High School: OpenSciEd Unit B.2 Ecosystems: Matter & Energy

Listings > High School: OpenSciEd Unit B.2 Ecosystems: Matter & Energy

OpenSciEd is a nonprofit organization that brings together educators, philanthropic organizations, curriculum developers, and professional development providers to improve science education through the development and implementation of high-quality, freely available science instructional materials. The goal of OpenSciEd is to ensure that all educators, from elementary to high school, have access to a free, coherent, rigorous, research-based set of instructional materials that will support all students in meeting the vision for science literacy described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Score: 9

Awarded the NGSS Design Badge

Science Discipline: Life Science, Earth and Space Science, Engineering

Length: Unit

Year Reviewed: 2023

This unit is designed to deepen student understanding of the flow of matter and energy ecosystems and the cycling of carbon on a global scale due to increased fires. Students spend the first 6 lessons investigating the story of matter and energy in the peat/permafrost system. Students observe and burn peat, then investigate how it formed in the first place. This leads them to wonder why there is so much peat frozen in the permafrost and to conduct an investigation for decomposition by cellular respiration at different temperatures. Next, students grapple with how there could be so many plants in the cold Arctic and figure out that there was more solar radiation when the plants that formed the peat lived, allowing more plants to grow and photosynthesize. Students figure out that when there is enough sunlight, plants can store sugar in larger molecules like starch. With all of the evidence students have collected, they are now ready to revise their models for explaining how the zombie fires burn under ice and release so much carbon dioxide and energy. Students wonder if there are other carbon sinks that might be burning like the peat in zombie fires, so they look at maps of recent fires to figure out which locations might be productive to investigate. Students uncover that in all of these burning carbon sinks, there are either land use changes, drought, and/or higher temperatures. Students worry about what this means on a bigger scale and what the connection is between increased carbon dioxide and temperature. Students then conduct an investigation with varying levels of carbon dioxide, analyze data, and use a quantitative model to determine that there are feedback effects from human activity that increase carbon dioxide and temperature on a global scale. This motivates students to look for successful cases of fire management that disrupt the flow of matter and energy,  so that they may design a fire management solution for a community they care about.

Link to Materials

The following link will direct you to the OpenSciEd Unit B.2 Ecosystems: Matter & Energy unit page: B.2 Ecosystems: Matter & Energy

NGSS Design Badge

Awarded: Nov 28, 2023

Awarded To: OpenSciEd Unit B.2 Ecosystems: Matter & Energy


The NGSS Design Badge is awarded only to the version of this unit that was reviewed. If any modifications are made to this unit, the revised version cannot be promoted as having earned the badge.

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