Ecosystems are a part of 5th grade science curriculum. There are several different ways that you can teach your students about ecosystems, however, not all methods are going to excite students about science. One option that you have is to combine students’ natural fascination with fossils with the reconstruction of an ancient ecosystem. For this lesson plan you will need amber samples with fossilized insects and plants inside them, magnifying glasses and floral and fauna identification books or printouts.
Goals and Objectives
The goals and objectives of this lesson plan are to simply introduce students to the steps that scientists take to reconstruct ancient ecosystems using fossilized remains of plants and animals. After completing this project students will be able to use deductive reasoning to reconstruct portions of an ancient ecosystem using clues found in fossils.
To start this lesson you will want to give a brief lecture on the geological era that your reconstruction will deal with. You can supplement this lecture with a multimedia presentation or a video on that era. Next you will want to demonstrate how to abstract details from a fossil and use that information to reconstruct a portion of the ecosystem that the animal or plant lived in. For example, a fern leaf can indicate that the ecosystem was tropic or subtropical and that it had a good concentration of precipitation.
For the guided study activity for this lesson plan you will give each student a printable that has spaces for various aspects of an ecosystem. For example, you can have a section for climate, plant life, insects, water and animals. Next you will pass around fossils and amber samples from the ecosystem that you are reconstructing. Students will examine each fossil and make notes about the size, shape and structures of the fossil. They will then use these pieces of information to determine what the structures or fossil samples tell them about the extinct ecosystem.
Homework and Follow-up Activities
For the follow-up activity you will give your students computer lab time. They will use this time in the computer lab to research the animals and plants that were in the fossils. They will then try to recreate the various aspects of the ecosystem that these once living things that you asked for in the printable.
For the homework assignment students will use what they learned from their own observations of the fossils and from their research to develop a one page profile of the ecosystem that they are reconstructing. The profile will need to include information about the climate, biodiversity and precipitation levels for the ecosystem.