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Endangered Ecosystems: A Scholastic Explorers Activity

By studying animals that live in three different endangered environments, students learn how ecosystems sustain wildlife.

Grades

3–5, 6–8

Activity Type

  • Activities and Games

Scholastic Explorer’s "Endangered Ecosystemsproject (grades 4–8) engages students on the subject of ecosystems, and how they sustain wildlife. In conjunction with the Earthwatch Institute, students will “visit” three field sites, including a tropical rain forest of Costa Rica, a dry forest in Mexico, and wetlands in Brazil.

Through on-the-scene field reports, photographs, interviews with scientists and others on the site, students will discover firsthand how Earthwatch teams study animals in their environment and work to preserve these endangered ecosystems. Students will learn about the following animals, and why scientific study of natural populations are important.

Costa Rican Caterpillars

Caterpillars are at the bottom of the food chain but are one of the most plentiful rain forest inhabitants, which means they’re critical for the ecosystem.

  • First, students read up on the caterpillars and study the field site – a tropical wet forest at La Selva, Costa Rica.
  • An expedition map helps students grasp the geographic location of the field site.
  • Detailed field reports offer further reading on the caterpillars, including how the explorers track them, caterpillar nurseries, and why caterpillars are so important to the ecosystem.
  • Students can then Meet an Explorer, science teacher Shauneen Giudice, who teaches about the environment.
  • By exploring ecosystems near their home with tips from Scholastic, students can Be an Explorer.
  • Lastly, students can Build a Caterpillar, to demonstrate how the animal would protect itself in various environments.

Mexican Wildcats

These animals play an important role in conserving the tropical dry forest of Mexico.

  • First, students read up on the wildcats (and other local carnivores) and study the field site – the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve of Mexico.
  • An expedition map helps students grasp the geographic location of the field site.
  • Detailed field reports share information on various wild cats, how the Earthwatch experts identify animal tracks, how they radio-track cats and other carnivores, and more.
  • Students then Meet an Explorer, biologist Carlos López González from the Ecology Institute in Veracruz, Mexico, who has studied wild cats and other predators in the Mexican tropical dry forest since 1992.
  • By exploring ecosystems near their home with help from Scholastic, students can Be an Explorer.
  • Finally, students can Build a Food Web, an interactive activity that challenges them to investigate some of the animals in the Mexican ecosystem.

Brazilian River Otters

These animals inhabit the endangered ecosystems of Brazil’s Pantanal area, one of the world’s largest wetlands.

  • First, students read up on river otters and study the field site – the Pantanal area of Brazil in South America.
  • An expedition map helps students grasp the geographic location of the field site.
  • Detailed field reports share how the Earthwatch experts set up camp in Brazil, gather data on the otters, set “track traps,” and more.
  • Students then Meet an Explorer, Dr. Alexinie Keuroghlian, Field Director of Earthwatch’s Conservation Research Initiative in Brazil’s Pantanal.
  • Students can Be an Explorer by learning how to set up “track traps” to collect information on animal tracks.

 

Learning Objectives

While participating in the "Scholastic Explorers Endangered Ecosystems" project, students become proficient with several of these skills. Each skill below is linked to its point of use in the Teacher's Guide. In the course of participating in this project, students will:

  • 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.

 

 

 

My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
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