The teacher assigns and attaches to student's shirts an organism card ( opossum, rattlesnake, owl, armadillo, coyote, horned lizard, fawn, jackrabbit.) Each card tells what this organism must eat to survive and what it's predators are. Students carry, teacher provided, plastic bags to represent stomachs. Yellow and green blocks represent the sun’s energy in plants and red blocks represent bugs and worms which the teach spreads throughout a designated area. Orange blocks represent pollution in water source and hula hoops to represent habit safety zones such as trees and burrows where organisms can hide for 10 seconds without being eaten by their predator.
At the beginning students think the simulation is just all fun. Gradually they begin to realize its more than just a game. The goal of this ecosystem simulation investigation is to show students how all organisms are interconnected and are affected when different variables are changed. The teacher will control what variable they want to test and prompt students to discuss the impact of the variable on the ecosystem. These discussions should occur after each simulation has been run. Below is a list of suggestion variable:
number of producers
number of herbivores
number of predators
habitat (size of area)
habitat (number of hula hoops)
Presence of highways ( in the form of students pretending to be in cars and driving through the ecosystem killing organisms)
Presence of pollution ( in the form of a orange colored tiles that represent oil spill or pollution in the water source that kills organisms)
My student always beg me not to end the simulations because they enjoy running around trying to survive in the ecosystem. But as we practice analyzing the results of each simulation they begin to understand the science concepts embedded in this outdoor lab.