I start off this unit explaining that energy flows through the biosphere/earth. Then I review with students the major biomes on earth. I explain that earth's biome changes in altitude mirror those in latitude. I review both terrestrial and aquatic biomes.
Vocabulary is a big part of this unit. I review important terms, especially habitat and niche.
Since ecology is about energy movement, I discuss the movement of energy on earth and how the sun is earth's main source of energy. We review food chains, food webs, and various ecological pyramids.
Later, I review the additional terms: autotroph, heterotroph, and different types of consumers.
Most students are familiar with the water cycle. For most, their knowledge base is expanded once I review other bio-geo-chemical cycles: carbon dioxide/oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus. I remind students that energy moves in a straight line while nutrients cycle through the biosphere.
Next I tell students that ecosystems are affected by biotic factors (like different species, predators, etc.) abiotic factors (like temperature, soil types, etc.), community interactions, and ecological succession. I talk about living and non-living factors that effect ecosystems, as well as ecological succession.
With the discussion about the characteristics of a populations, I talk about geographic distribution, growth rate, and density. As resources become less available, ecosystems reach carrying capacity for a particular species. Exponential growth for a species becomes logistic growth. These concepts are reinforced with LABS.
I also use LAB activities to teach about population growth. I explain that population growth is limited by density dependent factors like food availability, availability of mates, etc. and density independent factors like weather, seasonal cycles, etc.
I spend some time talking about biodiversity and how the biosphere has been transformed by humans. I review some negative effects humans have had on the biosphere, as well as positive impacts and sustainable use by humans.
The major factor in negative human effects is population. I show students some comparisons of human population in developed and lesser developed nations.
The culminating activity for this unit is the state lab Relationships and Biodiversity.
You can also download a crude powerpoint that I made of the book below. I display it in my classroom as we read the book together. I recommend purchasing a class set so students can participate easily with the reading.
New York State Teacher of Biology/Living Environment
All regular education and most special education students are required to take the New York State Living Environment Regents. This is the material I have delivered to all ability levels of students to prepare them for that test.
My instruction of this course evolved. Although I continually "tweaked" things from year to year and class to class, I found that the most orderly delivery was to use PowerPoint slides to act as my "plan book". From these, I communicated instructional objectives, vocabulary, lab activities, and other learning activities to students.