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Ecosystems | Activity 4.1

Activity 4.1: Farms are Ecosystems, Too (30 min)

Students consider how many people can be supported on a vegetable-based diet versus a meat-based diet by examining how matter and energy move through a farm ecosystem.

Materials You Provide

  • Computer
  • Projector

Resources Provided


Print one copy of 4.1 Farm Ecosystem Worksheet for each student. Prepare a computer and projector to display the presentation.


1. Introduce a farm as an ecosystem.

Ask students to share ideas about how people are a part of ecosystems and how people use ecosystems. Point out that humans get all of our food and oxygen from ecosystems.

  • Point out that farms are ecosystems, too, and that these are the focus of the Activity today.
  • Pass out 4.1 Farm Ecosystem Worksheet to each student. Use Slides 2-3 of 4.1 Farm Ecosystem PPT to talk about how farms are ecosystems too, and humans are part of those ecosystems.
  • Use Slide 3 to point out the different pools of carbon: This ecosystem has carbon pools just like the others we have studied: atmosphere, producers, herbivores, and carnivores, and soil carbon.


Use 4.1 Grading the Farm Ecosystem Worksheet to grade student responses. At this point, students can be held accountable for correct answers. If students are still struggling with these concepts, you may want to revisit parts of the Lesson they are finding difficult.

Look to see if they use photosynthesis, cellular respiration in their explanations. If they don’t mention these processes, you may want to return to the animation and discuss which processes (e.g., photosynthesis, digestion, cellular respiration) cause carbon atoms to move in the ecosystems.


Have students predict how many carbon atoms will end up in each pool at the beginning of each round. Encourage them to use what they know about the biomass pyramid to make predictions.

Extending the Learning

Have students bring in one item of food from home. Have students trace the path of a carbon atom from the atmosphere to their food product to the person who will eat it. Encourage them to explain what happens to carbon atoms and energy along the way.