Lesson One: Objectives
By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:
    • Describe a niche, habitat, and ecosystem
    • Describe abiotic factors that are important to most living things
    • Describe physical characteristics of aquatic biomes of the Arctic
    • Describe the characteristics of terrestrial biomes of the Arctic
    • Describe organisms that live in the biomes of the Arctic

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Engage: Activate Prior Knowledge; Generate Interest

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Show students the video segment Arizona (2:18) to introduce students to habitats and niches.
After viewing the video segment, have students write down their thoughts about what the toad needs to survive (soil, little water, adaptation on its heel for digging). Revisit these thoughts as the lesson progresses, clarifying and revising any misconceptions.

Link to the DE Video Segment: Arizona
Link to a video on Education Academy about Ecosystems, Habitats and Niches

Finally, post the Essential Questions that constitute what students will be learning. Students may read them or you may wish to read them aloud together.

  • What nonliving substances are important to living organisms?
  • What is the difference between an ecosystem, a habitat, and a niche?

Explore: Allowing Students to Experience Content

Have students create a t-chart with these labels: “biotic factors” and “abiotic factors.” See if students know what these two terms mean. Show students the video segments Ecosystems and Biomes (3:30) and Ecosystems: Abiotic and Biotic Factors, and have them write examples of biotic and abiotic factors in their t-charts. Then review the t-charts with the class, filling out a class t-chart on the board or on a piece of chart paper.


Link to the DE Video: Ecosystems and Biomes
Link to the DE Video: Ecosystems: Abiotic and Biotic Factors
Link to How Stuff Works Video: Abiotic and Biotic Factors

Have students do the interactive activity on the Smithsonian National Zoological Park's website entitled "A Walk in the Forest". Students should record in their journals the different relationships that they see between the biotic and abiotic factors in this forest ecosystem.

Link to interactive website: A Walk in the Forest

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Lastly, divide the students into groups of 5 and have them do the hands-on activity Machine Niche

Link to the DE Hands-on activity: Machine Niche

For classrooms without access to DE, the concept of the activity is to have each group write the word NICHE on a piece of paper in a way that each member of the group has a specific task that no one else can do. Have them practice this three times. Then pull one member of the group at random and make a new, sixth group. Tell the students that were pulled that they keep their same roll in the writing of the word NICHE. Have the groups try to write the word NICHE again, this should be impossible. Have the groups discuss why, once one of the members of the group were removed, the task became impossible.

Explain: Firm Up Understanding; Allow Students to Explain What They Know

Have students review the interactive glossary terms ecosystem, habitat, niche, abiotic and biotic. Students should then create their own glossary journals. Using the format of the interactive glossary, students should research and find images and videos that represent each term. They can insert these videos and images into PowerPoint slides. They should then include a slide on which they explain the meaning of the term in their own words and then one more slide that uses the term in a sentence. If they do not have access to PowerPoint, they can use other such programs as Keynote or Prezi. If they do not have access to a computer, they can make their "slides" on sheets of paper and replace the videos with drawings.

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Linkto DE Glossary Term: Ecosystem
Link to DE Glossary Term: Habitat
Link to DE Glossary Term: Niche
Link to DE Glossary Term: Biotic
Link to DE Glossary Term: Abiotic

Engage: Activate Prior Knowledge; Generate Interest

Explain to students that they will now focusing on a specific ecosystem. Ask students to writing in their journals everything they know about the Arctic ecosystem. Students should list the biotic and abiotic factors of both the aquatic and terrestrial parts of the Arctic ecosystem. Allow students to share the items that were listed. Tell students that they will revisit this list later.

Explore: Allowing Students to Experience Content

Explain: Firm Up Understanding; Allow Students to Explain What They Know

Divide students into groups of three. Have students visit the US Fish and Wildlife website (and others listed below). They should use the information there to explore the wildlife, plants, and ecosystem of the Arctic. Each group member should focus on one aspect and become an expert in that aspect (wildlife, plants, ecosystem). Groups should then come together to discuss how to best explain to younger students what the Arctic ecosystem is like. They can create a presentation, create a booklet, make a video etc...

Link to US Fish and Wildlife website
Link to National Geographic tundra biome website
Link to Dive and Discovery website (compares Arctic to Antarctic)
Link to Polar Discovery website

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Elaborate: Allow Students to Apply What They Know

Evaluate: Check for Understanding

Project: Students will now create one of the following:
  • A travel commercial for the Arctic.
  • A travel brochure for the Arctic.


The commercial/brochure should be aimed at individuals who are interested in seeing the animals and plants of both the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of the Arctic.