Overview

This year’s theme is Ecosystems.

An ecosystem consists of all the living and nonliving things in an area, connected as a dynamic and complex whole. Think about the types of plants that grow in calcium-rich soils on a shady slope or insects that we find living on the bottom of a slow moving stream. An ecosystem can be as vast as an ocean or as small as an isolated vernal pool. Studying an ecosystem means looking at how energy flows and matter recycles in the system.

For living things to survive, the environment in which they live, their habitat, needs to provide food, water, protection from enemies and weather, and places to raise young. Each species has its own particular needs and can live in some places but not in others.

We'll compare a variety of different ecosystems, consider the interactions we observe, and examine the animals and plants inhabiting each as we explore the out of doors. Throughout the year, students will examine the characteristics of organisms and consider the interconnections among living and non-living systems in the Earth's environments.

Training Sections

Date of Training
Topic
Sept 15
Leaf Eaters
Lots of plants and animals live and grow right out the door, and it’s fun to discover this nature nearby. When we step outside, we can feel the sun adding energy to the ecosystem, observe a variety of plant-eating insects or the evidence they leave behind, and perhaps watch some animal eat one of those insects – a real life look at food chains. We'll learn what an ecosystem is, how the parts relate, and best of all, we'll take a minute to quietly sit and become part of this busy buzzy world.


The zip file is password-protected; ask one of the coordinators for the password.
Wednesday, Nov 16, 6pm in C.P. Smith Learning Ctr
Standing Snags and Lying Logs
The death of a tree opens up a whole new set of interactions in a forest. The standing snag serves as a home for a variety of fungi, lichen, insects, and other animals – birds nest in the branches, raccoons den in the rotting trunk. Once the snag topples over, the process of decomposition speeds up. A rotting log serves as a habitat for a parade of plants and animals, which change over time according to the log's stage of decomposition.


This zip file is password-protected; ask one of the coordinators for the password.
Jan 19
Deer through Seasons
White-tailed deer are among the largest herbivores in our forest ecosystems. We’ll consider their connections to the other plants and animals – the role deer play in the forest food web – and learn how living in a herd helps deer, even though group members may compete for food. We’ll examine the deer’s physical features – skull, legs, hoofs, fur – and think about how these help deer to find food and avoid predators. Finding sign of deer – tracks, browse, rubbings – may be the only way we know that this elusive creature lives in our neighborhood.

Here is a zip file containing all the materials for Deer through the Seasons. Note that Google Docs will complain that the file can't be scanned for viruses because it is a compressed archive. The files are password-protected; ask one of the coordinators for the password.
April 19
Forest Birds
More than just a collection of trees, a forest ecosystem is a complex interaction of sunlight and shadow, rain and wind, leafy canopy and shady under-story. Why do so many kinds of birds make forests their home in the summer, and how are they important to its health? We'll look at the different layers of plants in a forest and learn how to recognize at a glance some of the illusive but vocal birds that make their homes in each.

The zip file is password-protected; ask one of the coordinators for the password.