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Activity 3.6: Explaining Patterns in Ecosystems (30 min)

Target Student Performance

Students explain matter cycling and energy flow in ecosystems, answering the Carbon Pools Question, the Carbon Cycling Question, and the Energy Flow Question.

Resources Provided

Recurring Resources


Print one copy of the 3.6 Explanations Tool for Ecosystems and 3.6 Telling the Ecosystems Story Reading for each student. Prepare a computer and projector to show the 3.6 Explaining Patterns in Ecosystem PPT.


1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.


Use 3.6 Grading the Explanations Tool for Ecosystems to get a sense of students’ explanations for the organic matter pyramid. At this point, students should have well-developed explanations for the pattern they see. Look for the range of ideas in the class and consider what may need more emphasis to help the students develop more sophisticated explanations.

  • Provide sentence stems for discussion and filling in the Explanations Tool
  • Work through the front of the Explanations Tool as a class.
  • Hand out and refer to Example Ecosystems Explanation Handout when working on the Explanations Tool.
  • Use and refer to the word wall to support students in using scientific language in their explanations.
Extending the Learning