Schoolyard Ecology

Thinking about the flow of matter and energy with students is one of the key ways of exploring ecosystems. In these lessons, students construct their own understanding of ecosystems through investigations in their schoolyard, developing ideas about ecological processes and functions.

Mapping: What's on the Whole Schoolyard

Grades: 
3-5
Topic(s): 
Nature of Science

The series of lessons that comprise this unit are intended to take students from direct observations of their schoolyard to interpretation of air photographs of their schoolyard.  As steps along the way, students create a three dimensional model of the school site based on their initial field observations.  They then make an "air photo" of this model and analyze land cover types from this.  In this way, they learn first hand what an air photo is, and begin to develop the skills of land cover classification and quantification from something that they've created themselves.  Finally, they analyze a real air photo of their school site, identify land cover types, try to quantify these, and ground truth them through field reconnaissance.

  • Day 1: A Schoolyard for Worms?

    Scientists make hypotheses at the beginning of any scientific study. A school site consists of both living and non-living things. School sites are designed for humans and human activities.

  • Day 2: Schoolyard in a Picture Frame

    Students will draw what they see. Students will work to include locations of different features on a schoolyard as seen from a side view.

  • Day 3: Candyland Elementary

    Models can be created to represent complex aspects of the real world. Scientists use models to study complex real world situations.

  • Day 4: Candyland Elementary School Land Cover

    Aerial photographs can aid in determining land use types. Land cover types can be measured by using a grid overlay to aid in determining percent coverage.

  • Day 5: The Plane in the Sky: School from an Airplane

    Using aerial photographs Land Classification to determine what covers the schoolyard Land cover percentage (Building on skills from “Candyland Elementary School Land Use” lesson)

  • Day 6: What's Really There?

    All scientific maps need to be verified by fieldwork (exploring the schoolyard). Field checking is the process of verifying a land use map by physically checking the schoolyard.

  • Day 7: Classroom Map

    Through field checking a map or photo scientists can come up with a more accurate map of the area studied which reflects change over time.

  • Day 8: An Analysis of a Schoolyard

    Scientists draw conclusions based on data collected. Conclusions made by scientists are often used to support a recommendation to engage in a specific action.

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