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Ecosystem Study Outdoor Lab


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Keywords: Ecosystem, Outdoor, Lab, Observations, Compare, Contrast, Notebook, Science
Subject(s): Life Science, Science
Grades 6 through 9
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Central Middle School, Eden Prairie, MN
Planned By: Cathy Oates-Bockenstedt
Original Author: Cathy Oates-Bockenstedt, Eden Prairie
Ecosystems Study Outdoor Lab

Problem: What differences will be noticed between a prairie, woodland, wetland, and a landscaped ecosystem?

Prediction: Predict two or three differences you believe will exist between these four ecosystems.

Thinking about the Problem:
Living things obtain the food, water, and other resources they need in order to live and grow from their environment. Living things do not simply exist in their environment, however. They constantly interact with their environment. In addition to changing in response to their environment, living things also cause changes in their environment. All of the living and non-living things in an environment are interconnected.
“Ecological succession” is a term that describes the process of new communities of living things replacing previously existing ones. For example, when one older tree is cleared, the newly available sunlight on the ground promotes the growth of new grasses and weeds. Often these plants are then replaced by shrubs. Eventually certain trees may out-compete the shrubs, replacing them. Often these first trees are later replaced by other species that are better adapted to growing in woodland conditions created by the first trees. With some knowledge of trees and succession, an observer could read the history of a particular woodland by studying its current species.
Living things inhabit many environments on Earth. From the polar ice caps to the forests and plains of the equator, living things can be found at the bottom of the ocean trenches and floating in the air more than eight kilometers above earth’s surface. To make better sense of this number and variety of interactions, ecologists divide the world up into separate units known as ecosystems.
An ecosystem consists of all the living and non-living things in a given area that interact with one another. The size of the ecosystem is defined by the ecologist who is studying it. It can be as small as a tiny drop of water, or as large as an ocean. Although ecosystems are studied independently, they do overlap and affect one another.

Materials:
CMS Ecosystem Outdoor Laboratories
Half-meter Grid Device

Procedure
1. You will be making observations about four different ecosystems: prairie, woodland, wetland, and a landscaped area. Any digital photos will count as observations, provided you label the
subject being photographed.
2. Make at least 10 general observations for each ecosystem. Describe both the living and nonliving (sidewalks, buildings, weather, etc.) environments of each ecosystem.
3. List signs of human interaction for each ecosystem (ways that humans have affected it).
4. List signs of living things interacting with non-living things for each ecosystem. (Producers, consumers, food chains, etc.)
5. List any plant adaptations (characteristics of plants which allow them to be successful in that ecosystem) which can affect plant competition and succession (ability to be successful).
6. In each ecosystem, place your half-meter grid device in any spot (shoreline in pond ecosystem). Record both qualitative (color, shape, texture, common names, etc.) and quantitative (amount, dimensions, populations, numbers, etc.) observations.

Data Table #1: Observations of Prairie
Today’s Date

General Observations of Prairie
1

2

3

4

5

6<br>
7

8

9

10

Signsof Human Interaction


Signs of Living Things Interacting with Non-Living Things


Plant Adaptations


Qualitative Observations in Grid


Quantitative Observations in Grid


Data Table #2: Observations of Woodland
Today’s Date

General Observations of Woodland
1

2

3

4

5

6

7>
8

9

10

Signsof Human Interaction


Signs of Living Things Interacting with Non-Living Things


Plant Adaptations


Qualitative Observations in Grid


Quantitative Observations in Grid


Data Table #3: Observations of Wetland
Today’s Date

General Observations of Wetland
1

2

3

4

5

6

7>
8

9

10

Signsof Human Interaction


Signs of Living Things Interacting with Non-Living Things


Plant Adaptations


Qualitative Observations in Grid


Quantitative Observations in Grid


Data Table #4: Observations of Landscaped Area
Today’s Date

General Observations of Landscaped Area
1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Signsof Human Interaction


Signs of Living Things Interacting with Non-Living Things


Plant Adaptations


Qualitative Observations in Grid


Quantitative Observations in Grid


Analysis:
1. Draw and label one food chain (starting with the sun’s energy) for each of the ecosystems that were observed. A labeled digital photo is acceptable, as well.

Prairie








>
Woodland










r> Wetland










LandscapedArea










2. What might happen if a population of producers was removed from any of the ecosystems?


3. What if the decomposers were removed from any of the ecosystems?


4. How important is the non-living environment in the ecosystem? Explain.


5. What might happen if the non-living environment changed suddenly? Give an example.


6. How many kinds of organisms (total) did you observe by the end of this lab?


7. How did the human-influenced ecosystem (the landscaped area) compare with the prairie? The woodland? The pond?


8. Now that you have made many observations, give a good hypothesis for why you believe these differences exist between ecosystems.


Concluding the Analysis:
I learned:

Re-Do:

Variable:

Control:
Comments
A classroom set of digital cameras would be immensely helpful with many labs and activities that I do each year, an example of which is this outdoor ecosystem study lab.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Journaling and poetry writing in English. Dimmensional analysis and mean, median, mode analysis of findings in math. Drawings and sketches in art. Creation of animoto or vuvox digital movie in music. Historic studies and age of settlement rersearch in social studies. Hiking and increase of outdoor wellness activities in physical education.
Follow-Up
Students will use their digital photos and observations to create vuvox or animoto digital movies to show classmates and inform community members. Students will gain ideas for use in a Science Experiment Project which will be entered in the District Science Fair.
Links: Link to Animoto
Link to Vuvox
Materials: High, Middle, Cables, Memory Cards, Tripods, Batteries, Camera Bags, Camera/Video Accessories, Point and Shoot, Wildlife, Digital Cameras, Cause and Effect
Other Items: 35 USB Connection cables from Digital Camera to Laptop, $7 each, total of $245.00
35 Point and Shoot Digital Cameras, $250 each, total of $8750.00
35 Camera Bags, $10 each, total of $350.00
35 Tripods, $60 each, total of $2100.00
35 Sets of AA Batteries, $4 each, total of $140.00
35 Digital Camera Memory Cards, $10 each, total of $350.00