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Capturing a Real Ecosystem

written by: tstyles • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 2/17/2012

Give children an opportunity to visit and take pictures of a real ecosystem at work and then create a mural with captions to brighten and enlighten the classroom or school hall.

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    Source Material

    It's very important when conducting a unit of study on ecosystems that you take the children on a field trip to see a nature preserve of some sort. While you are there take pictures not only of the kids, but of the surroundings. Capture the plant life, trees, ponds, evidence of animal inhabitants etc. Later you'll use these pictures to create a mural with the kids that contains captions explaining all about the ecosystem's components.

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    Back in the Classroom

    Snap enough pictures on the field trip to have one for each child plus one extra, at least, to use as you model the project for the kids. Enlarge the model picture to 8 X 10 size and place it on the board. For this example let's say the picture is a close-up of a frog's head popping out of pond water that is littered with fallen leaves and sticks (real life example!). Tell the children you are looking for three to five statements about the picture, but not simply observations. Explain that you want their observations to extend to how they see the picture as a component of an ecosystem. In other words, if a child says, "There are fallen leaves on the surface of the water," encourage them to extend that statement by adding, "Which can be used for protection by water insects." If a child says, "There is a frog in the pond." Encourage them to suggest how the pond water is supporting aquatic life or how the frog is likely feeding off the insects living in the pond. This activity supports inferencing, which is great.

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    Take Students' Suggestions

    Take many suggestions for the model photograph and record three to five of their responses on the board beside the visual. Post a sentence strip on the board and translate one of the statements onto the sentence strip using a black marker. Tell them that they are each going to get a photo that was taken on the field trip. They are to record three to five statements in their science notebooks about their photo that explains how the elements of the photo are part of an ecosystem. Tell them that they are going to translate two of their statements onto sentence strips. As the children explore their photos, walk around and offer feedback and edit their list of statements. Instruct them to choose two statements and then give them two sentence strips each to complete. First have them record their statements on the sentence strips in pencil and after you have reviewed them, they can go over the pencil in dark ink.

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    Making a Statement

    When the children complete their statements on sentence strips have them post their field trip photo along with their sentence strips onto a banner mural (10-15 feet of long white roll paper). Tell them that their photograph should sit near their statements so that passersby know which statements go with which photos.

    When all statements and photos are affixed hang the mural in the hallway for all to see!

Ecosystem unit

This collection of articles will share ideas that might be helpful in implementing an intermediate unit on ecosystems.
  1. Understanding Ecosystems: Approaching the Topic in My 5th Grade Class
  2. Create an Ecosystems Project with Your Students and Get Them Engaged
  3. Building an Eco-column as a Classroom Project
  4. Capturing a Real Ecosystem
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