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Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education


4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans, 100-150 minutes
  • Activity - Outdoors
  • Worksheets
  • Charts, Graphs, and Tables
  • Assessments

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Midwest, Wisconsin


Google Slides, PDF

Energy Use in an Ecosystem

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  • This lesson explores the components of an ecosystem, how these components interact, how further climate change may impact ecosystems within Wisconsin, and some climate mitigation strategies that can be employed at a personal level.
  • Students will observe local ecosystems during an outdoor activity, record observations, analyze data, and discuss climate mitigation strategies with their peers.
Teaching Tips


  • After this lesson, students will have a better understanding of their community's ecological features.
  • This lesson reveals a link between climate change and extreme rainfall events.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should know how to use various measuring tools, such as thermometers and meter sticks.
  • It may benefit students to know what biodiversity is and why it's important.
  • A lesson about food chains and food webs would the provide necessary background information for students to complete student sheet S5.
  • The link for the Beings on the Move Activity, referenced in resources, takes you to a page that requires you to request access. This activity can be found here.
  • The materials section references the DEN kit, which Wisconsin educators can borrow from UWSP. However, the materials for this particular lesson can easily be found online or around the school, so this kit isn't necessary.


  • This lesson can fit within a larger unit on how climate change impacts ecosystems everywhere.
  • Students can use data from the outdoor activity for an informative essay on ecosystems in Wisconsin.
  • This lesson can enhance a classroom discussion on how to inform more people about climate change and inspire them to take action.
  • This lesson can support a classroom discussion on the rights of animals and how we can consider those rights in our daily lives.
Scientist Notes
In this lesson, students will learn about ecosystems and how they relate to climate and climate change. The lesson is detailed and provides students with a lot of information. This hands-on lesson allows students to make observations and inferences about the world around them. The lesson plan includes directions, resources, and worksheets needed. The information presented in this lesson is accurate, and this resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
      • 4-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and that their uses affect the environment.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-3 Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
      • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
      • 5-LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
    • PS3: Energy
      • 4-PS3-2 Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.10 By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
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