Yesterday I started posting all of my digital notebook documents for 6th grade science, beginning with the scientific inquiry unit. Today it’s on to ecology! Same as before, all of these are Google Apps docs that you can copy, adapt, and use however you’d like with your own students. For more info about why I use digital notebooks and how to set them up, check out my digital notebook page here.
This unit is designed to teach students about the complex interactions and relationships between organisms and the environment in different ecosystems. The majority of the unit focuses on population interactions and energy flow in ecosystems, but it also dabbles a bit in natural selection to help explain adaptations (evolution is more thoroughly taught in my school at the 8th grade level). This unit culminates with a trip to a very unique ecosystem near my school: the mangrove wetlands of Qatar. If you’re teaching ecosystems, I highly recommend that you tailor it to the local environment to make it as authentic as possible!
Part of this unit that is not included in these digital documents is the excellent “Mystery of the Dying Fish” Environmental Detectives curriculum developed by Lawrence Hall of Science. It’s an oldie but a goodie, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking to engage student’s critical thinking within ecology content. Another resource I use several times in this unit are simulations from NetLogo and PhET. Both offer ways of students conducting experiments with complicated phenomena like ecosystems.
- Ecology Study Guide (gives an overview of the standards of the unit and many learning resources)
- Ecology introduction and double-bubble map (a type of Thinking Map)
- Populations (levels of ecosystems and population changes)
- Population interactions (predator/prey, population graphs)
- Populations review and data table (Oh Deer! game adapted from here)
- Natural selection and data table (Beak battle game adapted from here)
- Natural selection model (also an assessment)
- Symbiosis (symbiotic relationships)
- Energy flow in ecosystems (energy roles, food chains, food webs)
- Energy pyramids (and build-a-food-web poster, which was adapted from STEMScopes)
Assessments: (with the exception of tests for obvious reasons!)
Besides traditional tests, there are two summative assessments in this unit. The first is a population model experiment that the students design and conduct using NetLogo. This builds on the scientific inquiry skills learned in the previous unit. The last summative assessment is called the Mangrove Forest Project, which is a multimedia presentation that students create to teach others about the unique ecosystem near our school: Qatar’s mangrove forests. There are many ways of doing this project, but the past couple of years I’ve used VoiceThread, which is very easy to use, or left it up to students to choose whatever media they prefer.
- Population model experiment
- Example population model experiment
- Mangrove Forest Project description
- Mangrove Forest Project rubric
- Mangrove Forest Project food web
- Mangrove Forest Project student checklist and notes
Coming soon: Free digital notebook stuff for chemistry!
Copyright stuff: As with all work I post on my blog, you are free to use and adapt this work for non-commercial purposes (ie. in your classroom!) as long as you also share what you do too. This is part of my collaboration crusade, so if you do re-mix something I created, please consider sharing it here or on your own blog.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.