6.4 Strand

The study of ecosystems includes the interaction of organisms with each other and with the physical environment. Consistent interactions occur within and between species in various ecosystems as organisms obtain resources, change the environment, and are affected by the environment. This influences the flow of energy through an ecosystem, resulting in system variations. Additionally, ecosystems benefit humans through processes and resources, such as the production of food, water and air purification, and recreation opportunities. Scientists and engineers investigate interactions among organisms and evaluate design solutions to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem resources.
STORYLINE: 6.4.1 Resource Availability Affects Population

Standard(s) 6.4.1: Analyze data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations in an ecosystem. Ask questions to predict how changes in resource availability affects organisms in those ecosystems. Examples could include water, food, or living space in Utah environments. (LS2.A)

NGSS Correlation: MS-LS2-1

Practices

Analyzing Data & Asking Questions

  • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

Asking Questions and Defining Problems

  • Ask questions to identify and clarify evidence of an argument.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems  

  • Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors.  

  • In any ecosystem, organisms and populations with similar requirements for food, water, oxygen, or other resources may compete with each other for limited resources, access to which consequently constrains their growth and reproduction.  

  • Growth of organisms and population increases are limited by access to resources.

Cross Cutting Concepts

Cause and Effect

  • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

Storyline Narrative

SEEd standard 6.4.1 asks students to analyze data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations in an ecosystem. Students are also expected to ask questions to predict how changes in resource availability affects organisms in those ecosystems. This standard specifically suggests using examples such as water, food, and living space in Utah environments.

 

To address this standard, our storyline is focused on explaining the phenomenon resource availability affects populations. We begin by engaging students with some interesting data on the fluctuating deer populations in Utah. Students will analyze the data to formulate questions about what could be causing the deer population to change from year to year.

 

To explore what could be causing the trends in the data, students will gather and analyze data as they participate in a simulation that represents what could be happening with resources that might affect the deer population. The simulation focuses on the availability of resources such as water, food, and cover and its possible effects on the population size of deer in Utah. The simulation will lead students to wonder how specific resources can cause changes in populations in an ecosystem.  

 

Students will use the understanding found by analyzing the fluctuating deer population data to help them gather evidence to explain how specific resources, or lack thereof, affect different populations. They will first examine how food availability in Utah has had an effect on a population of hummingbirds. Using data, students will find a cause and effect relationship between the availability of nectar-producing flowers on population numbers and the population size of Broad-tailed hummingbirds.  

 

Students will elaborate as they use their understanding of the hummingbirds to look at the June Sucker’s ecosystem. Students will analyze data and determine that the decline of June Suckers is affected by something other than the availability of food. Instead, it is affected by competition with a nonnative species, which has caused significant changes to population. Students can then use their conceptual models of the previous ecosystems to predict prairie dog data. Students’ predictions will be based on data that suggest that there is a relationship between Mountain Plovers and prairie dogs.  


Finally, students will be evaluated on their ability to analyze fluctuating data on Utah Deer populations and the amount of precipitation and their ability to ask questions to determine the cause of a decline in sage grouse.

Phenomena Statement

Populations of living organisms fluctuate, sometimes there is a lot and then 5 years later there might be half as many.

STORYLINE: 6.4.2 Organism Interactions

Standard(s) 6.4.2: Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems. Emphasize consistent interactions in different environments such as competition, predation, and mutualism. (LS2.A)

NGSS Correlation: MS-LS2-2

Practices

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

  • Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe nature operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems  

  • Similarly, predatory interactions may reduce the number of organisms or eliminate whole populations of organisms. Mutually beneficial interactions, in contrast, may become so interdependent that each organism requires the other for survival. Although the species involved in these competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial interactions vary across ecosystems, the patterns of interactions of organisms with their environments, both living and nonliving, are shared.

Cross Cutting Concepts

Patterns

  • Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural systems.

Storyline Narrative

SEEd standard 6.4.2 asks students to construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems. Patterns include consistent interactions such as competition, predation, and mutualism. The Next Generation Science Standards emphasize that students predict consistent patterns of interactions in different ecosystems in terms of the relationships among and between organisms and abiotic components of ecosystems. Examples of types of interactions could include competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial.

 

To address this standard, our storyline is focused on explaining the phenomenon organisms interact with other living organisms in their environment. We begin by engaging students with two video clips of animal interactions in an ocean environment. To engage students, students are shown a video of the Hawaiian monk seal. Students will make observations of patterns in the interactions between the Hawaiian monk seal and other ocean organisms. They will use what they observe to evaluate the information in the video and identify different ways the organisms interact with one another. Students will compare this information to a second video, which demonstrates how the Grouper interacts with other organisms in the ocean. This will lead to a discussion of how these patterns of interactions can be found in different ecosystems and leave students wondering about different ecosystems and how these patterns manifest themselves.

To explore, students will use this question to analyze data as they participate in a simulation of a prey and predator relationship. The purpose of the simulation is to identify patterns in population between prey and predator. Students will use the identified patterns to predict what would happen in subsequent rounds of the simulation. Students will use their understanding from the simulation to help them analyze data to describe two population fluctuations in a specific prey and predator relationship—snowy owls vs. lemmings and deer vs. wolves. Students will argue from evidence about the causes for population fluctuations. Students will next question what other interactions can be found among organisms. Students will obtain information from a short simulation that models the effects of competition in an ecosystem.  

 

Students will use their new understanding of interactions among organisms to explain data of invasive and native squirrel species. In order to construct an explanation, students will first formulate questions about the patterns they see in the data. Students will then argue from evidence and construct an explanation describing what caused one population of squirrels to dwindle while the other population grew.  

 

Students will elaborate on their understanding by watching a short video to obtain information about other types of interactions, specifically mutualism. In groups, students will research and communicate information about other examples of mutualism in nature. 


Finally, students will be evaluated on their ability to construct an explanation to describe the patterns of interactions between organisms in different scenarios.

Phenomena Statement

The Monk Seal has to dive almost 80 meters, or 240 ft, deep to find food.

STORYLINE: 6.4.3 

Standard 6.4.3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem. Emphasize food webs and the role of producers, consumers, and decomposers in various ecosystems. Examples could include Utah ecosystems such as mountains, Great Salt Lake, wetlands, or deserts. (LS2.B)

Practices

Developing and Using Models

  • Develop and use a model to describe phenomena.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS2.B: Cycle of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems

  • Food webs are models that demonstrate how matter and energy is transferred between producers, consumers, and decomposers as the three groups interact within an ecosystem. Transfers of matter into and out of the physical environment occur at every level. Decomposers recycle nutrients from dead plant or animal matter back to the soil in terrestrial environments or to the water in aquatic environments. The atoms that make up the organisms in an ecosystem are cycled repeatedly between the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem.

Cross Cutting Concepts

Matter and Energy

  • Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

  • The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

Storyline Narrative

SEEd Standard 6.4.3 asks students to develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem with an emphasis on food webs and the role of producers, consumers, and decomposers.  

 

To address this standard, our storyline is focused on the phenomenon of cycling matter and energy flows in an ecosystem. Students will engage in a series of questions about the cycle of matter and flow of energy. These questions will help students start developing their understanding and models of the cycle. Students will then be asked to use their understanding to organize the different organisms into a simple life chart. This will help build students’ understanding of the different roles within a food web. Students will be given a list of different animals and organisms and asked to classify them into different groups using their understanding of a food web. As students classify the living organisms by what they eat, introduce the vocabulary and definitions of producers, consumers, and decomposers. 

 

In order to explore how matter cycles and energy flows, students will develop a model of the circle of life using a different ecosystem. Students will be given a more extensive list of different living organisms and asked to construct a food chain. As they begin to develop their chains, students will start to discuss that they aren’t sure where each organism goes. This will lead students to determine that a web better suits the cycle of matter and flow of energy. 

 

Students will then participate in simulations of food webs and analyze data from the simulations. They will use their models to explain what is causing the changes made in the food webs.  Students will elaborate as they develop their models of the roles producers, consumers, and decomposers as they obtain information from a website information quest about food webs in the ecosystem of the Great Salt Lake. As they learn about the Great Salt Lake, students will use their models to construct explanations for the roles of different living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem. They will use the information to develop a model of how energy and matter is cycling through the food web. 


Finally, to evaluate, students will use what they have learned about food webs to develop a model of a food web for a pond ecosystem. They will use their models to communicate the different roles organisms play in the food web and how energy flows and matter cycles through the food web.

Phenomena Statement

Animals are constantly eating plants, other animals, or both. If they don’t eat they will die.

STORYLINE: 6.4.4 Stability of Ecosystems

Standard 6.4.4: Construct an argument supported by evidence that the stability of populations is affected by changes to an ecosystem. Emphasize how changes to living and nonliving components in an ecosystem affect populations in that ecosystem. Examples could include Utah ecosystems such as mountains, Great Salt Lake, wetlands, or deserts. (LS2.C)   
NGSS Correlation: MS-LS2-4

Practices

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

  • Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe nature operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

  • Ecosystems are dynamic in nature; their characteristics can vary over time. Disruptions to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its populations.

Cross Cutting Concepts

Stability and Change

  • Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and processes at different scales, including the atomic scale.

Storyline Narrative

SEEd Standard 6.4.4 asks students to construct an argument supported by evidence that the stability of populations is affected by both living and nonliving components causing changes to an ecosystem.  

 

To address this standard, our storyline is focused on the phenomenon that the stability of populations is affected by changes to an ecosystem. We will begin by engaging students with evidence from an article about the effects of nonnative rabbits introduced to the Australian ecosystem. Students will construct an argument that the stability of the ecosystem was affected by the nonnative rabbits.  

 

Students will then explore the effects one population of animals can have on the stability of an ecosystem. Students will gather evidence about sea otter populations and their effect on the stability of the kelp forest ecosystem. Students will construct an argument supported by evidence that sea otters are a keystone species in the kelp forest ecosystem and that they directly affected the growth of kelp forests and then indirectly affected resource availability for many other organisms.  

 

Next, students will participate in and explain a simulation of two wolf populations where they will raise a pack of wolves under 2 different conditions—without human interference and with human interference. They will collect data for each part of the simulation and interpret the data to construct an explanation supported by evidence from the simulation of the factors affecting the stability of wolf populations. 

 

Students will then elaborate as they analyze data of the Kaibab deer population and identify causes for the fluctuations in the stability of the deer population. Students will use their understanding of other ecosystems and what they learned from the simulation to help them make sense of the data. 


Finally, to evaluate their understanding, students will research living and nonliving components that affect populations in Utah ecosystems. Students will obtain information about a native Utah endangered species and the factors that have affected the stability of its population. After groups have presented their findings to the class, students will look for common factors that affect the stability of populations. Finally, students will be assessed on their ability to construct an argument supported by evidence as they examine evidence about the decline in the desert tortoise population. They will use the evidence to construct an argument that both living and nonliving components have affected the stability of the desert tortoise population in the southeastern deserts of the United States.

Phenomena Statement

Nonnative rabbits have affected the ecosystems of Australia.

STORYLINE: 6.4.5 

Standard 6.4.5: Evaluate competing design solutions for preserving ecosystem services that protect resources and biodiversity based on how well the solutions maintain stability within the ecosystem. Emphasize obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information of differing design solutions. Examples could include policies affecting ecosystems, responding to invasive species, or solutions for the preservation of ecosystem resources specific to Utah, such as air and water quality and prevention of soil erosion. (LS2.C, LS4.D, ETS1.A, ETS1.B, ETS1.C)
NGSS Correlation: MS-LS2-5

Practices

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

  • Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and methods used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience  

  • Biodiversity describes the variety of species found in Earth’s terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems. The completeness or integrity of an ecosystem’s biodiversity is often used as a measure of its health.

LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

  • Changes in biodiversity can influence humans’ resources, such as food, energy, and medicines, as well as ecosystem services that humans rely on—for example, water purification and recycling.(secondary)

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions  

  • There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem. (secondary)

Cross Cutting Concepts

Stability and Change

  • Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part.

Storyline Narrative

SEEd Standard 6.4.5 asks students to evaluate competing design solutions for preserving ecosystem services that protect resources and biodiversity based on how well the solutions maintain stability within the ecosystem. 

 

To address this standard, our storyline is focused on the phenomenon humans can provide solutions for preserving ecosystems.  In order to engage students, we will begin by discussing what makes a healthy ecosystem. Students will then obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about biodiversity.

 

Next, students will use their understanding of biodiversity to explore a problem within a beaver ecosystem. Students will look at a conflict between a stream ecosystem and human development and explain what is causing the instability within the ecosystem. Students will obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the design solution and how it maintains stability within the ecosystem.


To elaborate, students will use what they have learned about the beavers and apply it to different problems in other ecosystems. Students will research a design solution for the ecosystem and present their findings to the class on how well it maintains the stability within the ecosystem. Students will be evaluated on their ability to obtain, evaluate, and communicate their findings and determine how well the solution helps to maintain stability in the ecosystem.

Phenomena Statement

Biodiversity is an indicator of the health and stability of an ecosystem.