Science – Ecology, 3-6 and 6-9
By studying ecosystems, children can think critically and construct an argument from the evidence that living organisms are interdependent and dependent on their environment. What is an ecosystem? An ecosystem is smaller than a biome. It hosts interactions that occur between biotic and abiotic factors. Biotic factors are all living things’ activities, whereas; abiotic factors are non-living things’ activities that may affect the functioning of living organisms (temperature, light, water, soil, atmosphere.)
I would like to share with you the amazing work developed by Alison’s Montessori. I found that Life in a Pond and Life in the Soil are excellent ecosystems to study with children. These ecosystems can easily be found and observed; ponds and soil are pretty much anywhere around anyone. I used the materials with an upper elementary learner (10), a lower elementary learner (8), and a preschooler (older 3). This is the feedback I receive:
Upper elementary learners (9-12)will be completely absorbed by the graphics on the puzzles and research cards. They may voluntarily discuss and research some of the facts they read about. Their sense of justice will be fueled, which will lead them to consolidate their will for being environmentally responsible.
Lower elementary learners (6-8+) will reinforce their knowledge on interdependence of living things, and make new connections between the living organisms, their ecosystems. The knowledge on the research cards will probably be new to them. They will enjoy using either the large charts or the puzzle along with the research cards.
Primary learners (3-5+) will greatly benefit from working with the large charts and cutouts. The miniature environment (yet large) is ideal to give enough for the body to move, and for the eyes to observe. The graphics are realistic and fascinating. The use of pastel colors leaves room for the imagination. Younger children will love selecting cutouts and placing them on a large chart. An adult can read some of the research cards based on the child’s interest. I found that there are enough age-appropriate facts for every learner!
- Life in a Pond Puzzle (with Control Chart and Wooden Arrow)
- Life in a Pond Chart (with Mute Chart, Research Cards, and Cutouts)
- Life in a Pond Chart (Complete Set) (Puzzle, Charts, Research Cards)
- Life in the Soil Puzzle (with Control Chart and Wooden Arrow)
- Life in the Soil Chart (with Mute Chart, Research Cards, and Cutouts)
- Life in the Soil Chart (Complete Set) (Puzzle, Charts, Research Cards)
How We Use the Materials
Ponds are bodies of fresh water, similar to lakes but smaller. Many living organisms can only survive in ponds thanks to the excellent living conditions that ponds provide. Animals and plants can form symbiotic relationships, while other microorganisms such as algae use photosynthesis as energy. Amphibians tend to stay by the water to lay their eggs. Birds build their nest near ponds, which is an abundant source of food. Other invertebrate animals such as mussels serve a natural water purifier by removing some of the microorganisms out of circulation.
Similar to ponds, the soil is home to a multitude of living organisms that rely on environmental factors or contribute to them. In the soil, you will find bacteria, protozoa, invertebrates, and vertebrates. Earthworms are probably the most beneficial animals to have in the soil. They aerate the soil, decompose dead plant matter, and form tunnels that allow water to move down to where the roots of plants need it. Mammals such as field mice and chipmunks burrow through the soil creating extensive tunnels where they remain for the day. Other living organisms in the soil contribute to its good functioning by decomposing organic matter and making them accessible for plants. You will find much more information in our Research Cards, which are provided in the Science Charts!
Before inviting children to the lesson, prepare the working space. Place the Control Chart above the Mute Chart. Place the Cutouts along the left side of the charts. Have the Research Cards in a pile in front of you. Ask children what they know about Life in a Pond/Life in the Soil. Can they name the living organisms that are represented on the chart? Do these organisms contribute to the environment? Elicit questions that will activate their prior knowledge. It is best that you read the Research Cards to children so that they can observe the chart, focus on the descriptions, and hear how to pronounce some of the scientific terms. As you read the Research Cards, have children take turns placing the Cutouts on the Mute Chart. Allow time for questions and discussions. When the introduction is over, offer children some suggestions for follow-up activities such as creating a diorama, researching an animal or plant of their choice, or drawing and writing in their science notebook. Invite children to put away the materials together and show where the material is located. Remind children that when working independently, they need to display the control chart out of sight, and check it for control of errors. This is a form of self-assessment.
I hope this post was helpful to you. Choosing appropriate materials make a big difference for children’s learning experience. They will always remember these materials, which serve as points of reference.
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