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Project: "Exploring Ecosystems: Simulating Interactions in a Closed Terrarium"

Biology

Teachy

Ecosystem: Introduction

Contextualization

Introduction to Ecosystems

Ecosystems are complex, interconnected systems involving both living organisms and their physical environments. They can be as small as a puddle or as large as the entire planet, and they can be found in a variety of environments, from the deepest parts of the ocean to the driest deserts.

In every ecosystem, there are two main components: biotic and abiotic. Biotic factors include all living things, from the largest elephant to the tiniest microorganism. They interact with each other and with the abiotic, or non-living, factors in their environment, such as sunlight, temperature, and water.

These interactions are the key to understanding how ecosystems function. They involve processes like energy flow, nutrient cycling, and the interactions between species. The study of ecosystems is not only fascinating but also crucial for understanding our world and how we can protect it.

The Importance of Studying Ecosystems

Ecosystems provide us with a multitude of services, known as ecosystem services, that are essential for our survival and well-being. These services include the production of oxygen, the provision of food, the regulation of climate, the purification of water, and the control of pests, among others.

However, human activities, such as deforestation, pollution, and climate change, are placing these services at risk. By understanding how ecosystems function and how they are impacted by human activities, we can make informed decisions and take action to protect them.

Resources

To deepen your understanding of ecosystems, you can use the following resources:

  1. Khan Academy: Ecosystems
  2. National Geographic: Ecosystems
  3. BBC Bitesize: Ecosystems
  4. Book: "Ecology: Concepts and Applications" by Manuel C. Molles Jr.
  5. Video: How Wolves Change Rivers

Remember, the study of ecosystems is not only about learning facts but also about understanding the processes and interactions that shape our world. So, let's dive in and explore the fascinating world of ecosystems!

Practical Activity

Activity Title: "Ecosystem in a Jar"

Objective of the Project:

The main goal of this project is to simulate an ecosystem in a jar, understand the interactions between biotic and abiotic factors, and observe how changes in those factors can impact the system.

Detailed Description of the Project:

In this project, students will create a mini-ecosystem in a jar, also known as a closed terrarium. This terrarium will contain all the necessary elements for a small-scale ecosystem to thrive, including plants, soil, and small organisms such as insects or microorganisms.

The students will then observe and document the changes that occur within their mini-ecosystem over a period of time. They will also conduct experiments to observe the effects of changes in the abiotic factors, such as light and temperature, on the biotic factors in the system.

Necessary Materials:

  1. A large, clear plastic or glass jar with a lid
  2. Gravel or pebbles
  3. Activated charcoal (available at pet stores)
  4. Potting soil
  5. Small plants (such as moss or ferns)
  6. Small insects or microorganisms (optional)
  7. Water
  8. A notebook for recording observations

Detailed Step-by-Step for Carrying Out the Activity:

  1. Preparing the Jar: Start by adding a layer of gravel or pebbles to the bottom of the jar. This will serve as a drainage layer. On top of the gravel, add a thin layer of activated charcoal. This will help to keep the terrarium free from odors and mold.

  2. Adding the Soil and Plants: Add a layer of potting soil on top of the charcoal. Plant the small plants in the soil, making sure they have enough space to grow.

  3. Adding the Organisms: If you have access to small insects or microorganisms, carefully add them to the terrarium. Otherwise, the plants and soil alone will create a functioning ecosystem.

  4. Sealing the Jar: Once everything is in place, seal the jar with the lid. This will create a closed system, where all the necessary elements for life are contained within the jar.

  5. Observing and Documenting: Over the next few weeks, observe the terrarium regularly and record your observations in your notebook. Pay attention to changes in the plants, any new organisms that appear, and any changes in the environment (such as the amount of condensation on the inside of the jar).

  6. Experimenting with Abiotic Factors: To understand how changes in the abiotic factors can impact the biotic factors, you can conduct a few simple experiments. For example, you can place the terrarium in a darker or cooler place and observe how this impacts the growth of the plants.

  7. Reflecting and Concluding: At the end of the project, write a report detailing your observations, the experiments you conducted, and your conclusions about how the different factors in your mini-ecosystem interact.

Project Deliverables:

At the end of the project, each group will submit a written report following the structure below:

  1. Introduction: Contextualize the theme of ecosystems, its relevance, and the objective of this project.

  2. Development: Detail the theory behind the creation of a mini-ecosystem, the process you followed, and the activities you conducted. Include the methodology used and a description of your mini-ecosystem.

  3. Observations: Present the observations you made over the course of the project. This can include changes in the plants, the appearance of new organisms, and any other interesting phenomena you observed.

  4. Experiments and Results: Detail the experiments you conducted and the results you obtained. Discuss how these results helped you understand the interactions between the different factors in your mini-ecosystem.

  5. Conclusion: Summarize the main points of your project and state the conclusions you drew from it.

  6. Bibliography: List all the resources you used to work on the project, including books, websites, and videos.

This report should not only demonstrate your understanding of ecosystem concepts but also your ability to work as a team, manage your time, and problem-solve. It should be a thorough and engaging account of your journey into the world of ecosystems.

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