecosystems are all around us and humans are a part of those ecosystems.
The way we started this unit was showing the students a series of pictures of various ecosystems. I ended the slideshow with a picture of a backyard. The purpose was to show students that ecosystems are closer than they think.
After the brief description of what an ecosystem is, we got deeper into the topic. We discussed abiotic factors, biotic factors, producers, consumers, organisms, populations, and food webs. We read about it, wrote paragraphs, watched informational videos, and drew what we learned.
Students often think about the ecosystem hierarchy as a chain, but it’s really a web. For example, snakes aren’t the only organisms that eat mice. There are owls, eagles, and wild cats that consume them as well. This creates a type of web. When provided with pictures of animals and a challenge to create a food web, students struggled with the mouse. They couldn’t figure out what it ate. I had a picture of grass and I thought they would easily connect the dots. However, students were stumped because they couldn’t find a picture of cheese. I got students thinking about wild mice and how cheese is made. We laughed about it once they made the connection.
Once we had finished discussing the unit, we began our projects. The students were given creative liberty of what type of ecosystem they wanted to create. Most students leaned towards creating a rainforest, while others created deserts, marshlands, oceans, and tundras. Students were very excited about the animals that lived in each ecosystem. It was nice to see the students really engage with the topic. They researched the ecosystem and discovered the different elements that make their ecosystem special. I noticed that by having them create the ecosystem they ended up learning more about not only their ecosystem, but how ecosystems in general function. Overall, it was a project they very much enjoyed and it was wonderful to see the outcome