Ecosystems

Discovering Connections in the Natural World

Living things are connected to each other and to their environment in many fascinating ways. In a sunny field, grasses, clover, and goldenrod capture sunlight to make food by photosynthesis. Rabbits and grasshoppers feed on leaves and shoots, and foxes feed on rabbits and grasshoppers. The wind scatters grass pollen and milkweed seeds, rainfall brings water, and worms turn dead leaves into soil underfoot. These are examples of the many interactions between plants and animals, sunlight, water, and air that go on in a field. Every different environment – field or forest, pond or stream – functions as an ecological system, or “ecosystem.” An ecosystem consists of all the living and nonliving things in a particular place and the ways they are connected. All the organisms in an ecosystem depend on everything else – both living and nonliving – for food and other needs. Continue reading Ecosystems

Ecosystems Table of Contents

Ecosystems – Vocabulary for Children

active  Keeping a pattern of sleeping, eating, and moving about.

 adaptation  A special feature of a plant or animal’s body or behavior that helps it to survive.

algae  Small, usually green, plant-like organisms without flowers or seeds, found in or near water, free-floating or growing on rocks (and making them green and slippery).

antler  Branching extension of the skull, made of bone, on animals in the deer family, that is grown and shed each year (unlike horns, which are never shed). Continue reading Ecosystems – Vocabulary for Children

Signs of Leaf Eaters – Background

You don’t have to go far to see nature at work – bees visiting flowers, fireflies twinkling in a field, a hawk circling overhead. Less familiar, but right under our noses, are countless tiny animals busily feeding upon leaves or hiding in them from their predators. The signs of leaf-eaters, or leaf-hiders, are easy to find. Peer into any bush or tree and you are sure to see leaves that are chewed, rolled, folded, or sewn up with silk. Snails, aphids, and caterpillars feed upon this bountiful food supply, while spiders and hunting insects prowl amidst the leaves. Looking for signs of leaf-eaters gives us a glimpse of an ecosystem in action. Continue reading Signs of Leaf Eaters – Background

Signs of Leaf Eaters – Activities

FOCUS: By summer’s end, nearly every leaf bears some signs of feeding by plant-eaters small or large. Some make holes, some scallop the edges, some roll the leaves into tubes. Plants capture energy from the sun and, in turn, produce food for a variety of leaf-eaters. When we watch a leaf-eater feeding on a leaf – or being eaten by a predator – we are seeing the flow of energy from sun to plant to herbivore to carnivore. These interactions are evidence of food chains and webs, important components of every ecosystem.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about leaf-eaters.

Bring in or have children gather a variety of leaves that have bite marks, spots, or irregularities on them. In small groups, ask children to sort their leaves according to their observations.

Materials: a variety of leaves with bite marks, spots, or irregularities.

SORTING LEAF-EATER PATTERNS
Objective: To view examples of leaf-feeding, noticing patterns and grouping by shared characteristics.

Begin by giving each small group of children a set of photos of leaves showing damage by leaf-eaters (Leaf Photo Set). Continue reading Signs of Leaf Eaters – Activities

Signs of Leaf Eaters – Puppet Show

Leaf-eaters and their Foes

 

Characters: Benjy Bear, Leafcutter Caterpillar on leaf, Chickadee, Gertie Grass, Grady Grasshopper, Freddie Fox

Benjy Bear  Boy, my belly’s so full of berries, I need a nap. I’ll just lie down in the shade of this maple tree. (leaf enters) Why, look at that leaf. I wonder why it has those big holes in it?

Leafcutter  They don’t call me a leafcutter for nothing!

Bear  A leafcutter? You look like a caterpillar. Continue reading Signs of Leaf Eaters – Puppet Show