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Lesson: Ecosystem Anomalies

Mezzacello Systems Tour
Jim Bruner | Mezzacello Searching for anomalies in the ecosystem that is being observed

This is the lesson: Ecosystem Anomalies. Students are required to identify, support, explore, and explain a 1 meter stretch of an ecosystem using a hula hoop, a notepad, and their instincts. The ecosystem will feature one anomaly that they must locate, observe, document, and defend.

This is a great outdoor exercise as it’s really easy and low cost to implement and deploy. It’s fun to hide various anomalies in ecosystems (one lone plant, a star wars action figure, a bone) and have students make educated and critical guesses as to whether it was there originally or not.

Materials

  • Hula Hoops (enough for two students to share a hoop)
  • A series of anomalies to hide –
    • I am partial to plastic aquarium plants as they are incredibly lifelike and REQUIRE careful observation
    • I also like to plant live plants with a different soil matrix like peat moss or styrofoam
    • Hide a few funny things as well, but also try to hide a plant
    • Teach students how to identify dangerous or invasive species like poison ivy, ivy or thistle
  • A trowel and a hand rake
  • A brown paper bag for collecting evidence of their anomaly
  • A notepad
  • A pen or pencil

Instructions

  1. Determine the general areas that will be your ecosystems for survey
  2. Randomly hide the anomaly ahead of time
  3. Parse out teams to explore the environment of their one meter ecosystem
  4. Discuss with the students what the parameters and expectations are for this survey
  5. Share with them common dangerous plants using this PDF
  6. Deploy them in 10 minute forays and meet up again after each foray
  7. Debrief their findings and have a conversation
  8. Discuss what students can determine from this small survey
  9. What kind of ecosystem where they looking at?
  10. What was the volume of the ecosystem in terms of a 1 meter block like you find in Minecraft
  11. Can ecosystems exist underground, in the air, in water?
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