Part One (1-2 class periods):
Start off the lesson with an overview of different biomes of the world. Students should take notes with a KWL chart. There are several alternatives. If you have a Netflix account, I would recommend viewing all or a portion of Home, directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, or Understanding Science: Volume 4: Ecosystems by Dr. Science (this one’s on instant!). If you don’t have a Netflix account, you can use one of two PowerPoints, found here:
After they gain preliminary information, conduct a class discussion from these questions:
- Compare and contrast the climates of each biome. Which biomes had similar precipitation averages? Which biomes had similar average temperatures?
- Did students come across any plant or animals common in multiple biomes? Discuss why specific plants or animals can live in more than one biome.
- Choose an extreme environment of a specific biome we just looked at and think about type of plants live there. For example, look at plants that live on a rocky cliff or the frozen tundra. What adaptations help them survive these extreme climates?
- Consider the biome in which you live. What plants live in this biome? How are they affected by abiotic and biotic factors? What can humans do to protect the plant life in your biome?
- Compare and contrast the environmental factors that consistently threaten the population size of plants in each biome. Which plants are threatened? Suggest steps for protection. Is this plant population of concern for the entire world?
- Choose an area of the world for a road trip and describe the biomes that you would encounter during your trip. For example, you might start a road trip in Washington, D.C., and travel west to California and then up the Pacific coast to Alaska. How could you distinguish one biome from another? What characteristics set each biome apart?
Place students in groups of three for the duration of the project. Have them create and sign a contract for working successfully and receiving a satisfactory DAILY group participation grade. (Please see Group Work Rubic. ) Teacher can print out and staple multiple copies and have students tear off one rubric per class.
Part Two (2 class periods):
Students will generate research on a biome that the teacher provides. It is best for teachers to pick from the following (these biomes are easiest to recreate in the classroom without extra materials):
- Coastal desert
- Hot desert
- Temperate Forest
- Alpine or Arctic Tundra
Note: These biomes may be easily maintained depending on the natural climate in your region and time of year.
Students will be gathering all the information they need to recreate their biome. This is including, but not limited to: flora, fauna, topography, elevation, climate, and human influence. Designate one student at least two topics for research. Student research may be done in a variety of formats to suit the school and student resources, as well as time permitting for the teacher (computer carts, library, internet articles printed off and brought in, website suggestions below). After they have researched their environment, they will write up a one paragraph summary on each subject totaling AT LEAST 6 paragraphs (more if there are more group members).
Students will use the information from their research to create a materials list to build their biome. Pose questions (some found in materials list) to guide their materials list. Also consider what precautions will students set up for species? Sometimes, species will get sick, die, or escape. Have students explain how they would prevent/handle each of these situations in the most humane way possible. Show students examples of ways to construct biomes with photos. (I have some pictures from my class last year uploaded as well as other classroom biomes.) Have them explain what specific materials are feasible, affordable, and successful for their environment.
Print out or project the teacher anonymous blog, explaining how to make one particular type of biome to house an ecosystem at http://teacheranonymous.blogspot.com/2008/04/how-to-make-bottle-biome.html. Student groups will discuss how to make it differently depending on their biome. Then, draw up a blueprint of what their biome will look like on graph paper. Detail is important here. Have students write captions that explain how the blueprint will sustain the population. Be sure students do this before materials are purchased! A neighboring group will then critique draft of biome. Have students check to make sure that materials and construction make sense for their biome. Students critiquing work will give positive feedback, as well as one comment for improvement of the blueprint.
Note: Teachers will collect blueprints and materials list, OK the blueprints and create a shopping list for the following class period.