Learning about soil ecosystems? In this STEAM activity, students engineer an ecological model of a soil ecosystem, then observe and classify microorganisms found in their soil samples.
Topics included in this lab activity:
abiotic factors, biotic factors, ecosystems, types of soil, producers, consumers, decomposers, food chains, food webs, habitats
Project details: Students use plastic 2-liter bottles to create a funnel to observe soil organisms. When the bottle is cut in half and inverted, a funnel is formed. The funnel is filled with soil or leaf litter and heated with a lamp. The heat causes the organisms in the soil to move towards the bottom of the funnel where they are captured in rubbing alcohol for observation.
Project creation: 30 minutes
Total time: 3 days for soil to dry out using lamp
Included in this activity:
1. Teacher instructions- NGSS standards, materials list, teaching tips
2. Student instructions for building a Berlese funnel out of a plastic 2-liter bottle
3. Introductory reading passages to provide background information on soil ecosystems (2 levels provided)
4. Comprehension questions from reading passage and to complete after building and observing the Berlese funnel
5. Soil ecosystem food web diagram
6. Answer key for all pages
•5-PS3-1: Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.
•5-LS2-1: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
•3-5-ETS1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
•MS-LS2-2:Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems
•MS-LS2-3:Developamodeltodescribethecycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
•MS-LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
Teaching ecology or environmental science? You may be interested in some of my other lessons. Many STEAM labs are included!
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