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Teaching Ecology Post 2: Introduction to Ecology

For as much as I love biology and for as many years as I have taught biology, I continue to find the topic of "Ecology" a difficult one to teach.  I have never really been able to put my finger on exactly why this is the case.  The only thing I can come up with is:

  • I am a cell physiologist at heart.  I just love, love, love teaching photosynthesis, respiration, protein synthesis, and the like.  
  • My students never really show any excitement while learning about ecology.  The very students that are energetic and ask a lot of questions at other times of the year, become strangely silent during the unit on ecology.
  • Put the above two reasons together, and what does my self analysis tell me?  Perhaps, my lack of enthusiasm for ecology has a direct impact on my students!!  
I am never a satisfied teacher.  Each year, I am determined to improve my "weakest link."  So this past school year, I was more determined than ever to "like" ecology and get my students excited about it. I started by breaking down the material into 6 mini-units of study:
  • Introduction to Ecology
  • Population Ecology
  • Community Ecology
  • Ecosystems and the Biosphere Part 1:  Energy Flow Through the Ecosystem
  • Ecosystems and the Biosphere Part 1:  Biomes of the World
  • Human Impact on the Biosphere
Since my students always respond well to PowerPoint lectures, I wrote a PowerPoint for each mini-unit above, making sure that I included as many pictures and cool graphics as possible.  I literally WOWED them with clipart, graphics and photographs.

The first PowerPoint is called Introduction to Ecology, and here is a sneak peak.

This PowerPoint covers the following information:

1. What is ecology?
2. The Role of Climate: What is the difference between weather and climate? What factors affect climate?
3. The State of Today's Environment: The exploding human population, the sixth mass extinction, the damage to the ozone layer, and climate changes.
4. The greenhouse effect, greenhouse gases, human activities that contribute to the greenhouse effect.
5. The Effect of Latitude on Climate: Polar zones, temperate zones, and tropical zones.
6. Heat Transfer in the Biosphere: Winds, currents.
7. Levels of Ecological Organization: Biosphere, ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms.
8. The living and the nonliving components of an ecosystem.
9. The theme of interconnectedness and interdependence in ecology.
10. Biotic and abiotic factors
11. Habitat -vs- Niche.

I was very pleased with how this was received by my students. This PowerPoint is a great start in laying the foundation of all the ecological concepts to come.  If you are interested, I have made this PowerPoint available in my store on  It consists of 41 slides and comes with notes for both the teacher and student.  The student notes are in outline form.  The students fills in their outline as the lessons are being taught.

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