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Building Blocks of Science® A New Generation: Life in Ecosystems

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Grade 3. Life in Ecosystems introduces students to the diversity of living organisms, a significant component of a healthy ecosystem. A colorful bird theme engages students as they investigate variety, change, adaptation, and the elements of survival among living things and their environments. The unit culminates with an engineering activity where students design an animal with adapted features that allow it to survive in any conditions.

 
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Grade 3. Life in Ecosystems introduces students to the diversity of living organisms, a significant component of a healthy ecosystem. A colorful bird theme engages students as they investigate variety, change, adaptation, and the elements of survival among living things and their environments. Beginning with the pre-unit assessment, students start to think of the physical and behavioral similarities and differences among living things they see every day. Throughout the unit, students continue to observe birds in their natural habitat while investigating the unique characteristics that help birds and other animals in diverse ecosystems survive. The unit culminates with an engineering activity where students design an animal with adapted features that allow it to survive in any conditions.

The Life in Ecosystems unit addresses the following standards:
Next Generation Science Standards®
Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms
  • LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
  • LS2.D: Social Interactions and Group Behavior
  • LS3.A: Inheritance of Traits
  • LS3.B: Variation of Traits
  • LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity
  • LS4.B: Natural Selection
  • LS4.C: Adaptation
  • LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

Engineering Practices

  • Developing and Using Models
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect
  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

Common Core State Standards
Language Arts

RI.3.1
RI.3.2
RI.3.3
RI.3.4
RI.3.5
RI.3.6
RI.3.7
RI.3.8
RL.3.2
RL.3.6
W.3.1
W.3.2
Math
3.MD.A.1
3.MD.B.3
3.NBF.A.1
3.OA.A.3

Lesson-by-Lesson Summary
Assessment

This unit offers several ways to assess students, including a pre- and a post-unit assessment opportunity. Teachers can also use class discussions and charts to assess each lesson. Student activity sheets and science notebook entries—including drawings, writings, and dictated statements—can be used to gauge individual understanding of objectives and key vocabulary throughout the unit. The Assessment Observation Sheets supplied with each lesson help teachers document and measure students' progress and knowledge using informal assessment. A general rubric is provided to help teachers evaluate individual students at any point in the unit. The rubric provides a progression of skills and understanding that covers exploration, vocabulary, concept building, and notebook entries. Finally, a summative assessment gives students the opportunity to demonstrate unit-specific content knowledge by responding to questions in a variety of formats.

Lesson 1: Lessons From Birds
Birds can teach us a lot about animal survival and adaptations. This lesson begins with a pre-assessment to discover what students know about the physical and behavioral similarities and differences within the same class of animals: birds. As students delve deeper into the characteristics among birds that are similar, lesson activities introduce the ideas that differences among birds may depend on where they live, what they eat, and how they walk or fly. This sets the stage for learning that there is life diversity among ecosystems.

Lesson 2: Flying Over Time
This lesson moves from learning about bird characteristics to making connections between birds and the history of flying animals. Students examine and identify the way different birds and animals fly by comparing their body structures. Students draw conclusions between organisms and their prehistoric ancestors by using evidence found in informational text about fossils. Then they investigate ways in which scientists learn about the structures and eating habits of animals that are extinct by simulating the process of trace fossilization.

Lesson 3: Adaptations
Students investigate adaptations that help animals survive in their particular environments. They use real feathers to observe how feathers repel water to keep some birds dry and warm. Students also use observation skills to feel what it would be like to have an extra layer between the ice and their hands and how this can make a difference in keeping their hands warm. They can compare this to the adaptation that some animals living in icy climate may have an added layer of blubber that will keep them warm.

Lesson 4: Beaks and Eats
Students investigate particular adaptations that help determine what types of foods animals can eat. They use a variety of tools to simulate the beak structures of different birds. Students are able to see that what an animal eats is dependent upon where it lives and how it is adapted to eat. They are also introduced to different adaptations for eyes and discover that animals use their eyes in different ways for different reasons.

Lesson 5: Survival
In this final lesson, students discover that for some animals, living in groups is important for survival. They investigate how penguin parents care for their offspring by using their adaptations coupled with the benefits of living in groups. Further, they learn that many animals benefit from living in groups for different survival reasons. In a culminating activity, students design a creature with special adaptations for eating, for protection, and for taking care of its young. Then, they present their creatures to the class.

 
 
 
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