In this lesson, students will explore biotic and abiotic factors and the essential elements that are cycled throughout Earth’s many ecosystems. Students will determine how the cycling of these elements sustains life and then will create their own closed ecosystems.
Can life be sustained in a closed environment/ecosystem?
Students watch a video and generate questions about the elements needed to sustain life within a closed ecosystem.
Students carry out an investigation, collect data, and interpret results about light intensity's effect on the rate at which photosynthesis is performed.
Students read, synthesize, and summarize an article about the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
Students apply their knowledge of the carbon cycle to construct their own model of a closed ecosystem.
Using evidence to support their reasoning, students complete a Quick Write on how the cycling of carbon can help sustain a closed ecosystem.
Construct an explanation for how homeostasis is maintained within an ecosystem.
Determine what materials exist for the input and output in an ecosystem.
Lesson Slides (attached)
I Notice, I Wonder handout (attached; one half-sheet per student)
Effect of Light on Photosynthesis With an Oxygen Sensor lab (linked here and in the narrative)
The Effects of Changing the Carbon Cycle article (attached)
Carbon Cycle Slide Instructions and Rubric (attached; one per group)
Carbon Cycle Cornell Notes handout (attached; one per student)
Draw an Initial Model handout (attached; one per student)
Create Your Own Terrarium handout (attached)
Create Your Own Aquarium handout (attached)
Photosynthesis and Respiration Game Questionnaire (attached; optional)
White nylon bristle test tube brushes, 8"
Wireless CO2 sensor pack
Wireless oxygen gas sensor
Wireless temperature sensor pack
10-port USB charging station
Introduce the lesson using the attached Lesson Slides. Display slide 3 to read aloud the essential question: Can life be sustained in a closed environment/ecosystem? Display slide 4 to go over the lesson objectives. Review these slides with students to the extent you feel necessary.
Pass out a half-sheet from the attached I Notice, I Wonder handout to each student. Inform students they are going to use the I Notice, I Wonder strategy as they watch the video on the next slide.
Go to slide 5 and invite students to take a look at eight scientists who were enclosed in a biosphere for two years in Arizona. Play the video, titled "Inside Biosphere 2: The World's Largest Earth Science Experiment."
After students have watched the video and filled out their handouts, ask them to get in groups of 2–3 and discuss what they noticed and wondered. Have each group select one or two responses from each column to share out. First, ask a student from each group to share out an observation from the I Notice column. Then, call on a different student from each group to share out a question from the I Wonder column.
As students share out, write their observations and questions on the board. After students have shared out, ask them whether some students' questions have been answered already by a classmate's observation. Have students consider how they might find answers to the remaining questions.
In this activity, students investigate how light intensity affects the rate at which photosynthesis is performed.
Display slide 6. Place students in groups of 3–4 and make sure each group has all the supplies needed to complete the lab. Pass out copies of the Effect of Light on Photosynthesis With an Oxygen Sensor lab by Fourier Education. Have students read the instructions and then collect and record data on the lab handout.
After completion of the lab, have students answer the analysis questions on the last two pages of the handout. Then, have students use the R.E.R.U.N. strategy to write a lab report or write a response to the following question:
If you were to create a closed ecosystem, is light a necessary component? Explain your reasoning.
Place students in eight groups and pass out copies of The Effects of Changing the Carbon Cycle. Inform students they are going to use the Jigsaw strategy to read the article, which is a condensed version of "The Carbon Cycle" by NASA's Earth Observatory.
Assign one of the following sections to each group:
The Rates of Cycling Carbon, Part A
The Rates of Cycling Carbon, Part B
Atmosphere, Part A
Atmosphere, Part B
Ocean, Part A
Ocean, Part B
Land, Part A
Land, Part B
Display slide 7. As each group reads, have students use the first part of the CUS and Discuss strategy to mark up their section before discussing what they marked and why.
After students have finished reading and discussing, display slide 8 and pass out the attached Carbon Cycle Slide Instructions and Rubric to each group. Inform students they must create a slide that summarizes their group's assigned section and then present it to the whole class.
Before students begin their presentations, pass out the attached Carbon Cycle Cornell Notes handout to each student. As each group presents, have the rest of the class use the Cornell Notes handout to record key information from their peers' presentations, as well as any questions they may have.
Display slide 9 and inform students they are going to create their own closed ecosystems, specifically a terrarium or an aquarium.
Pass out the attached Draw an Initial Model handout to each student. Ask students to think about what they would need to sustain a terrestrial or aquatic ecosystem. Have students choose between terrarium or aquarium and then draw a model of their closed ecosystem on the handout.
In groups of 4, have students review one another's models and record similarities and differences on their handouts. Based on their group discussion, have students make changes to their models as needed. Then, have each group vote on the model they like best. After groups have chosen their final designs, ask them to share out what they think they need for their terrarium or aquarium.
For students creating a terrestrial enclosure, you may pass out the attached Create Your Own Terrarium handout or invite them to watch the following video, titled "How to Make a Terrarium (Closed)."
For students creating an aquatic enclosure, you may pass out the attached Create Your Own Aquarium handout or invite them to watch the following video, titled "Enclosed Ecosphere With Shrimp."
As a class, check on and compare everyone's ecosystems each week for a month to determine whose closed ecosystem sustained itself best and why.
Display slide 11. To assess students' understanding of the lesson, have students complete a Quick Write on how a closed ecosystem can maintain homeostasis through the cycling of carbon.
Bioman. (2011, February 7). Photosynthesis and Respiration Game [Interactive]. Bioman Biology. https://biomanbio.com/HTML5GamesandLabs/PhotoRespgames/photoresphtml5page.html
Candide Gardening. (2020, February 19). How to Make a Terrarium (Closed) [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOJrgr3jxRg
Fish for Thought. (2020, July 4). Enclosed Ecosphere With Shrimp [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRS88825IYo
Fourier Education. (2016, May 19). Effect of Light on Photosynthesis With an Oxygen Sensor [Lab]. Issuu. https://issuu.com/einsteinworld/docs/effect_of_light_on_photosynthesis_-
The Good Stuff. (2015, October 13). Inside Biosphere 2: The World's Largest Earth Science Experiment [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yAcD3wuY2Q
Kenney, J. (2013). How to Make a Mason Jar Terrarium. The Science Classroom. https://thescienceclassroom.org/how-to-make-your-own-self-contained-ecosystem-biosphere/
K20 Center. (n.d.). CUS and Discuss. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/162
K20 Center. (n.d.). I Notice, I Wonder. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/180
K20 Center. (n.d.). Jigsaw. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/179
K20 Center. (n.d.). Quick Write. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/1127
K20 Center. (n.d.). R.E.R.U.N. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/819