An ecosystem or ecology is formed by a community of living organisms interacting with the environment in which they live. Ecosystems do not have any particular size. They can vary from being as small as an empty plot of land or as vast as an ocean. Though there are millions of ecosystems that make up our world, there are two major types, terrestrial ecosystem and aquatic ecosystem. A few examples of terrestrial ecosystems are grassland biome or savannah ecosystem, forest ecosystem, agricultural land ecosystem, desert ecosystem etc. River, pond, marine, and aquarium come under aquatic ecosystems. The difference in climate from place to place determines the nature and type of the ecosystems. The two main components of the ecosystem are abiotic - consisting of sunlight, water or moisture, temperature and soil etc. and biotic - like primary producers or plants, primary consumers or herbivores, secondary consumers or carnivores, omnivores and decomposers.
Awareness campaigns about the activities in ecosystems can be arranged. Schools can come forward in arranging activities for students from various grades. Here are a few suggestions for ecosystem school activities.
Kids can be taken to parks in order to study the various ecosystems found there. In order to make ecosystems activities interesting, kids can be made to build models of the ecosystem they wish to learn about. Kids, normally, like to try out new things. They can be asked to build an ecosystem using models. For example, they can make a representation of grassland ecosystem by using chart paper and color markers. Models of animals can be created by using clay. Kids should be explained the role, each animal plays in the ecosystem. Discussion on the interrelations between the objects can be carried out and each child can explain how the ecosystem will suffer if any one object is removed.
As an ecosystem activity, elementary students can be taken on field trips to a nearby garden, where a number of micro-ecosystems exist. You can also ask the students to pick out a micro-ecosystem, like a tree or a pond, they wish to study. Let them make a list of the living and non-living things that are found in that area and discuss on the interrelationships between them. At the end of the discussion let them make a chart showing the connections between the living and non-living things. Students can also be asked to build a mini ecosystem and study it. You can build mini ecosystems like deciduous forest biome, deserts, grasslands, rainforests, Tundra biome and coniferous forests etc.
Divide the class into small groups of 5 students each. Ask them to collect materials, drawings, specimens, etc. to make an ecosystem model or poster. Explain the different trophic levels and their importance in the ecosystem and also tell them the effect of the absence of one trophic level in the ecosystem. This ecosystem activity can be made interactive by organizing group discussions, conducting quizzes, and also asking students to explain their projects. In this way students will become more aware of their environment and can also contribute their ideas to have more ecosystem activities.
Ecology Activities for 4th and 5th Grade Students
Students can research on topics concerning the environment as an ecosystem activity. They can choose topics like global warming, effects and consequences of global warming, acid rain, etc. They can also study various types of pollution like environmental pollution, air pollution, noise pollution and water pollution. They can exchange views and can offer suggestions on how to solve these problems that is affecting the ecosystem.
Activities for High School Students
Another ecosystem activity can be building a simple food pyramid or food web. A chart depicting the food cycle and how all the plants and animals in the ecosystem are interdependent on each other can be made to elucidate the system. High school students can also be taught about the importance of plants and animals and their interconnection with human beings. A skit based on the food chain can be enacted and roles can be divided among students.
Conducting activities for students can help them gain a better understanding of the ecosystem and hence, create awareness about our environment to preserve it for future generations.