Students discover the primary source of matter and energy in food chains, learn about herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, and decomposers and how they are related in food chains and food webs, and how decomposers like fungi, insects, and microorganisms recycle matter from dead plants and animals. Students will also build observational ecosystems to not only study organisms in their natural habitat, but also make changes that model real world problems like acid rain and salt levels.
Here are the scientific concepts:
- All organisms need energy and matter to live and grow.
- Plants are the primary source of matter and energy entering most food chains.
- Producers and consumers (herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, and decomposers) are related in food chains and food webs, and may compete with each other for resources in an ecosystem.
- Decomposers, including many fungi, insects, and microorganisms, recycle matter from dead plants and animals.
- Living organisms depend on one another and on their environment for survival.
- Ecosystems can be characterized in terms of their living and nonliving components.
- For any particular environment, some kinds of plants and animals survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
- Many plants depend on animals for pollination and seed dispersal, while animals depend on plants for food and shelter.
- Most microorganisms do not cause disease and many are beneficial.
- Plants and animals have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction.
- Different sense receptors are specialized for particular kinds of information, which may be then processed by the animal’s brain. Animals are able to use their perceptions and memories to guide their actions.
By the end of the labs in this unit, students will be able to:
- Design and build a working terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem.
- Understand how bacteria can be helpful and useful in everyday life.
- Differentiate observation from inference (interpretation) and know scientists’ explanations come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.
- Measure and estimate the weight, length and volume of objects.
- Formulate and justify predictions based on cause-and-effect relationships.
- Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.