Ecology: Overview

Module Overview
The ecology module covers the concepts of the components and organization of an ecosystem, the flow of energy through living systems, biodiversity, and ecological succession. Students have the opportunity to guide their own learning with a variety of “knowledge objectives” in order to provide the necessary tools to stimulate critical thinking and the application of the necessary scientific levels.

Keywords: abiotic, biodiversity, biome, biotic, carnivore, carrying capacity, community, competition, consumer, decomposer, ecology, ecosystems, energy pyramid, food chain, food web, herbivore, limiting factor, omnivore, organism, photosynthesis, pioneer species, population, primary succession, producer, secondary succession

Subject TEKS:
6.12 (E) describe biotic and abiotic parts of an ecosystem in which organisms interact.
(F) represent the levels of organization within an ecosystem, including the levels of organism, population, community, and ecosystem.
7.5 (B) represents the flow of energy through living systems, including food chains, food webs, and energy pyramids.
7.8 (A) predict and describe how catastrophic events such as floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes affect ecosystems.
7.10 (A) Observe and describe how different environments, including micro-habitats in schoolyards and biomes, support a variety of organisms.
(B) describe how biodiversity contributes to the sustainability of an ecosystem.
(C) observe, target, and describe the role of ecological succession in, for example, a weed garden micro-habitat.

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence on the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts trends in interactions between organisms across various ecosystems.
MS-LS2-3. Develop a model to describe the material cycle and energy flow between living and non-living parts of an ecosystem.
MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence indicating that changes in the physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect its populations.
MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing solution designs that maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Grades: sixth to ninth

Knowledge objectives
Describe and differentiate between biotic and abiotic factors in an ecosystem.
Describe the levels of organization in an ecosystem.
Define competition for individuals in an ecosystem.
Identify limiting factors and describe how they affect the size of a population.
Create diagrams of food chains and food webs to accurately describe the flow of energy in an ecosystem.
Analyze energy pyramids to determine the energy available at each level of a food chain.
Explain the importance of biodiversity in an ecosystem and distinguish between areas of high biodiversity and low biodiversity.
Describe the characteristics of the main biomes on Earth.
Differentiate between primary and secondary succession and describe how they affect an ecosystem.

Time required: Varies depending on the implementation of the lesson and the chosen knowledge objectives.

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