Lesson Two: Objectives
By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

    • Recognize that ecosystems do not stay the same forever.
    • Describe how climate changes can cause long-term effects to an ecosystem.
    • Explain how human activity can be a factor in climate change.
    • Recognize that long-term changes to an ecosystem can either cause living things to adapt to become new species or become extinct. Most become extinct.
    • Explain how adaptations over time can cause a species’ behavior to affect other living things in the ecosystem.


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Engage: Activate Prior Knowledge; Generate Interest

Show students the video segment Ecosystems: Abiotic and Biotic Factors (start 1:09) of a swamp ecosystem on mute. Make a t-chart on chart paper labeled “Living Parts” and “Nonliving Parts.” Through class discussion, fill out the living and nonliving parts of the swamp ecosystem and discuss their interactions with each other for survival (e.g., water is the habitat for fish, fish use oxygen in the water to breathe, etc.). Use students’ responses to judge what they already know about ecosystems and to identify any misconceptions they may have.

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Then, have students brainstorm: “What would happen to the organisms if there was a drought?” If needed, watch the video segment again.







Link to DE Video: Ecosystems: Abiotic and Biotic Factors
Link to How Stuff Works video on Abiotic and Biotic Factors

Explore: Allowing Students to Experience Content


10-29-2012 6-35-48 PM.pngHave students write the word “climate” in their science journal. While exploring the term climate in the interactive glossary, have students write the definition and draw a picture representing this new vocabulary word.

Then, have students watch the video segment Climate Review to further gain an understanding of climate and review the definition of ecosystem. After watching the video segment, review student drawings as a class.



Have students use the interactive glossary to review the terms adaptation, extinct, and species.


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Have students write these questions in their science journal: Why do ecosystems change over time? What happens to the living things that can’t survive changes to their ecosystem? Give an example. What helps animals survive when changes do occur in an ecosystem? Give an example. Have students read the passage Climate Changes on Earth and watch the video segment Climate Changes, Natural Disasters, and Other Changes, with a partner. Students should then write the answers to these questions. Discuss student answers as a class.

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Link to DE glossary term: Climate
Link to DE glossary term: Adaptation
Link to DE glossary term: Extinct
Link to DE glossary term: Species

Link to DE video segment: Climate Review
Link to DE reading passage: Climate Changes on Earth
Link to DE video segment: Climate Changes, Natural Disasters...











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

Give each student a copy of the Exploration Student Worksheet: Long-term Changes. Screen shot 2012-10-30 at 10.27.53 PM.png
While completing the exploration Long-Term Changes in Ecosystems, have students fill out the worksheet. Then, discuss students’ answers as a class.

Have students write down this question in their science journal: “What would help a polar bear survive if the climate became colder?” Have students read passage Ecosystem, Changes, and Adaptations with a partner and write the answer to the question. Then, have students draw a picture of what the polar bear would look like. Discuss students’ answers as a class. Then, ask students how this would affect other species living in the same ecosystem. Lead a class discussion answering this question.


Explore: Allowing Students to Experience Content

Visit the We Can Change The World Challenge website, Grades 3-5 lesson plans section for a collection of Virtual Labs, Reading Passages, and Activities that students can explore. All of these materials are geared towards answering the essential questions regarding long term changes in ecosystems, climate change, and what people can do to protect ecosystems.

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Link to 3-5 Lessons at www.wecanchange.com

Elaborate: Allow Students to Apply What They Know

Project Ideas: To help your students apply their understanding of long-term changes to ecosystems, you may wish to have your students complete some or all of the following projects. The time required to complete each project will vary; some may require students to work outside the classroom.
  • Have students research the Tundra biome to find out what type of living and nonliving things exist there. Then ask students:
  • What would happen if the climate became warmer?
  • How would it look?
  • How would warmer weather affect the plants and animals?
  • How would the plants and animals adapt to their new environment?
  • How would this affect other species living in the same ecosystem?
  • Have students draw a picture of how the Tundra would look different including the living and nonliving parts. Then have students present their drawing to the class



Evaluate: Check for Understanding
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Have students take the Project Polar Bear Quiz found on the Louisville Zoo website as a form of self assessment.

Link to Project Polar Bear Quiz at www.louisvillezoo.org