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Extreme Ecosystems: A Biodiversity Lesson

Elementary, Middle

Description

One of the most extreme places to live on Earth is the northern Arctic and yet an amazing group of plants and animals have adapted to life under the harsh polar conditions. However, global warming is causing major environmental change in this region which is contributing to habitat loss and food chain disruptions. This engaging lesson has students studying interesting Arctic species to make connections to climate change impacts as they:

  • Research scientific information about specific Arctic plants and animals.
  • Define how species are classed as threatened, endangered or of special concern.
  • Prepare species reports that include information about adaptations, habitat requirements and how each species contributes to Arctic ecosystems.
  • Develop and play an Arctic trivia game that can be used for peer education.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Research.
  • Communication.
  • Organizing information.

Strengths

  • The topic is timely and relevant since climate change impacts on Arctic ecosystems have become a high profile environmental concern
  • Prioritizes student led learning
  • Recognizes that the well-being of Northern Indigenous communities is closely connected to Arctic ecosystem health.

Weaknesses

  • Does not include any assessment strategies
  • The lesson does not contain any curriculum connections to guide teacher planning

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This lesson supports Grade 4-8 Science curriculum related to ecosystem health, biodiversity, climate change and human impacts on the environment. The activities could also be included in Social Studies units that explore Arctic First Nations communities.

The lesson could easily extend into a teaching project that promotes renewable energy. Working with local community members a class could build a pop can solar panel or erect a wind turbine at school. Students could also organize a school workshop for citizens and businesses to provide information about lowering carbon emissions and reducing energy costs.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions.
        • Investigating change and the diversity of Earth’s systems helps us to develop understandings of the conditions necessary to sustain life.
    • Grade 5
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Living Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions
        • Weather Watch
    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions.
        • Living Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions
        • Students investigate climate and describe the interactions between the Sun, water, air, and land.
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions and Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
  • British Columbia
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    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 4: All living things sense and respond to their environment
    • Grade 7
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 7: Earth and its climate have changed over geological time
  • Manitoba
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    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitat and Communities
    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Diversity of Living Things
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions Within Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth
  • New Brunswick
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    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Wayfinding: Making sense of your world: Learning and Living Sustainably (STSE)
    • Grade 7
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 7 Earth Surface Processes:Learning and Living Sustainably (STSE)
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
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    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats
    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Diversity of Life
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interaction of Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth's Surface
  • Northwest Territories
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    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Diversity of Living Things
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions and Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
  • Nova Scotia
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    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 4: Habitats
    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 6: Diversity of Life
    • Grade 8
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 8: Climate Change
  • Nunavut
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    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions and Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions in Our Environment
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Diversity of Life
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
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    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 6: Life Science: Diversity of Living Things
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 7: Life Science: Interactions within Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 8: Water Systems on Earth
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 4: All living things sense and respond to their environment
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 7: Earth and its climate have changed over geological time

Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Ecosystems (3)

    • Biodiversity
    • Endangered Species
    • Interdependence

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

Links are made between biotic and abiotic ecosystem components such as polar bear requirements for sea ice. This reinforces student understanding of interconnectedness and the role of physical change in creating biological change. Students will be more aware of the complexities of nature in relation to human impacts.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Students discuss the fragility of arctic food webs in relation to the  environmental cost of reduced biodiversity and social impacts on indigenous people that depend on arctic species for food, clothing and shelter. This holistic approach ensures that learners understand how significant changes in climate threaten sensitive arctic ecosystems leading to human issues like food insecurity.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

Students distinguish between endangered, threatened and species of special concern to increase awareness of how conservation efforts require a comprehensive approach that balances environmental and human needs.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

No specific action projects are included but there is potential for a teacher to extend the learning into action by incorporating a student project for personal carbon reduction goals.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

Class discussions centre on how individual action can contribute to conservation efforts.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

The resource includes Indigenous Peoples in the exploration of this topic which fosters an understanding of the intimate connections and respect that First Nations citizens have for the land they call home.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Satisfactory

As students research arctic species they will become more connected to  nature.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Satisfactory

Students are encouraged to extend their learning to include a consideration of human impacts on threatened/endangered species in their own community.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Poor/Not considered
Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The activities are designed to allow students to reach their own conclusions as they conduct their research.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

This lesson has been developed to support Science outcomes but the activities could enhance Social Studies content related to studying Inuit communities.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Students are actively involved in the learning process through self-directed research and peer communication. The activities encourage curiosity about the topic and class discussions support idea building and expansion of new learning.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Poor/Not considered
Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

The Polar Bear International website contains several unique videos that support the lesson plan. These webcam videos bring students into the world of Polar Bear research with the scientists that are on the ground.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Students work in pairs or small groups with each individual actively contributing to the lesson.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered
Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good

Groups communicate new learning to other class members through peer presentations and trivia cards they create for the "What Arctic Species Am I?" game.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Poor/Not considered
Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Poor/Not considered
Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.