Series Ecosystems: An NGSS-Designed Unit : People and Animals Interacting

People and Animals Interacting

Lesson Objective: Explore how living things interact with living and nonliving parts of the environment
Grades 6-8 / Science / NGSS
10 MIN


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does Ms. Van-Phanz connect the content of the lesson to students' experiences?
  2. How can this lesson be used to assess students' understanding?
  3. How are students given opportunities to learn from each other throughout the lesson?

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External Resource Materials


  • People and Animals Interacting Transcript

    Teacher to kids: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning.

    People and animals interacting, okay? That's the beginning

    People and Animals Interacting Transcript

    Teacher to kids: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning.

    People and animals interacting, okay? That's the beginning of our unit.

    Teacher, aside: In this activity, the Guiding Question is how do you living things interact with living and non-living parts of the environment?

    Teacher to kids: Okay, raise your hand if you've been to Central Park.

    Teacher, aside: The students start off thinking about their local environment.

    Teacher to kids: So what is one living thing you came across on your way to school? Yes, Saudia?

    Student: There was some guy on the bus and he had a dog.

    Teacher to kids: Okay, and what's one non-living thing? Yes, Anya.

    Student: A door into the school.

    Teacher, aside: Activity 1.1 is the Engage Activity. And in this activity, we're surfacing students' prior ideas about the topic of the entire chapter. We want to get them hooked on this idea about re-introducing a predator into an ecosystem. Surface misconceptions, initial ideas. It also gives them a chance to ask questions that hopefully they'll get answered throughout the chapter.

    Teacher to kids: We are going to start off with making a poster to answer all these questions as a team. Don't need it to look pretty; it's all about having a discussion with your teammates and getting all the answers down on your poster.

    Student: Okay, let's get started!

    Student: Dogs.

    Student: Living things interact with non-living things in the area.

    Student: Geese swim in water.

    Student: Trees give oxygen.

    Student: Yeah, trees gives oxygen.

    Student: Other living animals can breathe it.

    Student: What types of events make it possible for these changes?

    Student: This area has changed over time.

    Student: I think we can, like, break these up into parts, with like lines, and then it's like, so much more clear.

    Student: Yeah.

    Student: By the roads changing, because ... and by ... Make it easier for humans to get around, and to ...

    Teacher, aside: So the thing that surprised me was that my sixth graders have remembered a whole lot of information from fifth grade science about predators, herbivores. They remembered that terminology and then used it within their posters.

    Teacher to kids: Raise your hands once you notice some patterns of answers that you see that were similar or things that were interesting. Yes.

    Student: Trees provide oxygen.

    Teacher to kids: Raise your hand if you said oxygen was a non-living thing on your list. Or air. Air is a non-living thing that is really important to living things.

    How do you think adding a new living thing to the Central Park environment, how could it change? Or not change the environment? Andreas?

    Student: I think that if you added different types of animals it would mess up the food chain. Like if you added a predator. They would eat all the other preys, prey.

    Teacher to kids: Yeah. I remember you were saying that you were very adamant that your teammate had to write it down that all animals rely on each other because they eat each other.

    Teacher, aside: With a local environment poster that we did, it really surfaced their prior knowledge and any misconceptions they have over our topic of living and non-living things interacting with each other.

    Teacher to kids: Here's our introduction to 1.1. So again, our topic is people and animals interacting. More than 325 million people visited national parks in 2016.

    Teacher, aside: So in the next part, the students learn about a new environment, Yellowstone National Park.

    Teacher to kids: There's a very important word here, of "disruption." Okay? What does disruption mean?

    Teacher, aside: They're introduced to how wolves have been reintroduced to the area, and make inferences about how that would affect that environment in terms of living and non-living things.

    Teacher to kids: So while we watch this video, there is a focus question you should be thinking about. How can the introduction of a living thing change interactions in other parts of environment? Okay?

    It's also very important to understand these four words. They will be mentioned in the video, and it's important to know what they mean.

    Teacher, aside: Before we watched a video about Yellowstone National Park, I had them do true and false, so that they knew what statements to focus on.

    Video Narrator: Since the wolves were reintroduced, more than 60 have been either captured and relocated, or simply shot for killing livestock in southwest Montana.

    Teacher, aside: After the video, they came back to their true and false to see if they're learning how it changed.

    Student: At first I said it was false.

    Student: Yeah, me too.

    Student: That wolves didn't disappear.

    Student: Yeah, I was like, wolves didn't disappear! How can wolves disappear?

    Student: You know they made such a big thing of it on the news and everything.

    Student: Yeah.

    Student: But when I looked at it over, they said they actually did disappear.

    Student: Yeah. They were, like, killing them because they were killing their cattle.

    Student: I thought that wolves ... there was some sort of system to keep wolves inside the park?

    Teacher to kids: Yeah, but what did you learn about the boundaries?

    Student: But I learned that wolves don't care about the boundaries, and will go eat cows and pigs.

    Teacher, aside: So moving on, we took on the roles of some of the stakeholders that relate to the Yellowstone National Park issues.

    Teacher to kids: As a whole team, go ahead, turn and talk to your teammates about these questions, discuss, and then jot your answers down.

    Student: I think an event that could happen in the future is that wolves will become overpopulated.

    Student: Yeah, and then there will be more moose, and bison, and deer.

    Student: Or, there's way too much deer and elk.

    Student: Did you know that from the video?

    Student: Not from the video, but I know it from prior ...

    Student: Also, in the past, so humans wiped out the wolf species in the forest.

    Student: But it's really hard because, like, they have to find a balance for the wolves.

    Student: Okay, so, I think animals in there just adapted to not having the wolves.

    Student: Yeah.

    Student: They're having a negative effect on the farmers' lifestyle because they're losing money when the wolves eat their cattle.

    Teacher to kids: You learned that from the video, right?

    Student: Yeah.

    Teacher to kids: So if they're negatively impacting the cattle industry, then do you still feel like it's having a positive effect? Or do they not count as part of ...

    Student: They're both providing a positive energy.

    Student: And how would wolves interact with non-living things? So, like, they affected the non-living things like the planet.

    Teacher to kids: So space.

    Student: Space!

    Teacher to kids: Because like just the occupation of space could be part of the non-living.

    Let's discuss the last question. Let's do this together. So first one is tourists. How do you think they feel about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone? Let's just think. Ryan.

    Student: If you're in a close distance ... You're not so close to them that they could actually attack you, I'd be excited to see them.

    Teacher to kids: Okay. What about cattle ranchers? Put yourself in the shoes of cattle ranchers. When you heard from the video from some people. Ian.

    Student: They should make a boundary, like, with fences around the areas that the wolves cannot leave because if I were a cattle rancher, like I said earlier, I wouldn't want the wolves to be eating at my cows and my animals that I have.

    Teacher to kids: Yeah, and we learned from the video that they're eating cattle, they're eating livestock. And cattle ranchers did not seem happy in the video.

    Okay, so right now, we're revisiting our 1.1 Guiding Question. How do living things interact with living and non-living parts of the environment? Okay? So what patterns did we see between our environment of Central Park and Yellowstone? Yes, Anya.

    Student: In Yellowstone, it's a lot more just the environment going its own way. Whereas in Central Park, humans have a lot of impact on it.

    Teacher to kids: So you're saying humans have less impact on the Yellowstone environment.

    Student: Yeah. Yeah.

    Teacher to kids: Okay, I'm asking you about patterns. That's because that's one of our cross-cutting concepts. Cross-cutting concepts are themes that scientists see throughout their work. What we're gonna look at is patterns. What was one pattern that we noticed between the two environments? Connor?

    Student: A lot of the living things use the non-living things as habitats or homes.

    Teacher to kids: Okay, what else? Any other patterns we noticed? Go ahead, Julianna.

    Student: Sort of adding on to Connor, living things use non-living things as natural resources.

    Teacher to kids: Yes.

    Student: Wolves eat the bison and the cows and the sheep and the deer.

    Teacher to kids: So let me rephrase it. Living things need to eat other living things, right?

    Student: Yeah.

    Teacher, aside: At the end of the lesson, I ended up assigning the analysis part as their homework.

    Teacher to kids: So I love that Charlie is writing in her planner before she forgets. Number three.

    Teacher, aside: After collecting their notebooks and looking at that analysis question, I realized their answers were very general, which was okay, because it's 1.1; it's the beginning of the chapter. Their answers will get more detailed as we go along.

    I think the kids did a great job with 1.1. I feel like they were really excited about the new topic that they were going to be learning about, I feel like they're in a good place to continue on through the chapter.

    Teacher to kids: Have a great rest of the morning. Bye!

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School Details

Jhs 104 Simon Baruch
330 East 21st Street
New York NY 10010
Population: 1114

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Sabrina Van-Phanz


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