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Building Blocks of Science® A New Generation: Matter and Energy in Ecosystems 2nd Edition 1-Use Unit Kit


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Grade 5. In a series of 6 lessons spanning 26 class sessions, students build and deconstruct food web models to describe an ecosystem as a system of interdependence among living things (producers, consumers, and decomposers) and non-living things in the same place. Through hands-on activities, students discover how the non-living factors necessary for life, such as energy, nutrients, and water, are constantly cycling through the environment. Students also explore the potential effects on all the organisms in an ecosystem caused by the removal of a single type of organism from that ecosystem. The unit culminates with students designing a potential solution to a human environmental impact scenario.

Building Blocks of Science® lessons are structured in 30-minute class sessions, making it easy to fit science into your day. The Matter and Energy in Ecosystems 1-Use Unit Kit includes a Teacher's Guide (item #515302A) and enough supplies and apparatus to teach the unit once to a class of up to 30 students. Kit also includes a voucher for prepaid delivery of the living organisms.

Next Generation Science Standards®
The Building Blocks of Science® unit Matter and Energy in Ecosystems integrates process skills as defined by the Next Generation Science Standards®.

Performance Expectations

  • 5-LS1-1: Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.
  • 5-LS2-1: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
  • 5-ESS2-1: Develop a model using an example to describe the ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
  • 5-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the earth's resources and environment.
  • 5-PS3-1: Use models to describe that energy in animals' food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
  • LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
  • LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
  • PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life
  • ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems
  • ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
  • ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

Science and Engineering Practices

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

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect
  • Energy and Matter
  • Systems and System Models

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. 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 Summaries
Lesson 1: Energy for Life

This unit begins with a pre-assessment to gauge what students already know about living and non-living things, and to start them thinking about the interdependence among them. Lesson 1 focuses on the sun's energy and the nitrogen cycle, which are two non-living factors that are essential for life. By making a sun oven, students see how energy from the sun is transferred and can heat up marshmallows. Students apply their understanding of the way water is recycled in the environment in the water cycle to the way nutrients are recycled. They make the connection that nitrogen cycles through the environment just as water cycles through the environment as they participate in a simulation where they act as nitrogen molecules moving from place to place.
Lesson 2: Producers
In this lesson, students review the different parts of a plant and use iodine as an identifier to test for starch in potatoes and plants. They use a potato to observe how iodine changes color when it is exposed to starch. By doing so, they discover that starch is present in a plant as a result of the plant making its own food during the process of photosynthesis. Students then apply what they've learned about starch and iodine to investigate which abiotic factor is important for making starch in a plant. In a controlled experiment, students make predictions to see if air, water, or sunlight contributes to the production of starch by withholding each from the same type of plant, introducing students to the importance of using a control during a scientific investigation. After a period of time, students use iodine to test for the presence of starch. Based on their assessment of the reaction that each plant has, students determine that sun is the factor in producing starch in plants, thereby relating the flow of energy from the sun to plants.
Lesson 3: Consumers
Students begin developing an understanding of energy transfer among organisms by assembling a food chain energy pyramid. To strengthen their understanding of how consumers get energy from other consumers, students dissect an owl pellet to discover what types of organisms are consumed for energy by the consumers at the top of the food chain. To prepare to delve more deeply into the interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem, students identify the need for niches and competition among consumers by emulating birds hunting and eating different types of food at different times of the day.
Lesson 4: Decomposers
In this lesson, students observe decomposers in action. By cultivating a worm tank, they are able to evaluate the contributions worms have on the environment. They investigate what happens within a few days after placing dead organic matter in a plastic tank with worms. In a controlled experiment, students compare changes in the worm tank with those in a tank containing the same materials but no worms, reinforcing the importance of using a control during a scientific investigation. The results of the controlled experiment help students make the connection to the flow of energy in an ecosystem when they conclude that worms have broken down the organic matter in the tank.
Lesson 5: Food Webs
In this lesson, students connect the ideas they uncovered in previous lessons to discover that the organisms in an ecosystem are interdependent on one another. First, they determine the flow of energy among the specific organisms living in the same region. The types of organisms living in an ecosystem vary depending on the location and on the resources available in the region. Then students make a food web, connecting each organism to the next to discover that a food web stretches beyond a simple food chain, showing the many places energy is moving in an ecosystem. The lesson concludes with students designing a real ecosystem using soil, plants, and insects.
Lesson 6: Human Impact
Students research ways humans can inadvertently hurt an ecosystem. They read a nonfiction text about factories, fossil fuels, agriculture, or technology. They analyze the needs and problems that human inventions cause, determine the consequences of these actions on the environment, and try to formulate solutions. After completing the analysis of their research, students devise an alternative solution to the human need or problem and communicate their ideas in a presentation to the class. Students also create a public service announcement to persuade people to make changes to protect the environment.


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What’s Included:
  • 1 Living Materials Order Sheet, Matter and Energy in Ecosystems (for 5 Coleus plants and 75-100 redworms)
  • 1 Teacher’s Guide
  • 1 Unit Technology Pack (includes digital access to teacher’s guide and digital student access to student reader)
  • Matter and Energy in Ecosystems Student Reader
  • 100 Dish, Weighing, Aluminum
  • 5 Beaker, Polypropylene, 100 mL
  • 32 Lens, Hand
  • 15 Forceps
  • 10 Dish, Petri, 100 x 15 mm
  • 16 Pipet, Graduated, 3 mL
  • 9 Tank, Plastic, 1 gal
  • 9 Lid for Plastic Tank, 1 gal
  • 4 Bottle, Plant Mister
  • 4 Sprayer, Plant Mister
  • 20 Thermometer, Immersion
  • 1 Iodine, Tincture, 2%, 1 oz
  • 2 Isopropyl Alcohol, 91%, 16 oz
  • 1 Macaroni, Elbow, 24 oz
  • 1 Bag, Plastic, Resealable, 12 x 15”
  • 16 Bag, Plastic, Resealable, 6 x 9”
  • 15 Owl Pellets, Assorted Sizes
  • 200 Glove, Disposable, Polyethylene, Small
  • 60 Cup, Plastic, 1 oz
  • 32 Cup, Plastic, Squat, 9 oz
  • 1 Foil, Aluminum, 25-ft Roll
  • 1 Wrap, Plastic, Roll
  • 8 Tape, Transparent, 1/2” Wide, Roll
  • 1 String, Super Twine, 200-ft Roll
  • 50 Paper, Construction, Black, 12 x 18” Sheet
  • 2 Magic Worm Bedding, 4-1/2 lb
  • expand to see full list
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