Exploring Ecosystems

Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is four-fold: (a) for teachers and students to co-construct meaning together in understanding what an ecosystem is, (b) its components, such as: environmental characteristics (abiotic), and (biotic), such as flora (plants), and fauna (animals), (c) the types of ecosystems on planet Earth and the level of biodiversity for each, and (d) why ecosystems are important to explore.

Key concepts: ecology, ecosystem, biotic, abiotic, flora, fauna, diversity, biodiversity

Research based: Sociocultural theory with an emphasis on co-constructing knowledge and negotiating meaning using Wells (1999, 2002, 2010) model, ‘Spiral of learning and teaching through inquiry’.

Materials: Internet access, dictionary, pencil, markers, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, tape, and a poster board.


Wells’ model, “Spiral of learning and teaching through inquiry,” in action:

I. Tapping into students’ prior knowledge and experiences:

Pre-assessment: (Use pdf)

Use the pre-assessment questions to tap into students’ prior knowledge and experience about ecosystems. Allow students time to share their knowledge and experiences in pairs, small groups, and whole class.

II. Gathering information:

Students can seek information from the teacher, Internet, DVD’s, books, dictionaries, articles, magazines, consulting experts, etc., on ecosystems. Allow students time to gather information to answer the questions in the Student Ecosystem Worksheet (pdf).

III: Co-constructing knowledge together:

Allow students time to gather information to answer the questions on their Student Ecosystem Worksheet. Students can meet in small groups and share (discuss) their answers with each other. Students can also form groups based on a particular ecosystem of interest to them, for example, rainforests, and co-construct a collage poster with images. They can also write the biotic and abiotic characteristics of their ecosystem and also rate the level of biodiversity. Each group can present their ‘ecosystem poster’ to the class. They can also be hung up and shared with visitors (parents). After the poster demonstrations, students should be ready to share their information from their Student Ecosystem Worksheets with you. You can add (supplement) information they may have missing which students can add to their worksheets. Have fun and co-construct, rather than tell and/or lecture, i.e., ask questions, say, “Did you know…”, etc.

IV. Understanding

Demonstrating understanding through post-assessment and activities (see activities):

Post-assessment: (Use pdf)