Middle School: OpenSciEd Unit 7.5: How Does Changing an Ecosystem Affect What Lives There?
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. While this work has begun at the middle school level with Grades 6 through 8, 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.
Rating: Example of High Quality NGSS Design
Awarded the NGSS Design Badge
Science Discipline: Earth and Space Science, Engineering
Year Reviewed: 2021
This unit on ecosystem dynamics and biodiversity begins with students reading headlines that claim that the future of orangutans is in peril and that the purchasing of chocolate may be the cause. Students then examine the ingredients in popular chocolate candies and learn that one of these ingredients — palm oil — is grown on farms near the rainforest where orangutans live. This prompts students to develop initial models to explain how buying candy could impact orangutans.
Students spend the first set of lessons better understanding the complexity of the problem, which cannot be solved with simple solutions. They figure out that palm oil is derived from the oil palm trees that grow near the equator, and that these trees are both land-efficient and provide stable income for farmers, factors that make finding a solution to the palm oil problem more challenging. Students then investigate alternative approaches to growing food compared to large-scale monocrop farms, and eventually work to design an oil palm farm that simultaneously supports orangutan populations and the income of farmers and community members.
Link to Materials
The following link will direct you to OpenSciEd’s Unit 7.5: OpenSciEd Unit 7.5: How Does Changing an Ecosystem Affect What Lives There?
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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