Bobcat Ridge Back in the Classroom Lesson Plan

BOBCAT RIDGE 4th Grade Field Trip – Back in the Classroom

Who: 4th graders from Thompson S.D.

What: Back in the classroom activity allowing students to compare data between two ecosystems found in Northern Colorado and use evidence collected at Bobcat Ridge to define ecosystem in their own words.
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Theme:

Though ecosystems may vary in their make-up of plants, soil, and wildlife, every ecosystem is made up of interactions between and among biotic and abiotic factors.

Supplies:

  • Bobcat Ridge Field Journal
  • Writing utensil for each student
  • White board
  • White board marker

Objectives:

  • Students will list two interactions between abiotic and biotic factors observed at Bobcat Ridge.
  • Students will list two interactions between biotic factors observed at Bobcat Ridge.
  • Students will compare and contrast two different ecosystems of Bobcat Ridge.
  • Students will define the term ‘ecosystem.’
  • Students will hypothesize the effects of various changes that might take place within an ecosystem.

Procedure:

Your students will be completing the field booklet from the Bobcat Ridge portion of their field day.

Venn Diagram (pg. 10)

  • Sort the booklets into two categories based on the type of ecosystem that they collected data in at Bobcat Ridge (Riparian or Grassland). The front cover of each booklet should have the ecosystem that they visited.
  • Have your students sit in the front of the class near the white board or in groups at separate desks in the classroom as you pass back their field booklets.
  • If your students don’t have experience with Venn diagrams briefly explain them.
  • Draw a larger version of the Venn diagram that is in the field booklet on the white board, labeling the Riparian and Grassland circles.
  • Ask for data that should be included in each portion of the diagram.
  • The major areas of difference for each data collection site will likely include
    • The number of total plants counted
    • The number of different plant species counted
    • The number of animals or signs (scat, tracks, fur) of animals found
    • The number of different types of animals found or discussed
    • The color and texture of the soil
  • All of this data can be found in their journals on the previous pages, so encourage your students to review their field booklets if they struggle to come up with ideas right away.
  • Once you have finished writing what was different in each of the two locations, ask the students to point out factors that are present in both circles. Responses might include…
    • The presence of abiotic and biotic factors
    • The presence of specific types of abiotic and biotic factors (i.e., they both have plants, animals, and soil)
    • Drive home the idea that each data collection site has both abiotic and biotic factors, but the specific factors (e.g., cottonwood tree vs. grass) can be different. Still, both data sites are found at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area.

Abiotic & Biotic Interactions: (pg. 11)

  • This page asks your students several different hypotheticals about how biotic and abiotic factors interact. For this activity your students can work in pairs or individually. You might also choose to do this as a class and mind-map on the board.
  • Encourage your students to think about how a variation in an abiotic factor (e.g., lack of rainfall for a season) could have effects on the biotic factors (e.g., lack of rain leads to drought–cottontail rabbits don’t have enough to eat and therefore don’t produce as many young—coyotes can’t find enough cottontail rabbits to eat, so they eat more squirrels)
  • The main take away from this page is that abiotic and biotic factors in the environment are linked through interactions among and between one another. This is true even if the interaction is not noticed right away.

Ecosystem Definition: (pg. 12)

  • This final section should be the first time that the term ‘ecosystem’ is being presented to them (that is, if your class hasn’t already covered ecosystems).
  • The page asks students to define the term ‘ecosystem’ in their own words. A helpful word box is also included on the page to give your students ideas about what they might want to include in their definitions.
  • Before your students start writing, pose a few questions to spark their minds in thinking about what an ecosystem could be.
    • Would you consider these two data collection sites the same?
      • If yes, what about them is the same?
      • If no, what is different about them?
    • If both places have plants, animals, soil, sunlight, air and water then why do we have different names for them?
    • So, if we know that both places have abiotic and biotic factors and both of those places are ecosystems what do you think an ecosystem is?
    • A few common definitions of an ecosystem are…
      • A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.
      • A community made up of biotic and abiotic factors that interact on a landscape.
      • A complex community of biotic and abiotic factors that function as a whole.

Wrap up:

  • Ask a few students to read aloud what they have written as their definition, making sure that they are in complete sentences. The words in the word box are not required in the definition, but will help students create their own definitions.
    • Key ideas that should be expressed in their definitions are both the presence and interaction of biotic and abiotic factors in the natural world.
  • Explain to your students that there are many different types of ecosystems in Colorado and around the world.
    • This website has some great definitions and pictures for the major types of ecosystems found in Colorado. While it is centered around birds, it is still helpful to show students the variety of abiotic and biotic factors and their interactions. http://coloradobirdingtrail.com/birding-basics/habitats/