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Standards Addressed

MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

MS-LS2-3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.

LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

LS2.B: Cycle of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems


MS-LS1-7 Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support
growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism.

Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of
energy into and out of organisms.

LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

NH Standards

S:SPS2:6:2.1 Recognize that thinking about things as systems means looking for how every part relates to others

S:SPS2:6:2.3 Estimate or predict the effect that making a change in one part of the system will have on other parts, and on the
system as a whole.
S:ESS1:8:7.1 Describe how water flows into and through a watershed, falling on the land, collecting in rivers and lakes, soil, and
porous layers of rock, until much of it flows back into the ocean.

S:ESS2:8:2.1 Describe the Sun as the principle energy source for phenomena on the Earths surface

S:LS2:6:2.1 Describe how energy is transferred in an ecosystem through food webs; and explain the roles and relationships
between producers, consumers and decomposers.

S:LS2:6:2.2 Recognize that one of the most general distinctions among organisms is between plants, which use sunlight to make
their own food, and animals, which consume energy-rich foods.

S:LS2:6:2.3 Describe the process of photosynthesis and explain that plants can use the food they make immediately or store it for
later use.

S:LS2:6:2.4 Recognize that energy, in the form of heat, is usually a byproduct when one form of energy is converted to another,
such as when living organisms transform stored energy to motion

S:LS2:6:3.2 Using food webs, identify and describe the ways in which organisms interact and depend on one another in an

S:LS2:6:3.3 Explain how insects and various other organisms depend on dead plant and animal matter for food; and describe how
this process contributes to the system.

S:LS2:8:3.1 Identify autotrophs as producers who may use photosynthesis, and describe this as the basis of the food web.

S:LS2:8:3.2 Explain the process of respiration and differentiate between it and photosynthesis.

S:LS2:8:3.3 Know that all organisms, including humans, are part of, and depend on, two main interconnected global food webs: one
which includes microscopic ocean plants, and the other which includes land plants.

S:LS2:8:3.4 Describe how matter is recycled within ecosystems and explain that the total amount of matter remains the same,
though its form and location change.

S:LS3:8:1.1 Describe the type of impact certain environmental changes, including deforestation, invasive species, increased erosion, and
pollution containing toxic substances, could have on local environments.

Imagine you are outside. You might be exploring the woods, swimming in the ocean, hanging out in your friends back yard, or going on a trip to hike in
the mountains. What kinds of living things are around you? Grass? Insects? Trees? Birds? Fish? Is it sunny? Windy? Rainy? Snowing?
Have you ever thought of the place you pictured as a living system that is interconnected? Your friends backyard, the mountains, the ocean, and the
woods are only a few examples of many places on Earth called ecosystems- a place where organisms interact with each other and their physical
environment. Ecosystems can be thought of on a large scale or small scale, they can be on land or in water, and they include living things and non-living
things interacting together.
Now imagine an unfamiliar forest to most of you. One that contains all kinds of strange animals and trees, imagine walking down the path trees so tall
they look like they reach the sky. Everything is so green, flowers are blooming everywhere even on trunks of trees! Colorful birds fly around, monkeys
shake the tops of trees, and there are ants everywhere! You look up ahead and you see a
strange tree, this tree seems to have holes in it, its twisted and crooked and it looks like a
bunch of roots just came down to earth to form a tree.
This tree has a secret, the secret is that it didnt grow from the ground up like the rest of
the trees; in fact it needed a lot of help from many different things in this forest. You see,
this tree started after a monkey ate a snack and couldnt digest a seed. So after that
monkey ate she left behind a little seed. That seed needed the nutrients the monkey left
behind in her scat to begin to grow. And this monkey didnt go all the way to the ground
to use the bathroom; she just went right on top of another tree.
The tree that looks funny actually grew around another tree and sent its roots down to the
soil to get things like nutrients and water, but it continued to grow needing more and
more sunlight. Eventually the tree it is growing on has no access to sunlight and begins to
decay. The tree starts using the nutrients from that dead tree to keep on growing.
Finally the tree, the one right in front of us is ready to fruit; the fruits she makes are figs.
The tree needs to be pollinated to create another tree. In exchange the insect pollinator of
this tree lays her eggs inside the fruit. In return fruit keep her babies protected and provide
nutrients for them to grow.
Everything in our world is connected, and this unit we are about to enter into is going to
give you opportunities to experience and understand how some of these connections are important to each and every one of us.

What has to happen to sustain non-human life in a completely sealed container, for
as many generations as possible?
NGSS Standards




What are Ecosystems?

relationships in

What do you need to

sustain the life of a
spider in a sealed
container for

Whos part of an
How do they all relate?

What do living things

Introduce Challenge
Board and Biosphere
Start Biosphere

Examples of types of
Introduce biomes as a
major ecosystem.
Activity: Sit Spot
Take a Stand:
Is your biosphere an

Biotic and Abiotic factors

and relationships
Activity: Whos
interacting with
Search your biosphere,
what abiotic and biotic
factors can you find?

What powers an
Mini-Lecture: From
Sunshine to Sugar
Review Producers
Activity: Concept
Cartoon. Who do you
agree with?
What role do producers
play in your biosphere?

Challenge Board Work

Who eats whom?

Describe cycling of
matter and flow of
energy among living
and non-living parts
of ecosystem

Activity: Create a
perfect ecosystem
Review consumers
Food chains
Introduce Food webs

How does energy

move through an
Activity: Energy flow
Build on knowledge of
yesterdays energy flow

There are other

relationships in
Introduce competition,
mutualism, niches

What does the food

web in your biosphere
look like?

How do nutrients
contribute to flow of

Challenge Board Work

Modify Biosphere

Review Decomposers
Introduce nutrient

Introduce Laws of
Explain based on
evidence the role of
photosynthesis in
cycling of matter

Where do dead things


Activity: Compost in
What kinds of
decomposers are
present in your

How is your biosphere

different then the Earth?

Construct a complete
trophic level using your
biosphere as the
Ecosystem dynamics,
functioning, and

Forest Field Trip

Activity: Treasure

How does nature


What happened here?

Cycles of Matter
Water, CO2, Nitrogen

Natural Changes
Keystone Species

Build on Decomposer


In what ways does your

biosphere demonstrate
one or more of these

Can you tell if an

ecosystem is healthy?
Biodiversity and the
health of ecosystem
Pond Field trip

Activity: Solve an
ecosystem mystery

Activity: Are you a

How much biodiversity is
in your biosphere?

Challenge Board Work

Modify Biosphere

Biodiversity and

How might you

change your
biosphere after
watching an ecologist
build one?

How do humans
change ecosystems?
Activity: Design an
ecosystem for the
school yard
What do you think would
happen inside your
biosphere if a natural
or man-made change

Challenge Board Work


Review & Biosphere
Work Day
Write-up requirements

Tying it all together


Ecosystems Challenge Board

You need to earn at least 15 points

1. Interview someone who

uses ecosystems in their
job (10 points)

2. Research an ecosystem
you are excited about and
write a 2-3 page paper
about what youve
learned (10 points)

4. Create a video, song,

skit or other artistic
representation of the
components and
dynamics of an
ecosystem (10 points)

6. Write a fictional story

from the point of view
of something within an
ecosystem (5 points)

3. Explore and observe an

ecosystem of your choice,
create a poster
presentation about
ecosystem you explored (5

5. Choose your own

ecosystem project
Points depend on level of

7. Complete a 2 page
reflection paper on a
book or 2 news articles
with references to course
material (10 points)

8. Write a 2 page reflection

of your experience helping
to clean up an ecosystem
and why it was important
(5 points)

Challenge Board Details: You need to earn at least 15 points. Feel free to meet with me to discuss ideas, ask for clarification
or guidance.
1. Interview someone who uses ecosystems in their job. 10 points. There are many people who need to understand ecosystems to do
their job. Conduct an in-depth interview with an adult about how they use their understanding of ecosystems in their job. This person
could be a farmer, a landscaper, director of a nature center, a researcher, a fisherman, someone who works in resource management,
or with the state fish and wildlife department. Create at least 10 questions before the interview; you may want to check in with me
before the interview. The interview can be conducted in a variety of ways; in person, over the phone, via e-mail, or Skype. Your
project should be a paper that includes the answers to your questions, an introduction to the person you interviewed, as well as your
own reflections about this project and how it enhanced your learning about ecosystems.
2. Research an ecosystem you are excited about and write a 2-3 page paper about what youve learned. 10 points. Choose an
ecosystem or biome that you are excited to learn more about. Be sure to answer these questions: What is the climate like? What
kinds of plants, animals, and decomposers live there? What are some of the interactions between the trophic levels? Where is this
ecosystem or biome located? How can the ecosystem or biome be defined? What are some important abiotic factors present in this
ecosystem or biome? The paper should be 2-3 pages long and include at least 3 sources. If you would like to add pictures please add
them to the end of the paper.
3. Explore and observe an ecosystem of your choice, create a poster presentation about ecosystem you explored. 5 points.
Choose a site to explore and observe for at least 1 hour. The site can be in your backyard, the forest, a pond, or a garden. If you have
a site in mind but arent sure if it qualifies as an ecosystem please ask me about it before you do your observation and exploration.
Your poster should contain visuals from your observation, along with brief descriptions of what the visuals represent. The visuals
can be photos or sketches that you did while visiting the site. Be sure to include the interactions you observed.
4. Create a video, skit, song, poem, or other artistic representation of the components and dynamics of an ecosystem. 10 points
Bring out your creative, unique, and artistic talents. Create a video, skit, song, poem, or other artistic representation of the
components and dynamics of an ecosystem. You can complete this in a group of 2 to 4 people or by yourself. Be sure to accurately
and clearly represent the components of an ecosystem and the dynamics or interactions within the ecosystem.
5. Choose your own ecosystem project. Points dependent on level of difficulty You must come up with a short proposal and run it
by me so that we can discuss what you will be doing, how it meets the learning goals of the unit, and how I can help.
6. Write a fictional story from the point of view of something within an ecosystem. 5 points Use your creative writing skills to
write a story from the point of view of something that lives in an ecosystem. It could be a producer, consumer, decomposer, or an
abiotic factor. Include an introduction to your character, a setting, a plot, a conflict, and a resolution in your story. Be creative but

make sure to accurately discuss the interactions or processes the character goes through while living in a particular ecosystem. If you
have questions about how creative and fictional you can be please come to me and we will discuss your ideas. The story should be
about 2-3+ pages long.
7. Complete a 2 page reflection paper on a book or 2 news articles with references to course material. 10 points References to
ecosystems and their functions, dynamics or services are written about in many books and news articles. Read one of the following
books: Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead
George, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, The Ancient One by T.A. Barron, Clan Apis by Jay Hosler, or Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman and
write a 2 page reflection paper on how ecosystems are portrayed in these books. Answer these questions: How did the main character
interact with the ecosystem in the story? What did the ecosystem provide for the character? Did the character have an impact on the
ecosystem? In what other ways did this story relate to the material we learned in class?
If you choose to write a 2 page reflection paper on 2 news articles please be sure to get them from a reliable source. Below are a few
links to places you might find information on ecosystems in the news. Include in your reflection: A summary of the main points, an
explanation of how it relates to the concepts of the class, and your reflections. Some questions to consider when writing about your
reflections: What did you learn? What would you change about the article? Was there enough information provided? Was the
information presented clearly?
Science Daily News:
Environmental News Network:
Discover Magazine:
New York Times:

8. Complete a 2 page reflection paper on an experience you had helping clean up an ecosystem. 5 points Sometimes ecosystems
need some help taking care of themselves. Humans often times leave garbage behind or introduce species that take over areas leaving
no space for native species to thrive. Find a place: a local nature center, wildlife refuge, national, state, or local park, or a natural
place on the side of the road that needs help pulling invasive species, picking up garbage, or planting trees. Write a 2 page reflection
page on the experience you had. Describe why it was important to do what you did. How will what you did help the ecosystem

Culminating Project: Biosphere Challenge!

A biosphere is a closed ecosystem of a specific size. It can be small or large. It is
self-sufficient and the only input into a biosphere is the light energy. All other
materials needed by the biosphere are sealed within and recycled throughout.
The Earth is as an example of a biosphere. The materials and resources
available on Earth are recycled through the systems. We dont have new
materials and resources entering the Earth from outside sources. The energy
from the sun is the only input we have.
Humans have built huge artificial biospheres such as Biosphere 2.
Biosphere 2 is a giant glass enclosure that consisted of multiple ecosystems and
contained all the materials needed by the biosphere. The energy came
through the glass from the sun and researchers spent 2 years inside fully
supported by the biosphere!!!

Challenge: Create whatever you think has to happen to sustain the life of a spider in a sealed
container for multiple generations!
The Big Ideas:
1. Work independently or in groups of 2
2. Create a journal to record at least 5 observations of the biosphere you created the first day of class.
a. The journal should be detailed, contain the date, and you may want to include a scientific drawing.
3. You will be given at least one chance to unseal and modify your biospheres. You will be given an opportunity to apply
what we have learned throughout the unit to your biosphere.
a. When you make a change or modification you will need to describe what changes you made and
why in your journal.
4. Draw a diagram of the interactions you were hoping to create in your biosphere using terms we will be
discussing throughout the unit. Some examples to include: Producers, consumers, decomposers, energy,
abiotic factors, cycles of matter
5. Write a summary of what you observed in your biosphere. Include processes and interactions we
discussed throughout the unit.
6. Once the unit is over you will be sealing it completely and observing it for a month!

Biosphere Challenge Rubric



Description of Exemplary Work

Student made at least 5 observations of their biosphere
throughout the unit. Hand writing is neat and sentences
are complete. The journal is well organized and includes
the date of observation and detailed explanation of their
observations. Modifications were described clearly and
explanations demonstrated an outstanding level of
understanding of ecological principles.


The diagram is well organized, clear, and neat. The

ecological interactions are fully explained using terms
discussed in class. The diagram is detailed and
demonstrates outstanding conceptual knowledge of what
interactions or processes the student was hoping to create
in the biosphere.


The summary is complete, well organized, clear, and easy

to read. It is clear the work had been edited because
proper grammar and spelling are used. The summary is
thoughtful and showed a deep understanding of ecological


Ecosystems Unit Rubric



Exemplary Performance
Student brings their best self to class. Student demonstrates active
engagement in all class work, makes thoughtful contributions to class
discussions, activities, and small groups. Student works collectively in
groups and displays evidence of considering the need for equal voice in
class. Student stays on task, asks questions, and offers thoughtful responses
to questions, ideas, or insights of others.

Mastery of Content


Student displays thorough and outstanding understating of ecological

principals. Student can describe the cycling of matter and energy flow
between living and non-living things. Student can describe the
interrelationships of the components of an ecosystem, and demonstrate an
understanding of ecosystem functions and dynamics. Student display
critical thinking. Student makes connections and applies their
understanding to new concepts.

Challenge Board


Student earns the required amount of points. Student turned in work of high
quality and used class time set aside for challenge board work
appropriately. Student exhibits professionalism and commitment when
working on projects outside of class.



Student demonstrated a development of excellent understanding of course

materials and provides evidence through detailed explanations.

Final Project


Student demonstrated clear and deep understanding of content goals. See

Biosphere Challenge Rubric.


Ecosystems Summative Assessment

Multiple Choice
Identify the choice that best completes the statement or answers the question.
The picture below shows one possible food web for a Great Lakes ecosystem. Based on your understanding of ecosystem
interactions, answer questions 1 and 2.


1. How is the relationship between the small fish and the invertebrates in the diagram above best described?
a. Predator-prey
b. Producer-predator
c. Consumer-Competition
d. Decomposer-consumer


2. Which of the organisms in the web above gets its food energy by decomposing organic material?
a. Small fish
b. Vegetation
c. Invertebrates
d. Bacteria and fungi

_____ 3. The great horned owl eats mice, squirrels, and other small mammals. Based on how it gets its food energy, how is the great horned owl classified?
a. Prey
b. Producer
c. Consumer
d. Decomposer
_____ 4. In an energy pyramid, which level has the most available energy?
Producer level
Primary Consumer level
Secondary Consumer level
d. Tertiary Consumer level

Short answer. Answer the following questions with details and complete sentences.
5. Based on your understanding of photosynthesis write or draw the process, be sure to include the following terms.
a. Carbon Dioxide
b. Oxygen
c. Sunlight
d. Sugar
e. Water
f. Leaf

6. Based on what you know now about ecosystems, how would you have changed your biosphere?

7. In what ways can humans change ecosystems? Provide 2 examples and be sure to add details about how humans change the ecosystem.

8. Explain using a diagram or with words the nutrient cycle works and the importance of it regarding ecosystems.