Investigation 3: How do energy and matter move through an ecosystem?

Lesson 3.1 Why are plants important?

  • In this lesson, students will perform a quick exercise demonstration and will read from several nonfiction text sources. Students figure out that plants are important, not only because they provide living things with food energy and other products, but also because they give us oxygen, which living things use to break down food matter.
  • By figuring out that plants are important because they give us oxygen and food, students will be able to further develop their taco farm model and will be able to connect this to the idea that plants are involved in the flow of energy in an ecosystem.

Lesson 3.2 How does energy move through a food chain?

  • In this lesson, students use paper models of food chains and ecosystems, with a focus on a wetland ecosystem. Students figure out that energy flows in one direction through a food chain, from the sun to consumers.  Our food has energy in it that we use to move and grow. There are different roles in an ecosystem, and living things rearrange the matter they take in and make it into their own form of matter.
  • By figuring these things out, students will be able to think more deeply about how matter cycles in an ecosystem.  This will also help them further refine their taco farm model and how matter and energy cycle through their local ecosystems.

Lesson 3.3 How do decomposers assist in the cycling of matter?

  • In this lesson, students analyze the data from their decomposition experiment, read texts, and watch videos about decomposers. Students figure out that decomposers break down dead organisms and use the energy and matter from those organisms to live, move, and grow.  Decomposers help cycle nutrients and other matter back into the soil and air.
  • By figuring these things out, they will be able to make final revisions to their taco farm model and make connections in their local ecosystems. Students will also be prepared for deeper explorations of energy and matter that will occur in middle school, where they will figure out how atoms are rearranged when organisms take in food.

Lesson 3.4 How do invasive species affect an ecosystem?

  • In this lesson, students explore what an invasive species is and differentiate between an invasive species and non-native species. Students will look at examples of invasive species in the US and New Mexico and come up with solutions for preventing the spread of an invasive species.
  • By figuring these things out, students can understand how invasive species may play a role in the overall health of an ecosystem.

Student Science Journal

Investigation 3 Handouts and Resources