Written by C. Searl
Ecosystems is a unit of work found in every Key Stage Four specification. Studying this topic at GCSE gives students an opportunity to become more confident in their data handling skills and provides new and challenging ways for students to engage with the core taught material.
Any teaching and learning of the Ecosystems specification component involves engagement with a number of key elements that form a well-versed structure of geographical enquiry.
An introduction to the theory of ecological systems through dynamics such as trophic levels and food webs
An emphasis on interdependence between the different parts of an ecosystem
A study into world biomes and their location
A study of at least one world biome, its physical characteristics, the fauna and flora found within it and how life has adapted to the environment found there
Threats to the chosen biome: the nature of the threat; its causes and its management (hard and sustainable)
Many of these elements are taught and learnt through connection to real world geography, giving teachers plenty of scope to also develop data handling skills through the use of real world data. The Ecosystems topic, being one that so patently bridges the human-physical geography divide, throws up numerous data-based resources that will seem familiar and contextual to students who have no previous knowledge of the subject matter. As such, having data at the centre of learning is an excellent means by which to ground the topic and make it accessible.
This series of five lessons covers some of the key elements mentioned above. Teachers who are planning this unit of work should not view these lessons as a scheme of work, but rather as five separate lessons which they can ‘dip into’ to build their scheme of work. In practice, teachers will see that additional consolidation of ideas may be needed as well as extra time spent exploring the details of place that make this topic so engaging to students. The ideas presented here can be used in their whole or in part to develop data skills in students, not only to build their confidence in data response examination questions but also to hone their abilities to presenting information in different ways.
Lesson 1 – Introducing ecosystems
Lesson 2 – The temperate woodland ecosystem
Lesson 3 – The tropical rainforest ecosystem
Lesson 4 – Comparing forest ecosystems
Lesson 5 – The future tropical rainforest
Alternative resources are available for students with SEND, EAL, and those with less confidence in the subject matter.
Documents for these lessons can be downloaded below.
This project was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation
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