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Teacher Grants: TeachNet Ready-Set-Tech

SIM Ecosystem

This unit features studnets creating their own ecosystem based on their knowledge of ecology and their own imagination. The hands-on approach featured here ensures that students have a working knowledge of the various components of an ecosystem, while applying that knowledge to something they create.

Subject Area

Grade Levels

(1) To engage students in understanding the concept of an ecosystem; (2) To help studetns understand the potential impact humans have on ecosystems; (3) To help students become proficient in organized and methodical Internet searches (4) To help students become proficient with public speaking and formal presentations.

Internet Used
The Internet was used for two components of this project. Students researched existing ecosystems, which served as a foundation for creating a new, imaginary ecosystem
. In creating their PowerPoint presentations, students learned how to search for images on the Internet, and most importantly, learned how to send and receive email attachments.

Materials Used
Desktop or laptop computers with Internet access; PowerPoint software; an LCD projector to facilitate student presentations.

Standards Addressed
This project focuses on the science inquiry standard: "The central purpose of scientific inquiry is to develop explanations of natural phenomena in a continuing, creative process." Students are engaged in developing an example of the scientific model (an ecosystem) and must use research skills to recreate a very relevant social problem (human destruction). This assignment also addresses the standard, "to use electronic information retrieval to understand science." Peer review and feedback are integral components to this unit. Each presentation was followed by a Q&A session, during which the presenter responded to fellow student inquiries. This assignment also addresses the standard, "to develop and present proposals."

Student presentations varied in quality, but in order to make a presentation at all, it was necessary to have internalized some understanding of how ecosystems function, and of course, to have a basic working knowledge of PowerPoint and email operations. Students submitted their work in stages, and so they received feedback through the process. A full grading rubric is included as part of this unit.

Students Involved
The students were 10th grade biochemistry students. Many of our students read and write far below grade level, and most do not have access to computers at home. Students spent many hours after school in the computer lab to complete this unit, because they needed access to PowerPoint and the Internete.

Teacher Tips
We over-estimated our students' basic computer skills. Most students had email addresses, but some did not. Because this unit integrated technology along with the content, and students were required to use technology in a sophisticated way to complete their work, it went a long way towards getting our students up to speed with technology.

Overall Value
This project has students research a scientific topic in a relevant and excitng way.
Students who completed this project have an excellent understanding of how an ecosystem functions. Every biochemistry student at our school can articulate some aspect of the potential damage humans can have on an ecosystem. This assignment is extremely adaptable. Students can gain important research skills ranging from finding scholarly research articles on a specific topic to perfecting search terms when trying to find a specific image on the Internet. Students also became adept at using PowerPoint and email, which many had not previously mastered.

A.J. Rathmann-Noonan
& Mandi Jacobson

A.J. Rathmann-Noonan has been a high school teacher in the New York City public school system for 3 years.  She currently teaches Bio/Chemistry at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice (SLJ).  She also advises 18 9th grade students in a Photography-themed advisory class.  Prior to teaching at SLJ, she taught at the Metropolitan Corporate Academy.  She received her Masters degree in secondary science education from Hunter College of the City University of New York and her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Brown University.
Mandi Jacobson is a first year Bio/Chemistry and Forensics teacher at the Urban Assembly School for Law & Justice in Brooklyn, NY.  Mandi graduated from Ithaca College with a B.A. in Biology, and received her Masters in Biology Education from Brown University.



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