Free textbooks, virtual labs, interactives, and activities for building an ecology unit for middle school ages:
(download this flipbook as a PDF)
Textbooks: If you want to use a textbook to structure your unit, check out CK-12's Intro to Ecology, with 35 sections covering ecosystems and related topics. Sections include reading, related videos and links, and online practice questions. You can easily create your own "Flexbook" with only the sections you want to cover. The Ecology chapter is part of CK-12's Life Science textbook. An alternative is an online version of Holt Environmental Science, which includes review questions and quick labs.
Scholastic Study Jams: Click into the "ecosystems" section to view short animations about biomes, food chains/webs, nature cycles, symbiosis, and ecosystems. There are short online quizzes for each topic.
Here are some links to free resources for explaining and learning about various ecology topics through interactives, labs, assignments and activities. I will continue to add to this list as I come across resources. Please leave a comment with links to freebies you've found in these areas:
Levels of Organization: This Glencoe Virtual Lab is an investigation of how competition for natural resources affects population growth. Grow two species of Paramecium, compare growth curves, answer journal questions.
- Energy Flow in Ecosystems: Shows how energy flows through a food chain between producers, consumers and decomposers. Includes a short quiz.
Predators and Prey
- Predator-Prey Simulation: Examine predator and prey interactions, in this case, wolves and deer. Set three parameters for the predator: aggression, birth rate, and dependency upon prey as a food source. Then run a simulation to see how the populations change over time.
Symbiosis and Other Interactions:
This video on symbiosis is part of a TED-Ed lesson that includes questions and additional information.
- Water Cycle: Interactive diagram with a multiple choice quiz.
- Carbon Cycle: Travel the cycle with this interactive game. Click the "For Teachers" link for a related lesson plan and additional resources.
- Carbon Cycle Investigation: A longer simulation activity in which sources of carbon, and human effects on the cycle are identified.
- Nitrogen Cycle: A description of all the cycles are found here, but the one for nitrogen is an interactive diagram. (Click on page 4).
Photosynthesis and Respiration
- Virtual Lab: A simulation investigating the effects of environmental conditions on photosynthesis.
- Six Virtual Biomes: Description of plant and animal life in the major biomes and ecosystems.
- Backyard Biodiversity: Kids search for animal life in microhabitats close to home. Involves observation, classification, and species mapping. Includes links to several citizen science projects.
- Endangered Species Assignment: Using earthsendangered.com, create a graphic organizer comparing 4 endangered species from an area of the world.
Environmental Problems and Solutions
- Energy Story: Online book with 20 chapters you can click into to learn about different sources of energy, such as fossil fuels, natural gas, wind, hydro and solar energy, etc. Click into the teacher resources for a list of lesson plans.