Ecological observations are an excellent way for students to get to know the ecosystems in their areas. Ecosystems are made up of animals and plants interacting with each other and their environments. Human beings are always a part of an ecosystem so understanding those that we live in is very important to understanding how our actions affect others as well as our own lifestyles. If the school you or your child attends does not include ecological observations as part of the curriculum, be sure to meet with the teachers to discuss your ideas for such a valuable assignment.
Why Conduct Ecological Observations at School?
Ecological observations teach students many important lessons about the environments in which they live and their own places in these ecosystems. Ecological observations also teach students a variety of skills including:
- How to decide upon, mark out and observe an ecosystem (or any system within a given area).
- How to analyze the role of any living thing in an ecosystem (or the role of any component in a whole).
- How to observe and discuss the balance within an ecosystem between those that produce and those that consume products.
- How to describe the relationships between living things, and their food chains, found in a given ecosystem (or the links in any given chain of production).
- How to anticipate the ways in which changes in the relationships between living things, and food chains, will affect an ecosystem (or changes in the links of any chain will change the chain of production or overall product).
How Do You Conduct an Ecological Observation at School?
Ecological observations are relatively simple assignments for classes – be they large or small – to carry out. Outdoor space with living plants and animals is essential. Local parks are particularly good settings if your school property does not contain any green areas. Once at the appropriate setting, all students must do is:
- Mark out the areas which they will observe as their own particular ecosystems.
- Observe their ecosystem, using their senses, for at least five minutes. Prompt students by reminding them to think about:
- What kind of plants and animals are they seeing?
- What types of noises, from plants and animals, are they hearing?
- Are there any scents from the plants and animals?
- It may be unnecessary for students to taste or feel plants and animals unless they are closely supervised.
- List all of their observations vertically, and then the same observations horizontally to make a grid.
- In the boxes of the grid, students should then write a small statement about the interaction between the two observations.
- Use these observations to make a hypothetical food chain.
Why Are Ecological Observations Important?
Conducting ecological observations are important so that students come to understand the dependent relationships that all living things have with their ecosystems. When they are back in the classroom, students should be asked leading questions to help them see the roles that they could play – both to bring benefit and harm – to their ecosystems. Ask students:
- How an herbicide or pesticide would harm their particular ecosystem?
- What would happen if rubbish were left in their particular ecosystem?
- What would result if water were taken away from their particular ecosystem?
- What the consequences would be if a house or shed was built in their particular ecosystem?
Ecological observations may not be conducted in every school across the UK, but they are a valuable part of any science or environmental studies curriculum. Ecological observations allow students to observe and truly understand the interplay between living things in an ecosystem, and how their own actions can protect or harm these systems. If you are worried that you or your child will not conduct ecological observations at school, request a meeting to show your support for this idea, and be ready to donate your own time and expertise to such a good cause.