To lay the foundation for understanding the interconnectedness of life on Earth and each person’s responsibility for sustaining the plants and animals that form part of it.
In this unit we help our students understand the idea of ecology—the interdependent relationships among living beings, the place each plant and animal has in the biology of the earth, and the role each one plays in supporting life on earth. Another expression for this concept is the “web of life.”
- The students will learn about what constitutes the natural world and why maintaining the natural world is important.
- The students will learn that there are different kinds of ecosystems, or the environments that are occupied and supported by different kinds of animals and plants.
- The students will learn about the concept of the food chain and the places held by different organisms on the food chain.
- The students will be introduced to the idea that changing the environment affects the lives of the resident animals, and they will learn what kinds of human activity can change a natural environment and affect its animal life.
- The students will learn why it is important to keep wild places and wild animals wild. They will learn about the roles of animal sanctuaries and the ways in which they help, or not, to maintain a natural environment for the animals.
Click here to view California Standards Alignment. Next: Lessons & Videos
Mow Wow Glossary
aquatic – growing or living in or frequenting water
biodiversity – all the different life forms in a habitat or on Earth
biosphere – the totality of all the ecosystems on Earth; all the organisms on Earth and their interactions with each other and their environments
bird of prey – a meat-eating bird (as a hawk) that feeds partly or completely on the animals it hunts; vulture
burrow – a hole or excavation in the ground made by an animal (as a rabbit) for shelter and habitation; to make a burrow
carnivore – on the food chain, an animal who eats only meat
consumer – on the food chain, a plant or animal that requires complex organic compounds for food that it obtains by preying on other living things or eating particles of organic matter
decomposer – an organism (as a bacterium or a fungus) that feeds on and breaks down dead plant or animal matter
ecology – the study of the interaction of Earth’s organisms with each other and with their environments
ecosystem – an interacting system of all the living and nonliving components in a particular area
endangered species – any species that is in danger of extinction in all or most of its range, or whose numbers are so small that the species is at risk of extinction
extinct – no longer existing or living on Earth
food chain – a system of checks and balances that describes the feeding patterns in an ecosystem; also called the food network or the tropic network
grassland – land covered with herbs (as grasses and clover) rather than shrubs and trees; an ecological community in which the characteristic plants are grasses
habitat – the local environment in which an organism lives
herbivore – on the food chain, an animal who eats only plants
native species – a species living or growing naturally in a particular region
non-native species – a species that is introduced in a particular region that does not live or grow naturally in that region
omnivore – on the food chain, an animal who eats both meat and plants
predator – on the food chain, an animal who lives by killing and eating other animal
prey – on the food chain, an animal hunted or killed by another animal for food
producer – on the food chain, a living thing (such as a green plant) that makes its food from simple inorganic substances (such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen), many of which are food sources for other organisms
scavenger – an organism (such as a vulture or hyena) that usually feeds on dead or decaying matter
species – a category of biological classification for a group of organisms having common attributes; these organisms are potentially capable of interbreeding
terrestrial – living on or in land
web of life – the interaction of life forms that keeps life on Earth in balance
woodland – land covered with trees and shrubs; forest
Suggested Online Resources
- Earthbook for Kids, Linda Schwartz
- Keepers of the Animals, Michael J. Caduto, Joseph Bruchac
- Keepers of the Earth, Michael J. Caduto, Joseph Bruchac
- California Plants and Animals, Stephen Feinstein
- Microhabitats, Jill Bailey, Malcolm Penny
- This Planet Is Mine, Mary Metzger, Cinthya P. Whittaker
- Food Chains and Webs: From Producers to Decomposers, Louise Spilsbury, Richard Spilbury
Note: The books listed above are not available in Spanish-language editions.
- Exploring Ecosystems with Max Axiom, Super Scientist (Graphic Science), Agnieszka Biskup and Tod G. Smith
- How Ecosystems Work, Julie Lundgren
- Will We Miss Them? Endangered Species (Nature’s Treasures), Alexandra Wright
- Disappearing Wildlife, Angela Royston
Note: These four books are available in Spanish-language edition.
Next: Unit 2 - Living with Urban Wildlife