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Ecosystems | Activity 1.3

Activity 1.3: Key Features of Ecosystems (30 min)

Students debrief from the pretest and during a class discussion based on the presentation, students “zoom in” to a meadow ecosystem. We expect that most students will be able to identify the producers, herbivores, and carnivores, but they will be less likely to explain how the number of each is affected by the others.

Materials You Provide

  • Computer
  • Projector and screen

Resources Provided


Open the 1.3 Key Features of Ecosystems PPT and project it. If you will have students do the optional ecosystem drawing prepare drawing materials as well.


1. Students debrief from the pretest and brainstorm initial ideas about ecosystems.

Ask students to share their ideas and questions about ecosystems. Students will likely have heard the word “ecosystem” before. You may want to tell them that the word combines two Greek root words that mean “house” (eco) and “to combine” (system).

  • What ideas do they have about what defines an ecosystem?
  • Show students Slide 2 from 1.3 Key Features of Ecosystems PPT to define an ecosystem.
  • Ask if the students can name some ecosystem types (desert, forest, prairie, tundra, etc.).


  • Use the ideas students share during class about ecosystems to formatively assess their familiarity with various ecosystems, types of organisms, and organic versus inorganic carbon.
  • This Unit builds on previous knowledge about organic versus inorganic carbon and levels of scale. If students experience difficulty making the connections in this lesson they should be provided further instruction or review before moving on.


Check to see if students are able to identify the difference between organic and inorganic carbon at this point in the unit.


Have students draw an image of an ecosystem of their choice during step 3, and list the types of organisms that might live there. Then during step 4, have students identify producers, herbivores, carnivores and decomposers in the ecosystem they drew. If they don’t have an organism in each role, encourage them to draw a new organism to play that role in their ecosystem.

Extending the Learning

Have students use online satellite imagery to take a picture of their neighborhood and identify where the carbon is located near their home or school.