Lessons


Ecology School lessons are taught in a variety of locations – some are specific to our residential campus, but many can be adapted to fit classroom or schoolyard locations. Some lessons are tide, light or season dependent.  Locations for each lesson are noted in parentheses next to the lesson title. All Ecology School lessons, no matter where they are taught, are designed to create hands-on learning experiences for students surrounded by what they are learning about.  Lessons can be scaled to meet students’ grade level from Kindergarten through High School, and are aligned with school, state and local learning frameworks, including Next Generation Science Standards.


ABCs of Ecology (Residential, Field Trip or Schoolyard)
Our ABCs of Ecology® lesson is an introductory lesson which will equip students with the knowledge they need to further investigate ecosystems. They will explore the four key concepts of the ABCs: Abiotic, Biotic, Cycles and Change and have an opportunity to delve into how these four components create and shape ecosystems.

Squirrel takes a vacation to a new ecosystem, only to discover...the beach is a tough place to live!

Abiotic Adventures (Residential, Field Trip or Schoolyard)
Our Abiotic Adventures lesson focuses on how abiotic factors (such as nutrient level, wind, water, available sunlight and disturbance) affect ecosystems.  Students use scientific tools to investigate how various environments have been shaped by these factors. Students will further explore how these factors shape ecosystems by examining how local ecosystems have been created over time. 

Beach and Dunes (Residential or Field Trip ~ tide dependent)
During our Beach and Dunes lesson, students spend time comparing the beach and dune ecosystems (both primary and secondary), as well as combing the beach for organisms such as surf clams, moon snails, sand dollars and sand worms. Lessons may focus on the creation of the beach ecosystem, including the sand cycle and geological history of this coastal ecosystem. Additionally, students may learn about the amazing adaptations beach organisms have developed which enable them to survive and flourish in this harsh and sandy intertidal environment.  (Watch video, Left)

Tide Pools (Residential or Field Trip ~ tide dependent)
The Tide Pool lesson takes place at the East Point Audubon Preserve, a 25 minute bus ride from our site. The rocky shore provides a perfect comparison lesson to the Beach and Dunes lesson. Because of its stable bedrock substrate, the rocky shore supports an incredible diversity of life, while the shifting sands of the beach make it difficult for many creatures to live there. Students are treated to an incredible place to explore and the opportunity to discover a wide variety of creatures who have all adapted in different ways to survive the changing tides, temperature and salinity of the tide pools. 

A disturbance has just hit the forest and the plants are racing to compete for sunlight! Who will win?

Forest (Residential, Field Trip or Schoolyard)
Our Forest lesson focuses on the diverse community of organisms in the forest and incorporates the non-living factors that make such diversity possible. Standing snags and rotting logs reveal habitats for everything from squirrels to salamanders. The abundance of fungi and easily visible rotting material on the forest floor bring the process of decomposition to life for students. Observing a forest in different stages of succession allows students to engage first hand with how a forest is created. (Watch video, Right)

Salt Marsh (Residential or Field Trip ~ tide dependent)
In our Salt Marsh lesson, students learn about how watersheds connect terrestrial ecosystems. They learn the reasons why salt marshes are such an important part of east coast watersheds and discover the unique properties of those marches. Students discover the amazing adaptations that make it possible for various plants and animals to survive in the ever-changing salt marsh ecosystem.

Food Systems (Residential)
This lesson teaches the connections between food, humans and the environment. Students learn about diversity, food webs and nutrient cycles in The Ecology School Garden and draw similarities between the garden and other ecosystems they have explored throughout their stay. Students draw on their experiences with food at home and in The Ecology School Dining Hall while exploring the story of food from soil to plate. This lesson ties together all of the ecosystems students have learned about during their stay and explores how students fit into their environment.  Students are given time to reflect on their Ecology School experiences and create ideas for what concepts and ideas they can take with them as they return to their home and school.

Nature at Night (Residential ~ evening)
During the Nature at Night lesson, students discover the adaptations that nocturnal animals use to survive while being active at night. Groups explore the forest to see how it has changed with the onset of darkness. If conditions are right, students will be treated to dinoflagellates on the beach – bioluminescent plankton that glow when disturbed.

Astronomy (Residential or Field Trip)
The focus of our Astronomy lesson is to understand the Earth’s “place in space.” By comparing the environments of other planets to that of Earth, students gain an appreciation for the uniqueness of Earth’s environment. Students learn about our solar system, galaxy and stars. 

Students get an up close look at intertidal organisms during a Marine Lab lesson.

Students get an up close look at intertidal organisms during a Marine Lab lesson.

Marine Lab (Residential, Field Trip or Classroom)
The Marine Lab lesson is an excellent lesson on its own, but especially meaningful prior to a visit to the Tide Pools. Students become acquainted with the feeding strategies and adaptations of intertidal organisms. They will learn where to find these animals in the cross section of the rocky shore and how to handle them safely. Throughout the lesson, students visit several stations where they get to examine and learn about live specimens.

EcoQuest (Residential ~ one or two lessons)
Students involved in four- or five-day residential programs show off their new knowledge and have a chance to celebrate during EcoQuest.  Each study group works as a team, using scientific tools to complete a set of challenges to discover a mystery ecosystem and create its inhabitants.  The evening ends with a closing ceremony where the school comes together to share experiences.

 

Student Choice (Residential)
For students that are onsite for four- or five-day programs, schools can chose to add Student Choice as a lesson.  In this lesson block, students have the opportunity to choose between a variety of options such as Beach Yoga, Salt Water Water Color Painting, State Park Exploration, Survival Skills and Nature Spa.  Options are based on what educators are interested in leading, and may change from one week to the next. Students are grouped based on their top choice rather than in their regular lesson group, giving them an opportunity to work with different students and explore the lighter of ecology.

High school students take soil core samples in the salt marsh during their Ecological Inquiry Project.

High school students take soil core samples in the salt marsh during their Ecological Inquiry Project.

Ecological Inquiry Project (Residential ~ 7th grade or above, one or two lessons)
Older students involved in a five-day program at The Ecology School have the opportunity to devise an inquiry-based question and use the scientific method to investigate the answer.  Students design the question, implement the methods by which to collect their data and then synthesize this information based on tools used and content acquired during the week.

Camp Ellis Erosion Study (Residential or Field Trip)
During this lesson, students learn about the history and effects of the rock jetty that was built at the mouth of the Saco River (just down the beach from The Ecology School) in Camp Ellis.  Students witness firsthand the erosion that has taken place, investigate why the jetty was built and explore how it has disrupted the natural cycle as well as the human community.

Town Meeting (Residential, Field Trip or Classroom)
Our Town Meeting lesson is a complimentary lesson to the Camp Ellis Erosion Study lesson, but can also be conducted as a field trip or classroom program. In this lesson, students have an opportunity to role play the various groups affected by the jetty and the erosion it causes. During the Town Meeting, students will not only need their ecological knowledge, but also their ability to debate and study a situation from many angles. After a lively discussion, students will work together to create a compromise solution.

a 3rd grader searches for macroinvertebrates during an insect life cycle study.

a 3rd grader searches for macroinvertebrates during an insect life cycle study.

Freshwater Mucking (Macro-Invertebrate Study) (Residential, Field Trip or Schoolyard)
Mucking affords an amazing opportunity for hands-on exploration and identification of insects in their larval (youth) and nymph (teenage) stages.  Students are generally familiar with insects in their adult phases. During Freshwater Mucking, we learn about insect life cycles and how to use a macrobiotic index to determine water quality. Appropriate for Grades 2+.

Sensory Awareness (Schoolyard)
This lesson serves as an excellent introduction to the study of ecology for our youngest scientists. Students will explore the schoolyard using their senses: seeing, hearing, smelling and touching (we'll leave the tasting to your lunch and snack times!). These emerging scientists have a chance to use scientific tools in addition to observation: magnifying glasses and study plots will help us to focus our observations. (Grades K & 1st)

Spring/Fall Ecology (Schoolyard ~ seasonal)
In this lesson, students investigate the seasonal changes and adaptations that help plants and animals survive that particular season. Students examine how spring and/or fall affects their schoolyard, using their observations to make predictions of how those affects may change with the next season.

5th graders learn about ANIMAL AND PLANT  winter ADAPTATIONS, and get ready to "survive" the season.

5th graders learn about ANIMAL AND PLANT  winter ADAPTATIONS, and get ready to "survive" the season.

Winter Ecology (Schoolyard ~ seasonal)
Venture out into a winter wonderland to learn how animals survive this challenging season. Students bundle up and head outside to observe their schoolyards in winter, learn different behavioral adaptations for survival and practice moving like an animal in the snow (tracking). (Grades 3+)

Ecologists In Training (Schoolyard)
Students' scientific skills and ecological knowledge are put to the test in this quest-like lesson. Presented with a field notebook full of tasks and provided with scientific tools (such as thermometers, study plots and field guides) students will work as a group exploring their schoolyard to find the answer to several ecological questions, such as comparing temperature differences, , notating species diversity, and identifying plant organisms. (Grades 5+)

Ecology Takes the Stage (Assembly)
Looking for a fun, interactive way to introduce your students to science concepts? How about one that is designed to teach, meet, and assess curriculum goals and standards? Students will learn about the ABCs of Ecology®, marine habitats, forest ecosystems, sustainability, and much more. Grades 2-6

Habitat, Habitat(Classroom Program or Assembly)
This assembly program is designed to introduce the concept of habitats to our younger audiences.  Students will come along on a journey through several ecosystems, from a forest, through a farm, pond, salt marsh and finally to the beach. ( Grades K-3.)

2nd graders determine the salinity of ocean water using a hydrometer with some help from little Suzy.

2nd graders determine the salinity of ocean water using a hydrometer with some help from little Suzy.

Plants Around Us (Classroom Program)
This program, designed for our younger students, is an excellent introduction to plants: their parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds) and what they need to grow (sun, soil, water and air). Students will use their sense of touch to explore various plant parts, play an interactive game to learn what plants need to grow and then make their very own FrankenPlant. (Grades 1 & 2)

World Within Your Watershed (Classroom Program)
Join Little Susie and the Blue-Bellied Fleeber Flobber on their journey through the watershed! In this program, students learn the Water Cycle Boogie song, make clouds and test salinity using scientific tools. (Grades 2-4)