Summer SAVY 2016 (Session 1, Day 1) – Ecological Explorers
What a great kick-off to our Ecological Explorers class! Today we investigated the question “What’s in an ecosystem?” We began by brainstorming what an ecologist studies and how they investigate the natural world.
We then took an ecosystem walk around our building and recorded our observations in our investigation notebooks. Next we headed out to our study site behind the building to investigate what type of plants can be found in our urban ecosystem. Students worked in groups of two to pick a focus section of the site, which they marked off with a flag and hula-hoop.
After talking more about the parts of our local ecosystem, we learned about a special phenomena in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: the synchronous Elkmont fireflies. (You can watch a CBS report on these amazing fireflies at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v77Hj2TE50).
Finally, during the last part of class students chose their first investigation station to explore. So far the students have generated more questions than answers about these stations. But as we learned earlier, good ecologists always ask lots of questions. They provide the foundation for good predictions, observations, and explanations!
Today’s Dinner Table Tidbits
- Talk about what your student saw on their ecosystem walk. Ask what observations they made and what they want to find out about their ecosystem study site.
- Talk about what your student did at their investigation station. Did they use the microscopes to study the samples we took on our ecosystem walk? Or did they investigate our aquariums or terrariums? Or maybe they started an art project or read a specially selected book from our library.
- Ask your student about the roles they think “nutrients” and “energy” play in an ecosystem. Students brought these terms up in our discussion today, but they were unsure of what they really were. Just that they had heard them, and they thought they had to do with ecology. We’ll talk more about them as a class throughout the week, but it might be an interesting starting point for a conversation with your student!