A sea turtle swimming in the ocean

Ecosystem Lesson Plans

By: Amanda Good

Apr 28, 2022 | 10 minute read

An ecosystem is a community of organisms reliant on each other to survive. Learning about ecosystems can be fun and engaging to teach students, however, it is a vast topic. We have gathered a variety of lesson plans and teaching resources to help students understand the inner workings of ecosystems and help teachers unpack this intense topic.

“As the environment becomes an ever-increasing matter of national and international importance, students’ knowledge of ecosystem dynamics gains in value. In addition to being a core requirement of science standards across the country, the study of ecosystems is interesting to students, creating an arena in which complex ideas become accessible to learners,” Mensa for Kids

Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

Grade: K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type: Video

Teaching students to understand the ecosystem can be difficult, but this video Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience from The Wonder of Science is simple and easy for students to absorb the information.

The video introduces ecosystems, disruptions to ecosystems, biodiversity, and the concept of resiliency. Teachers should familiarize their students with the terms ecosystem, population, species, invasive, and adaptation prior to watching the video. Teachers may want to pause throughout the video to provide further clarity on term definitions. The first four minutes are suitable for students to watch and the last segment provides teaching tips for all grades, which is an amazing feature for teachers!

Geography, Social Studies, and Economics Classes

Cross-curricular connections could be made by discussing the differing natural resources available in different parts of the world and how reliant people are on the ecosystem services and resources provided in their area.

Additional Resources

Exploring Biomes in Gorongosa National Park Interactive Map

Grade: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Geography

Resource Type: Interactive Media

Interactive maps are so engaging for students! This map from Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique shows different features of the park’s ecosystem and conservation strategy. It shows many of the park’s natural features, such as its diverse environments, ecosystems, biomes, and vegetation types. This map is a great interactive addition to any ecosystem lesson plan. 

The map also includes various conservation features, such as the locations of trail cameras used in scientific research, and community and tourism resources that provide incentives for sustaining the park. Explore the map and all its features below!

Differentiation Tips

› Teachers can get their students to toggle between current, past, and future views of the park to see how it has changed over time. The future view, in particular, shows a proposed wildlife corridor linking Gorongosa to a nearby nature reserve.

This resource includes a video of a teacher sharing how she has used this activity in her classroom.

Temperature and Precipitation as Limiting Factors in Ecosystems

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type: Worksheet, Lesson Plan

In this classroom activity from the GLOBE Project, students will learn about the influence of temperature and precipitation on different ecosystems. This ecosystem lesson plan comes with a worksheet with great visuals including graph analysis, map, and worksheet. This is an excellent resource for busy teachers and dives deep into ecosystems. 

Differentiation Tips

Teachers can enhance this activity by indicating that seasonal patterns may be changing and building initial connections toward an understanding of global climate change.

Teachers may need to provide the context in order for their students to understand the relevance.

Your students should know how to read line graphs and have familiarity with different land cover types.

Connections between the limiting factors discussed in the activity and changing climates can readily be made.

The Solution to Climate Change Is All Around Us

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Biology, Social-Emotional Learning, Climate Action

Resource Type: Video

The YEARS Project video, “The Solution To Climate Change Is All Around Us”, is an amazing video that outlines three nature-based solutions that are imperative to fight climate change, slow the 6th mass extinction event, and protect the planet for future generations. It details the many ways that animals, forests, coastal marshes, and ecosystems all over the planet help regulate global systems and protect the planet for all life on Earth.

For younger students, teachers could use ecosystem dynamics and biodiversity resources for more background information before the video. After the video, your students can work in groups or independently to conduct research on each of the three topics: forests, wildlife, and coastal habitats. They could present their findings to the class. 

Additional Resources

› To learn more about the actual carbon impact of these solutions, students can explore this table from Project Drawdown. Teachers can get students to read more about individual climate solutions such as tropical forest restoration and coastal wetland restoration.

› To learn more about the sixth mass extinction, students can watch this PBS video,  this video on biodiversity, or this TEDx video on extinction.

› Teachers can get students to explore this amazing interactive map from Global Forest Watch to learn more about deforestation.

Ecosystem Services Assessment

Grade: 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Science, Biology

Resource Type: Activity, Worksheet, Lesson Plan

Let’s go outside! In this ecosystem lesson plan, your students will head out to their school grounds to investigate and explore ecosystems. Your students will gain a better understanding of ecosystem services because they can touch, feel, and hear what they are learning about.

Field activities are a fantastic way to engage students and, as a bonus, minimal materials are required to be set up in advance. This resource can be used as a final activity for a unit on ecosystems or you could ask students to prepare a presentation in order to share their findings. 

Additional Resources

› Teachers can challenge their students by getting them to identify or predict the effects of climate change on ecosystem services in the area where they conducted this activity.

› Other recommended resources include Forests Near or Far Can Protect Water for Cities.

Ecosystem Services BINGO!

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Biology, Health

Resource Type: Lesson Plan, Worksheet, Game, Activity

In this lesson plan, your students will play Bingo! They will learn and talk about the concept of ecosystem services such as the oxygen we breathe, the trees that provide shade, and many other examples found in the teacher preparation material.

This bingo activity can be explored inside with digital pictures or outside on school grounds. There are 10 different printable cards for different ages or abilities of the students. 

Differentiation Tips

Allow students to draw images instead of writing words on their BINGO cards.

Use slides with images of different ecosystems as a guide to walk your class through the entire activity indoors.

Teachers can get their students to prepare posters or slide presentations about the state of the environment and our well-being.

Essentials of Environmental Science: Humans and the Environment

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type: Video

This overview video from PBS, “ Humans and the Environment | Essentials of Environmental Science,'' explores scientific models, environmental ethics, biotic and abiotic systems, ecosystems, biomes, biodiversity, genetic diversity, endangered species, population dynamics, food webs, trophic levels, and how humans affect the environment. It truly provides a deep dive into ecosystems!

This video would be great to use for defining ecological vocabulary terms and is segmented so that it can be used in smaller segments to cover specific topics.

Differentiation Tips

The acronym HIPPOC or HIPPCO is introduced towards the end of the video (at 14:58), which could be used as inspiration for an art project or poster project for students to visually display the reasons for species decline and/or reductions in biodiversity.

Your students could use this video as a review of material covered in biology or environmental science class.

These ecosystem lesson plans help students recognize that all organisms on Earth rely on one another through ecosystems. Since everything is interconnected, the actions we choose today have a much bigger impact on tomorrow. Find more resources and ecosystem lesson plans here. 

About the Author

Amanda is a stay-at-home Mom of two boys and two beagles. She has a diploma in Journalism from Sheridan College and certificates in Animal Care, Shelter Operations, and Wildlife Rehabilitation from Georgian College.