The Wonderful worlds of our own backyards.
Flipping through science text books I am always fascinated by the myriad ecosystems on our planet. From tall mountains to swampy lagoons the contrasts are startling. But what is in between the Swamp and the Mountain top? Where does the forest end and the river begin? In this back yard ecosystem activity, students get a chance to explore various micro ecosystems in their back yards and attempt to classify the determinants of each ecosystem.
It goes like this:
1. Look at your back yard. Simply by looking onto your yard, identify several areas that look different. Maybe one area is lower than another, or there is less grass, a little wetter looking or a raised garden bed. If you don't have a yard use the sidewalk area in front of your house, a park or any area that city scaped it can even be a parking lot.
2. For each area that looks different (choose at least 3) pick an area that is at least the size of a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper. If can be bigger if you want but having the same size for all areas is best.
3. Study the area you have chosen:
a. What is on top of the ground? Can you ID the plants? Can you draw them? Are their any plants at all?
b) Dig down 10 - 30 cm (dig the same depth in each different spot) and collect all the dirt in a bucket or bowl. Carefully look through all the dirt and see how many different Insects and Crawlers you can find. Draw them. Count them.
c) Once you have your hole. Look at the dirt on the side of the hole. Does it change from the top of the hole to the bottom? Take some soil in your fingers and smear it on your paper. Make a note of how deep that soil was in the hole.
d) Make a notice list. Are there any other things your notice or wonder about this tiny ecosystem.
4. Move to another location in your yard and repeat the process.
5. Once you have visited all your sites. Compare your results.
How are the sites the same?
How are they different?
What environmental factors do you think make them the same or different?
6. Extension: Thinking Big and Doing Some Big Investigation
Where do the ecosystems change in your back yard. Can you find evidence of transition zones where elements of each mini ecosystem interact?
7. Here is a copy of what your Eco System journal might look like.