ecology unit
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-Life Science Unit Guides

Ecology Unit – Teacher’s Guide

Welcome! This post has been written with the intention of helping you plan an engaging and comprehensive Ecology Unit for your middle school science class. If you’re arriving to this page from somewhere other than the Teachers Pay Teachers site, this is the product that this guide was written for. Here’s how I teach using these resources:

Note: Items are listed in the order in which they would be used. Lessons are not broken into specific “days” as many of us have vastly different timings per class period. 

Teach

Note: All of the following presentations are in Google Slides format and are intended to be interactive. You can give each student a copy and have them complete the interactive sections, or use Nearpod, Peardeck, or other interactive software to increase student engagement.

  • Ecosystems
    This fun, 14 slide presentation covers the following vocabulary: organism, species, population, community, ecosystem, biotic, abiotic, habitat. Follow it up with the Ecosystem Guided Practice for homework or reteaching. I would probably also use the Biotic & Abiotic Factors practice worksheet at this time.
  • Food Webs & Energy Pyramids
    This 21 slide presentation covers the following topics: consumer, producer, decomposer, carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, scavenger, trophic levels, food chains, food webs, energy pyramids. I would use the Food Webs & Energy Pyramids Guided Practice and the Food Web Practice following this presentation and the Energy Pyramids presentation. You could also have your students Create a Food Web as a fun assessment.
  • Energy Pyramids
    Optionally, you may decide that your students need a day to focus only on energy pyramids. If so, this resource will be perfect! This 25 slide presentation covers the following topics: how energy is lost after each trophic level, metabolism & cellular respiration, bioaccumulation.
  • Interactions of Living Things
    This 19 slide presentation covers the following topics: natural Selection, adaptations, niche, competition, predator/prey, symbiotic relationships: mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism. The Symbiosis Guided Practice makes a great follow up for this!
  • Populations
    This 45 slide presentation covers the following topics: population, population density, dispersal patterns, age structure, limiting factor (density dependent and independent), carrying capacity, birth rate, death rate immigration, emigration. Both the Carrying Capacity & Limiting Factors Guided Practice and the Population Density, Random Sampling, Mark & Recapture Worksheets make great follow up activities for this presentation.
  • Carbon Cycle
    This 30 slide presentation covers the following topics: industrial emissions, respiration/photosynthesis, diffusion, fossil fuels, decomposition. Follow with the Carbon Cycle Guided Practice for homework.
  • Nitrogen Cycle
    This presentation covers the following topics: nitrogen in living things, nitrogen fixation by plants, Haber-Bosch, and lightning, nitrogen as a limiting factor in farming, and human impact of using nitrogen fertilizers. Follow with the Nitrogen Cycle Guided Reading for homework.
  • Biodiversity
    This 25 slide presentation answers the following questions: what is biodiveristy, why is biodiversity important, and what is being done to maintain biodiversity? The Biodiversity Guided Practice makes a great follow up!

Practice

  • Ecosystem Guided Practice
    This homework activity is designed to reinforce key vocabulary related to ecosystems. I would definitely encourage using these guided readings in tandem with whole group presentations to give students multiple modes of learning. They can be assigned as homework, used in class as a station, cut & glued into interactive notebooks, or assigned only to students who have been identified as needing reteaching.
  • Biotic & Abiotic Factors
  • This is a quick practice worksheet that requires students to differentiate between biotic and abiotic factors. Use this whole group or individually as an easy review.
  • Biomes Webquest
    Take a day (or two) off while your students complete this best selling webquest! I’m not sure how in depth you’d like to go as far as requiring students to actually memorize information about each biome. Personally, I don’t consider it a priority, but I do like to introduce the different types of habitats. This webquest should make it easy for your students to learn on their own. Discuss it later in a flipped classroom style!
  • Biomes Guided Practice
    Use this for homework or reteaching! This resource has 3 pages of information and 4 pages of activities for students. A reading introduces biomes in general and then includes a short summary of each major biome. Students are then able to answer comprehension questions. A map interpretation activity is also included.
  • Symbiosis Guided Practice
    This guided practice gives several examples of symbiotic relationships and asks students to determine if they are commensalism, mutualism, or parasitism. Recently, I decided to use this as a whole group activity and it worked really well. Our discussions about each scenario were interesting and insightful!
  • Food Webs & Energy Pyramids Guided Practice
    This is a super popular resource that guides students through key vocabulary related to food chains and food webs and also gives plenty of practice identifying consumer tropic levels and even designing your own food web.
  • Food Web Practice
    I find that my students generally need a little additional practice with food chains and food webs, so I use this resource for a little review.
  • Create a Food Web
    I like to task students to create their own food webs as well. To make things more exciting, I allow students to design a food web for a made up ecosystem if they want. To make things even more intense, I usually use the best food web on the test! We always get some gorgeous student work from this assignment.
  • Invasive Species Guided Practice
    In this resource, students will read a short bio on several invasive species. This may be used as a suitable intro to the invasive species project to get students thinking about different species and what impacts they have on non-native ecosystems.
  • Endangered and Extinct Species Web Activity
    Allow your students to explore the outcomes of imbalance within an ecosystem over the next days beginning with this fun research assignment on endangered and extinct species. This activity will begin to bring in the human element as your students begin to comprehend the interdependence of all ecosystems with human life.
  • Carrying Capacity & Limiting Factors Guided Practice
    This resource is designed to reinforce the concepts of carrying capacity and limiting factor. It includes several case studies which should hopefully help bring these topics to life for students.
  • Population Density, Random Sampling, Mark & Recapture Worksheets
    This resource gives students hands on experience with the ways the scientists interact with populations. I would definitely recommend using calculators with this resource.
  • Biosphere Reading Assignment
    This reading is a free resource on my site, and serves as an intro to a biosphere project I have added to my ecology unit. In this assignment, students explore the Biosphere 2 Project in Phoenix, Arizona and begin to connect their ecology knowledge to the idea of engineering a remote ecosystem on Mars or another planet. The projects were a lot of fun, and my students really ran with their imaginations. See more of that project here.
  • Biodiversity Guided Practice
    Allow students to investigate the importance biodiversity on their own with this 5 page resource. Students will be asked to consider what steps they feel are most important for maintaining biodiversity as well as getting outside and investigating the biodiversity in their area.
  • Water Cycle Guided Practice
    Generally my students come in already knowing at least a little about the water cycle. If your students have never seen it before, I might supplement this topic a bit more. No weather/climate unit is complete without at least a base knowledge of the water cycle!
  • Carbon Cycle Guided Practice
    Review the key terms related to the carbon cycle with this homework activity.
  • Nitrogen Cycle Guided Reading
    Review the key terms related to the nitrogen cycle with this homework activity.

Assessment

  • Ecology Formative Quiz
    A quick multiple choice quiz covering the following topics: biotic vs. abiotic, organism, populations, communities, ecosystem, population density, limiting factor and carrying capacity, reading population graphs, adaptations, niche, energy pyramids and food webs, symbiotic relationships, and types of consumers
  • Study Guide & Unit Test
    In most units I require a performance based summative (such as a project) as well as a written test. This study guide and test cover all the topics in this unit, allowing students to express their knowledge with a variety of question types.

Projects

  • Invasive Species Project
    This assessment ties together several ecology topics such as resource availability, interactions of organisms, cycling of matter and energy, competition, and the idea that populations are affected by various physical and biological components of ecosystems. Students will investigate how their species has impacted its non-native ecosystem as well as describing planned solutions for maintaining biodiversity.

After students have completed their research, they will film a segment of an imaginary television show called Ecology’s Most Wanted. In their video they will act as a news anchor and cover all the major information about their species and its impact on the ecosystem.

It could be useful to use the Invasive Species Guided Practice as an intro to this project, so that students have some exposure to different invasive species.

  • Biome Shadowbox
    This is a classic project (that even I did as a student) which requires to recreate a biome or ecosystem in a shoebox. The finished products can be really gorgeous and fun to display. Check out some more of our student work here.
  • Biosphere Project
    *This project is not included in this unit, but I wanted to describe it here in case you’re looking for another extension activity. *
    The biosphere project requires students to combine all of their knowledge of ecology in order to design a sustainable Mars ecosystem in which a certain number of humans can live and coexist with their environment. To complete the project, students will build an actual biosphere model to represent their plan.

My students have done an incredible job with this project in the past. Check out some of their work here.


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