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Teaching Ecology Post 5: The Flow of Energy Through the Ecosystem

Over the last few days, I have been telling you about my attempt to make teaching a unit on Ecology more appealing to both me and my students.  If you haven't been keeping up, here is a quick review:

  • I'm not wild about teaching ecology.
  • My students are not wild about learning ecology.
  • I was looking for a better way to teach it.
  • I broke it down into 6 different units of study:  Intro to Ecology, Population Ecology, Community Ecology, Energy Flow Through the Ecosystem, Biomes, and the Human Impact on the Environment.
  • I have already written blog posts about the first 3 units.
  • Here is the blog post about the 4th unit!
Whew! Now you are caught up!!

So today brings us to the 4th unit of study:  The Flow of Energy Through the Ecosystem and the Recycling of Matter.   Now THIS is a lesson that I can get into!  I have said all along.... I think ecology is important and I definitely need to make sure that I teach it to my students, but I am a cell physiology type of person.  I like teaching the "micro" rather than the "macro".  The flow of energy through the ecosystem is right up my alley since my favorite topics of instruction are photosynthesis and respiration!!  

As with all of my teaching PowerPoints, I think that a captivating visual display is essential in today's classroom.  Our students are so used to special effects, that we must include as many graphics and photographs as possible in order to keep their attention.  Take a look at a few of the slides I prepared for this lesson:

Topics covered in this lesson are:
1.   Energy Flow Through the Ecosystem:  Sunlight as a source of energy, importance of photosynthesis, conversion of energy into glucose and other organic compounds.
2.   Autotrophs, producers, examples of autotrophs, chemoautotrophs and chemosynthesis.
3.   Heterotrophs, consumers, examples of heterotrophs, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, detritivores, decomposers, the essential nature of decomposition.
4.   Feeding Relationships:  One way flow of energy through the ecosystem, food chains, examples of food chains, food webs, trophic levels, primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary consumers.
5.   Productivity of the Ecosystem:  Two ways to measure productivity, gross primary productivity, the role of glucose in productivity, biomass, net primary productivity, factors that determine productivity in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
6.   Energy transfer between trophic levels, ecological pyramids, percentage of energy that moves up to the next trophic level, reasons why the transfer of energy is so low.
7.   Given a hypothetical food chain, the student will identify the autotroph, the primary consumer, secondary consumer, and tertiary consumer as well as calculate the amount of energy passed to each trophic level.
8.   Ecosystem recycling:  the recycling of matter, the essential need to recycle carbon, nitrogen, water, and phosphorus, biogeochemical cycles.
9.   Water Cycle:  Location of water, evaporation, precipitation, transpiration, condensation, steps to water cycle, students will complete a diagram of the water cycle.
10. The Carbon Cycle:  The importance of carbon to organic compounds, the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the carbon cycle, the role of erosion and volcanic activity in the carbon cycle, decomposition, burning of fossil fuels, steps to the carbon cycle, the student will label a diagram of the carbon cycle, the human impact on the carbon cycle.
11. The Nitrogen Cycle:  The importance of nitrogen in building proteins and nucleic acids, nitrogen fixation, ammonification, nitrification, denitrification, assimilation, the role of various bacteria in the nitrogen cycle, students will label a diagram of the nitrogen cycle.
12. The Phosphorus Cycle:  The importance of phosphorus to ATP and nucleotides, the movement of phosphorus through the ecosystem.
13. Limiting nutrients.

Thanks for visiting and ...... HAVE FUN TEACHING!

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