Series Ecosystems: An NGSS-Designed Unit : Patterns of Interaction Among Organisms

Patterns of Interaction Among Organisms

Lesson Objective: Explain how organisms interact with each other
Grades 6-8 / Science / NGSS


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does this activity build on the previous activity students completed?
  2. How are students introduced to scientific vocabulary?
  3. How are students supported to use this vocabulary in their own scientific explanations?

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External Resource Materials


  • Patterns of Interaction Among Organisms Transcript

    Speaker 1: 1.3 is explained. Patterns of interaction among organisms.

    In this activity, the students are

    Patterns of Interaction Among Organisms Transcript

    Speaker 1: 1.3 is explained. Patterns of interaction among organisms.

    In this activity, the students are formally introduced to the scientific names for the patterns of interactions that they may see within an ecosystem. [crosstalk 00:00:22]

    Speaker 2: All right-

    Out to coyote-


    Speaker 1: So before in 1.2, the students had created a food web of all the interactions of living things in Yellowstone National Park. In 1.3, they find out the terminology to use for the patterns of interactions that they observed within that food web.

    1.3 is an explain activity in which students have a chance to form their own definitions of some of the concepts that they have been developing. Traditionally, teachers would have given all these definitions to students up front at the beginning of a chapter, but in this explain activity, students have already figured out all of these ideas. They already understand that animals can fight over a different food source, they're just learning the term for it. And so, they have much more ownership of the scientific vocabulary. They have ownership of the concept because they figured it out themselves before copying down the definition.

    How does the boundary of Yellowstone National Park compare to the greater Yellowstone ecosystem?

    In this activity, we started off with the reading about how an ecosystem boundary is different from the actual boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.

    Think back, use what we've learned so far, or what we've heard. Julianna.

    Julianna: It's bigger than the actual park because animals travel out of the boundaries-

    Speaker 1: Yeah-

    Julianna: And there are many animals in, that live in the park.

    Speaker 1: Yeah, we heard from the video that the cow ranchers were so annoyed that the wolves did not follow the boundaries they had created, right?

    Moving on now, our guiding question. Now that we've got this introduction, is how do organisms interact with each other?

    We moved on to learning about the different patterns of interactions by watching various videos.

    Speaker 4: Any animal who hunts another animal for food is called a predator.

    Speaker 1: Based upon the video, come up with a definition in the first column right here, first box, for predator, the predator prey relationship. Okay? And then from the video, write down what predator prey example do they mention? [crosstalk 00:02:38]

    Speaker 2: Predator-

    Speaker 1: They had time to turn and talk to their teammates to create a tentative definition, and retrieve any examples that they found from the video.

    Marco: Would a scavenger be considered a predator? 'Cause-

    Speaker 6: No, they'd be considered a prey. A predator kills other animals. Prey eats stuff like plants, berries, and nuts.

    Speaker 1: So what was your definition that you guys came up with?

    Speaker 7: A predator eats its prey.

    Speaker 1: So the relationship is something where the predator eats the prey. Okay? And then what was the example? You agree with that definition?

    Speaker 7: Yeah.

    Speaker 1: Okay. And what was the example of that in the video?

    Speaker 7: The hawk wanted to eat the squirrels.

    Marco: So, the predators-

    Speaker 6: So our group, our definition is- [crosstalk 00:03:16]

    Marco: A hunter-

    Speaker 6: Someone who's being, someone who's hunting or being hunted.

    Speaker 8: Since being reintroduced back into Yellowstone in 1995, the wolf has both conquered and competed. Competed, that is, with the reigning king of the park, the great grizzly.

    Marco: Who gets more, who gets more food?

    Speaker 1: Is the meaning of competition?

    Marco: No.

    Speaker 1: What's the meaning of competition? So Marco's changing his mind. It's not who gets more food.

    Speaker 6: It's, what we put down was two animals competing for the same food source.

    Speaker 1: Can we use another word besides compete? 'Cause we were trying to-

    Speaker 6: Fighting.

    Speaker 1: Not use the same part of the word in the definition.

    Speaker 6: Fighting.

    Speaker 1: Fighting. Okay. [crosstalk 00:04:01]

    Fighting. Two animals fighting for what?

    Speaker 6: The same food source.

    Speaker 1: The same food source.

    Good morning, happy Friday.

    So we continued the lesson the next day with more patterns of interactions, and we watched another video on symbiotic relationships.

    Speaker 9: Parasitism benefits one species, while the other is harmed. Like ticks for example.

    Speaker 1: Turn and talk with our teammates about the three specific symbiotic relationships. Commensalism, mutualism, and parasitism.

    Speaker 10: Wait, so mutualism is when one animal [inaudible 00:04:42]?

    Speaker 7: I think so.

    Speaker 1: While walking around observing students, they did have trouble recalling the examples given from the video.

    You don't remember something?

    Speaker 11: I mean I remember the mutualism, I don't-

    Speaker 1: Okay, so which one was mutualism?

    Speaker 11: Mutualism is when one animal helps another. Like when a bird helps a- [crosstalk 00:05:04]

    Speaker 12: Cow taking out the ticks.

    Speaker 1: It was okay that they had trouble figuring out the definitions or the examples because in the next part, the students have another resource to learn the different types of patterns of interactions by reading text.

    You guys are to read on your own quietly first. And then once you're ready at your team, do a new revised definition in that third column. And then, do additional examples you found out from your reading of that pattern of interaction.

    Walking around the second time around after they read the text, the students felt more confident identifying examples and creating a revised definition for the different patterns of interaction.

    What animal did you have for commensalism for your example?

    Female Student: Oh I did the groundhog, how when the abandoned burrows of the groundhog benefits other animals that- [crosstalk 00:05:58]

    Speaker 1: Yeah. You feel like that definition is better now?

    Male Student: Before, my definition was kind of vague, but now it's more specific in in-depth. So I really know, I have examples, I have definitions-

    Speaker 1: Okay.

    Using our knowledge that we've just gained, we're revisiting Yellowstone National Park. Okay? 'Cause remember, our whole phenomena is about the wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park. And now, go back to our food web that we had created, okay? And look for these patterns of interaction. Once you have looked at your food web, and found examples, go ahead and write them down in these boxes.

    1.3 is where we start to make the cross-cutting concept a little more useful, so the cross-cutting concept about patterns, being used to identify relationships. I think that's where patterns of interaction and that language starts to become more explicit for the students.

    You said the grizzly bear? And the gray wolf? You think they compete over food? What food do they compete over?

    Male Student: Elk and bison.

    Speaker 1: So then you think that the bear eat elk and bison? [crosstalk 00:07:10]

    Male Student: No-

    The same thing to get their same nutrients.

    Male Student: No beavers benefit all the animals that, all the animals because when beavers give them [inaudible 00:07:22], so all the animals can drink.

    Male Student: Because it benefits the beaver but it doesn't harm the beaver. Okay, there we go. Thank you.

    Speaker 1: Okay, so that's-

    Male Student: That's commensalism.

    Speaker 1: Do you think you can find a mutualistic relationship from-

    Male Student: I think we could.

    Speaker 1: But how? What were you about to write out? [crosstalk 00:07:47]

    Male Student: Like [calbert 00:07:46] and the-

    The bison.

    Speaker 1: Oh, that's what you realized.

    Male Student: Bison.

    Speaker 1: Okay, so you're thinking maybe bison's similar and maybe a- [crosstalk 00:07:52]

    Male Student: Yeah.

    Speaker 1: So in looking at the students engaging in activity 1.3, I think some of them struggled a little bit in terms of coming up with their own examples and applying the terms, but the great thing about this chapter is that these terms are going to spiral in the next few activities. We're gonna see them have a chance to develop a better understanding of those later on in the chapter.

    For now, let me give you your analysis for 1.3.

    For homework, I assigned them 1.3 analysis questions. In the questions, it gives them a lot of practice identifying a lot of patterns and relationships to further their practice and deepen it, so that on 1.4, they will be able to apply the names of patterns and interactions to graphs that they read.

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