In this article, learn about ecosystems and ecology! Plus, you’ll learn the difference between biotic and abiotic. Also, read about why ecology is important and learn about what ecologists study!
Click here to skip to the the list of Ecology Activity Ideas for Kids!
Or, check out my food webs resources here!
What is an ecosystem?
An ecosystem is a community of living things (or organisms) that interact with one another and the environment where they live. Ecosystems include living (biotic) things such as animals, fungi, and plants. Furthermore, ecosystems also includes non-living (abiotic) parts of the environment, such as rocks, soil, water, and weather. All the living and non-living parts of an ecosystem are interacting and affecting each other over time in many ways.
What is ecology?
Ecology is a type of science that looks at the relationships living things have with one another and with their environment. In other words, ecology is all about understanding the connections between organisms and their surroundings.
Why is ecology important?
We as humans do not live outside of ecosystems. Just like mushrooms, mice, and maple trees, humans are organisms that are a part of ecosystems! The ecosystems around us affect our lives, and often more noticeably, we affect our ecosystems. It’s important for us to understand the inner workings of ecosystems and how we impact them, so that we can find ways to go about our lives while also promoting healthy ecosystems. The scientists doing this work are called ecologists.
What are some important topics in ecology?
Ecologists study many topics that relate to ecosystems and the species that live in them. Here are some important topics that ecologists study:
- Food webs
- Relationships between species, including symbiotic relationships!
- Impacts of natural disasters on ecosystems (e.g., wildfire, floods, volcanic eruptions)
- Succession (changes in ecosystems after disturbances like fire)
- Types of habitats and the ways that species use them
- The impacts caused by invasive species
- Assessing ecosystem health and human impacts
Ecology Activity Ideas for Kids:
- Food Chains & Food Webs: Print out some animal, plant, and fungi pictures and build your own food chains and food webs (example here)
- Biotic & Abiotic: Fill an egg carton or other container with tiny treasures found outdoors (e.g., pebbles, feathers, shells, a clump of dirt, etc.). Sort the items into two piles: biotic things (are living or were once part of a living thing) and abiotic things (never were alive)
- Clean it Up: Participate in a clean up day at a natural area and help improve your local ecosystems!
- Invasive Species: Participate in a invasive species removal day at a local natural area!
- Symbiosis: Learn about symbiotic relationships! Check out this resource.
- Population Sampling: Learn how to estimate populations with random sampling. Here’s an example of an ecological sampling lesson plan from Northern Arizona University.
Teaching kids about ecology with Wild Earth Lab:
I have tons of both free and paid resources to help you teach your kids or students all about ecology! Please check out the following:
Blog Posts & Articles:
Units (complete curriculum)
- Forest Canopy
- Wildfire & Succession
- Frog Life Cycle
- Pond Ecosystem
- Aquatic Insects
- Symbiotic Relationships
Printable Classroom Posters
- Forest Succession
- Forest Canopy Layers
- Ecosystem Poster
- Symbiotic Relationships of Trees
- Forest Flora & Fauna Poster Set
- Water Cycle
- Frog Metamorphosis
- Pond Ecosystem Art Print
Free Worksheets & Posters From Wild Earth Lab
- Food Webs Poster
- Forest Canopy DIY Booklet (drawing activity)
- Pond Scavenger Hunt
- Pond Field Trip Worksheet
- Nature Bingo
- Wildlife Research Project Worksheet
- Ecosystem Health Poster
- The Water Cycle Poster
Are you interested in reading more posts about ecology & environmental sciences? Subscribe or follow Wild Earth Lab using the links below!