Ecosystem Lesson Plans

Ecosystem Lesson Plans

Let’s get started!

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

This instructional video introduces students to ecosystems, disruptions to ecosystems, biodiversity, and the concept of resiliency, providing a number of specific examples.

Grades K-12

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 and components of an 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 grade levels, which is an amazing feature for teachers!

Teaching Tips

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

Exploring Biomes in Gorongosa National Park Interactive Map

This interactive map of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique shows natural features, vegetation types and biomes, conservation strategies, and community and tourism resources. 

Grades 9-12

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

In this activity, students will read graphs to understand the influence of temperature and precipitation on different ecosystems and learn which of these factors limits growth the most.

Temperature and Precipitation as Limiting Factors in Ecosystems

Grades 6-12

In this classroom activity from the GLOBE Project, students will learn about the influence of temperature and precipitation on different ecosystems. This ecology 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 warm up the students by providing them proper context in order to understand the relevance.› Your students should know how to read line graphs and have familiarity with different land cover types

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

This video outlines three nature-based solutions that are imperative to fight climate change, slow the sixth mass extinction event, and protect the planet for future generations: restore and protect forests, protect wildlife, and rebuild wild coastal habitats.

Grades 3-12

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, desert biomes, tundra biomes, 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 small 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. 

Differentiation Tips

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

In this outdoor activity, students assess and investigate ecosystem services provided by nature in an outdoor environment. 

Ecosystem Services Assessment

Grades 5-8

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. 

Differentiation Tips

› 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!

In this activity, students learn about ecosystem services by playing an outdoor BINGO game. Students will search for elements in nature that provide a specific ecosystem service listed on their BINGO card. 

Ecosystem Services BINGO!

Grades 3-12

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

This video provides an overview of environmental science terms and topics.

Grades 6-12

This overview video from PBS, “ Humans and the Environment | Essentials of Environmental Science,'' explores scientific models, environmental ethics, biotic factors and abiotic factors, ecosystems, biomes, living organisms an ecosystem, genetic diversity, endangered species, population dynamics, food webs and food chains, 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

Final Thoughts

These ecosystem lesson plans help students recognize that all living organisms on Earth rely on one another through ecosystems. In ecosystems, microorganisms act as vital decomposers, sustaining life by breaking down organic matter. Non-living elements impact dynamics through habitat provision. Herbivores graze on plants, carnivores hunt animals, and omnivores consume both, showcasing diverse feeding strategies in the delicate balance of life. Since everything is interconnected, the actions we choose today have a much bigger impact on tomorrow. Find more resources and ecosystem lesson plans here.