Urban Ecosystems

When people think of ecology, they usually imagine studies out in the country. The next thing they think of is studies involving the relationship of plants and animals to one another. They also imagine studies that show how organisms relate to the physical environment -- air, water, and soil. People and cities usually don't come to mind when ecology is mentioned.

Day 6: Student-Directed Inquiry


Designing a “good” investigation The concept of a “fair test” The Feinsinger “rules” – questions/investigations should be: enticing doable comparative low tech Differences in land cover type may lead to difference in ecosystem (biological, physical and social) features. Biological, physical and/or social features of an ecosystem can be inter-related.

Lesson Overview

Students develop a related study of their own choosing, allowing them to learn even more about the ecology of their school yard. Students discuss, choose, plan and carry out their own investigations, either following up on findings from previous lessons., or pursuing new avenues of interest.


You will have to indicate ahead of time what materials the students have available at school and what they are permitted to bring from home.

  1. Discuss what questions came up during the course of doing the guided inquiries in previous lessons. You may wish to have the students meet in small groups to form a list of questions.
  2. Discuss, as a group, which ones might be appropriate for further study? How would the class go about collecting data for the different questions?
  3. Have small groups prepare proposals, following your own format,or a modified version of the worksheet for Lesson 1 in this unit. Make sure the students describe, in detail, the data collection techniques they will use, adopting or modifying methods they used in previous lessons.
  4. You might want to discuss the elements of a good investigation, reviewing materials from the notebook or having the class generate their own list of criteria.
  5. Have the class choose one project to pursue further.
  6. Organize the research, and let the students take the lead on carrying it out.
  7. If you are going to do continue with further lessons, make sure students gather some initial data for their presentation.


NYS Standards
MST 1 - Mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design
MST 4- Physical setting, living environment and nature of science
Benchmarks for Science Literacy
1B Scientific Inquiry

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

Privacy Policy Copyright © 2016