Endangered Ecosystems Teacher's Guide
Students will learn firsthand how Earthwatch teams study animals in their environment and work to preserve these endangered ecosystems.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
This project studies animals that live in endangered ecosystems in the tropical forests of Mexico and Costa Rica and the wetlands of Brazil. While students are engaged in this project they will gain an understanding of how ecosystems sustain wildlife. They will also appreciate that these specialized environments support a diverse plant and animal population. In conjunction with the Earthwatch Institute, students will visit three field sites. The first is the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve in the tropical dry forests of southwestern Mexico. There, research teams are tracking the wildcats that make Mexico their home. The second site is La Selva, a biological reserve located in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica. Researchers there are collecting and studying caterpillars, many of which are previously unknown species. The third site is in Brazil's Pantanal wetlands, where students will work with scientists to study the river otter.
- Discuss the importance of preserving endangered ecosystems.
- Use graphic organizers to order their questions and discoveries.
- Read online texts from the Field Reports to build comprehension of the nature of scientific inquiry.
- Demonstrate an understanding of content by participating in a question and answer discussion of their reading.
- Interact with a food web and gain an understanding of animal eating habits.
- Complete a skill sheet and draw conclusions about the effects of change on the food web.
- Read online texts from the field site to build comprehension about the rain forest and wetland environments and their organisms.
- Demonstrate an understanding of diversity and adaptations of organisms by participating in a question and answer discussion of their reading.
- Interact with online technology to build caterpillars that are suited to their environment.
- Discuss how the student-built caterpillars' structure and function help them fit into their environment.
- Participate in a bulletin board with the student and scientist explorers studying river otters.
- Investigate a local ecosystem by making observations and collecting samples.
- Use a variety of technological and informative resources to conduct research and analyze data about the ecosystem.
- Write about the characteristics and changes in the ecosystem.
Lesson Plans for this Unit
Lesson 1: Endangered Ecosystems Grades 4-5
Lesson 2: Endangered Ecosystems Grades 6-9
Lesson 3: Rainforest Caterpillars
Lesson 4: Taking an Animal Census Grades 3-8
Lesson 5: Riparian Zones Grades 4-8