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Ecology Lesson for Middle School Biology

Updated on May 18, 2019
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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 8.

Ecology Lesson for Middle School Biology
Ecology Lesson for Middle School Biology

This is the 31st lesson in a series of 32 hands-on lessons covering middle school biology from a Christian perspective. This lesson focuses on Ecology: Biomes, the Food Web, and Conservation. Eat your way through the biomes, perform a desertification erosion demonstration, play the "Who Am I?" food web game, brainstorm conservation ideas, and more! I used this plan while teaching a 55 minute middle school biology class. Each lesson plan includes homework assignments and a variety of hands-on activities to make each lesson engaging & memorable. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, homeschool, after-school program, or co-op!

These lessons are written for a class that meets once a week. If your class meets 5 days a week, simply do this lesson one day a week and use the homework assignments (at the bottom of the page) for the work for the other days of the week.

Homework Review

1. Pass out tickets to students who did their homework and to students who did extra credit. Go over the homework questions from the book. (I give out tickets for students who volunteer to answer the questions.)

Dried berries and nuts for Deciduous Forest Trail Mix
Dried berries and nuts for Deciduous Forest Trail Mix

Eating Through the Biomes: Temperate Deciduous

2. Quickly review biomes & the Temperate Deciduous biome:

  • What are some of the differences between a deciduous, coniferous, and tropical rain forest? (the types of trees found in each of them)
  • Deciduous forests have mostly what types of trees? (Deciduous Hardwoods)
  • How many seasons do they have? (4)
  • What kinds of plants would you find there?
  • What types of animals might you find there?

3. Deciduous forests are full of nuts and berries that are delicious for both animals and people! Pass out napkins and "Deciduous Forest Trail Mix." *Be sure to check for nut allergies first!*

You will need:

  • napkins (which can be used for the multiple snacks)
  • "Deciduous Forest Trail Mix" (dried raisins and pecans or walnuts)

Pine nuts
Pine nuts

Eating Through the Biomes: Boreal Forest (Coniferous/Taiga)

4. Quickly review the Boreal Forest (Coniferous/Taiga) biome:

  • What makes Boreal Forest (Coniferous/Taiga) different from other biomes?
  • What types of animals might you find there?
  • What kinds of plants would you find there? What are some of the differences between deciduous and coniferous trees?

5. Pass out pine nuts, which come from particular types of pine trees.

You will need:

  • pine nuts

Some of the foods from tropical rainforests: papaya and chocolate
Some of the foods from tropical rainforests: papaya and chocolate

Eating Through the Biomes: Tropical Rainforests

6. Quickly review the Tropical Rainforest biome:

  • What makes Tropical Rainforests different from other biomes?
  • What types of animals might you find there?
  • What kinds of plants would you find there?
  • What are some of the reasons we are losing many of our tropical rainforests?

7. Tropical Rain Forests are full of nuts and fruits that are delicious for both animals and people!

  • (Optional) If papaya is in season, show the students the inside of the papaya. The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper. Let students taste one and squeeze one. Then allow them to try the papaya. (Most of my students had never eaten papaya before, so that's why I brought it.)
  • One of my favorite foods comes from the rain forests: chocolate! Chocolate actually grows as a bean on trees. It is crushed up and mixed with other ingredients to make it more delicious. This is basically what chocolate tastes like.
  • Allow students to sample tiny pieces of unsweetened baking chocolate. (I didn't tell them ahead of time it wasn't sweetened.) It isn't very tasty without sugar and milk, is it?
  • Thankfully I did bring some chocolate with sugar and milk added. Pass out chocolate chips or small pieces of milk chocolate candy.
  • (Optional) Pass out a Brazil nut to each student. Brazil nuts grow on one of the largest of trees in the Amazon rainforests, and some of them can live to be 1,000 years old! A couple fun facts I found out about Brazil nuts: 1) It's illegal to cut them down in Brazil, so they grow in many places. 2) From what country do you think we get most of our Brazil nuts? It's not Brazil! We get most of them from Bolivia!

You will need:

  • papaya (optional)
  • small pieces of unsweetened baking chocolate
  • chocolate chips or milk chocolate candy
  • Brazil nuts (optional)

Various types of wheat
Various types of wheat

Eating Through the Biomes: Grasslands

8. Quickly review the Grasslands biome:

  • What makes the Grasslands different from other biomes?
  • What are some other names for Grasslands? (Grasslands are also called prairies in America. In Asia they are called steppes. In Africa they are called Savannas.)
  • What types of animals might you find there?
  • What kinds of plants would you find there?

9. Much of America's Midwest is covered in grasslands, which we also call prairies.

  • They are great places for growing crops because they have nutrient-rich soil and few trees. Much of the food we eat, including grass, comes from the grasslands of America.
  • Did I just say that we eat grass? We do! Wheat is a type of grass. Wheat is what makes flour, and flour is what we use to make bread, cookies, cakes, and lots of other delicious items.
  • (Optional) Pass around different types of wheat. Students can try to chew the kernels.
  • Quickly discuss a few of the health differences between white and whole wheat flour.
  • Pass out whole wheat rolls.

You will need:

  • (Optional) a few varieties of wheat kernels (purchased from a store like Whole Foods) or borrowed from a friend who grinds their own wheat to make flour
  • Whole wheat rolls (or other item made from whole wheat)

Desertification Demo
Desertification Demo

Deserts & Desertification

10. Quickly review the Deserts biome:

  • What makes the Deserts different from other biomes?
  • What types of animals might you find there? Are most of them diurnal (awake during the day) or nocturnal (awake at night)? [nocturnal] Why? [avoid heat of the sun]
  • What kinds of plants would you find there?

11. While we're losing many of our tropical rainforests, the world's desert biomes are growing, which is called desertification.

  • Do you think that's a good thing? Would you like to live in a desert? Why do you think that is happening? (Eroision)
  • A few years ago my family visited Providence Canyon in Georgia. About a hundred years ago Providence Canyon was covered in farms and the land grew plenty of crops. Farmers kept planting and planting and planting. Eventually the soil started wasting away. Then cracks started opening up. Eventually canyons, hundreds of feet deep, opened up and the once fertile farm land was now sandy desert land.

12. Erosion Demonstration: Let's see how erosion works.

  • Have two student volunteers each hold an "erosion tray" (i.e. the lid to the plastic shoebox).
  • On one tray place a piece of sod.
  • Add a scoop of soil to the other erosion tray.
  • Have 2 other students each sprinkle 1/4 cup of water over the soil area on the erosion trays.
  • What happens when the students tilt their trays?
  • Compare how much water and soil has collected at the bottom of the tray. Is there a big difference? Why?

You will need:

  • 2 "erosion trays" (i.e. plastic shoe box lids)
  • a scoop of soil
  • a piece of sod with dirt on its roots
  • 2 cups, each with 1/4 cup of water
  • paper towels

The Remaining Biomes

13. Which biomes haven't we covered yet? (polar, tundra, savanna, & aquatic)

  • What makes the Polar biome different from other biomes? What types of animals might you find there? What kinds of plants would you find there?
  • What makes the tundra different from other biomes? What types of animals might you find there? What kinds of plants would you find there?
  • What makes the savanna different from other biomes? What types of animals might you find there? What kinds of plants would you find there?
  • What makes the aquatic biome different from other biomes? What types of animals might you find there? What kinds of plants would you find there?

Food Web Introduction

14. The current food web & what it will eventually become:

  • Pass out copies of Genesis 1:24-25, 29-31 and Isaiah 11:6-7 printed on a sheet of paper.
  • Have a student volunteer to read the verses from Genesis.
  • After God created each kind of animal, what did He give to them as food? [Plants] Have you ever thought about that, a roaring lion and a mighty T-Rex would both be gnawing on tasty bark and kale salad? Yummy! Is that what they eat today? (No) What happened? (Adam & Eve sinned, causing sin & death to enter the world. People and certain animals started killing and eating animals.) Eventually Jesus will return and change all of this.
  • Have a student volunteer read Isaiah 11:6-7.
  • Which animals in that passage eat other animals? What do we call animals that eat other animals? (carnivores) What did the passage say a lion, which is a carnivore, will one day eat? (straw) Wow! Until that day comes, though, there will be animals eating other animals.

15. Let's create a food web for an aquatic biome on the board. We need to use at least 10 organisms.

What Animal Am I? game
What Animal Am I? game

What Animal Am I?

16. Play What Animal Am I?:

  • On the board write: Clue #1: Biome, Clue #2: Type of Consumer, Clue #3: Food Chain, Clues #4+: Food Chain or Animal Trait
  • Tape a picture of an animal to the back of each student. Tell them to not peek!
  • Divide the students into groups of 3-4. Each student will try to guess what animal is on his/her back by using the clues their group members provides.
  • The first clue will be in which biome the animal lives. (Ex. Your animal lives in the desert.) The student will guess. If the guess is incorrect, the group will give the second clue.
  • The second clue will be what type of consumer the animal is: carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, or insectivore. (Ex. You are a carnivore.) The student will guess. If the guess is incorrect, the group will give the third clue.
  • The third clue will be related to the food chain: what might eat that animal (or if it one that is the top of a food chain). (Ex. A roadrunner might eat you.) The student will guess. If the guess is incorrect, the group will give the fourth clue.
  • The fourth and following clues can be related to the food chain (ex. You might eat mice or rats.) or animal traits (Ex. You do not have legs.) The student will keep guessing after each clue.

You will need:

  • a picture of an animal (printed from the Internet) or just the name of an animal written on a paper for each student (make sure they are from different biomes and at different levels of the food chain)
  • tape

Stewardship & Conservation

17. What does the Bible say about us being good stewards of the earth? What are some things that you personally can do to help with conservation? (Write the ideas on the board.)

18. Quickly discuss this week's homework and the party next week. (It will help to do the homework because all the questions for the review game will come from the multiple choice options on the tests. There will be prizes for the winning team.)

Amazing Biome Projects: You Can Build Yourself (Build It Yourself)
Amazing Biome Projects: You Can Build Yourself (Build It Yourself)

At home we read this book to get additional information on ecology. It contains information about all the biomes and is written in an engaging manner that kept the attention of my children; plus, I was able to get some fun bits of information to share with my class. It not only covers each of the biomes, but it also has easy activities (blubber mitt, tropical rainforest trail mix, etc.) for each biome. It includes lots of the vocabulary that you will study during the ecology unit and even includes ideas on preservation. I loved that the book did not go heavily into evolutionary language. It was very easy for me to replace the word "adapted" with "God created this animal to" whenever talking about specific traits of animals.

 
A Beka's Science: Order & Design science textbook
A Beka's Science: Order & Design science textbook

Homework

(The tests refer to the student tests that accompany A Beka's Science: Order & Design textbook.)

  • Friday: Complete the Multiple Choice section for Tests 7 & 8. You may use your book to answer the questions.
  • Monday: Complete the Multiple Choice section for Tests 9 & 10. You may use your book to answer the questions.
  • Tuesday: Complete the Multiple Choice section for Test 11. You may use your book to answer the questions.
  • Wednesday: Complete the Multiple Choice section for Test 12. You may use your book to answer the questions.

***PARTY*** PARTY***PARTY***PARTY*** PARTY***PARTY***PARTY***

May 9 will be our last class and you will be able to “cash in” your tickets. We will have a class party that will include some review games and an auction. Please bring the following:

  • an unwrapped gift. It does not have to be new, but it should be something a classmate would enjoy receiving. If it is purchased, don’t spend more than $10.
  • a snack to share
  • your tickets (already counted)

Looking for all my lessons?

© 2019 Shannon

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