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Matter and Energy in the Environment

Before learning about the different types of ecosystems throughout the Earth and the life contained within, students must have a basic understanding of how energy flows and matter cycles through these systems. This unit uses a familiar example - the discovery of photosynthesis, to highlight how much our understanding of the ecology of matter and energy has changed.


Matter and Energy Unit Plan

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Matter and Energy Unit Plan

Purpose: This is an outline of the major lessons covered within this unit, their suggested sequence, a time estimate for each topic, and important objectives and vocabulary covered by this unit. Links are provided for any website, video clip, worksheet, or lecture Powerpoint needed by the instructor.
This unit plan is primarily written for instructors of upper-level high school students and introductory college-level students.


Matter and Energy Powerpoint Lecture

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Matter and Energy Powerpoint Lecture Download

Purpose: This lecture gradually guides students through the discovery of the process of photosynthesis, beginning with its misconceptions and moving throughout its history. As each new piece is revealed, modern knowledge of concepts like wavelengths of energy and chemical composition are revealed. Finally, students are given examples of the importance of the constant cycling of matter through ecosystems.

Essential Concepts: Matter, energy, photosynthesis, kinetic, potential, food chain, food web, biogeochemical cycles, water cycle, carbon cycle, sulfur cycle, nitrogen cycle, atom, molecule, element, compound.


Matter and Energy Student Notes Outline

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Download student notes outline worksheets for the matter and energy lecture.

Purpose: Taking efficient notes can be a big challenge for many students, especially when working from a Powerpoint lecture. This outline gives students a means to take notes that guides them toward important concepts and avoids the pitfalls of writing word-for-word or simply not taking notes at all. The outline is written as a series of questions, fill-in-the-blanks, or diagrams.

Essential Concepts: Matter, energy, photosynthesis, kinetic, potential, food chain, food web, biogeochemical cycles, water cycle, carbon cycle, sulfur cycle, nitrogen cycle, atom, molecule, element, compound.


Food Web Analysis Worksheet

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Food Web Analysis Worksheet Download and View

Purpose: Food webs and food chains are a basic, fundamental concept of ecology that nearly every student learns once or twice. However, there is a lot more behind the food web than simply "who eats who". This worksheet will take students through a portion of the complex food web found at Yellowstone National Park and have them work with concepts such as trophic level (producer - primary consumer - secondary consumer - tertiary consumer), energy flow, the Ten percent rule, decomposers, and keystone species.

Essential Concepts: Food web, food chain, trophic level, producer, primary consumer, secondary consumer, tertiary consumer, decomposers, Ten percent rule, keystone species.


BBC Documentary: After Life - The Strange Science of Decay

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After Life - The Strange Science of Decay movie worksheet.

Purpose: This documentary centers around an experiment -- what would happen if a fully stocked kitchen and garden were left to rot for a month? Time-lapse video shows the effects that decomposers have on the food, beginning with flies and continuing with fungi and bacteria. Many related side-topics are also explored, such as the massive overgrowth of trees during the Carboniferous period, before fungi had developed the ability to digest lignin.

Essential Concepts: Decomposition, biogeochemical cycles of matter, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, fungi, bacteria.


Energy and Matter in the Environment Study Guide

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Energy and Matter Study Guide.

Purpose: Once the instruction for the unit is completed, students can complete this study guide to aid in their preparation for a written test. The study guide is divided into two sections: vocabulary and short answer questions. The vocabulary is taken directly form the lecture, sequentially. The short answer questions are meant to model the type they may see on the exam.

Essential Concepts: Matter, energy, photosynthesis, kinetic, potential, food chain, food web, biogeochemical cycles, water cycle, carbon cycle, sulfur cycle, nitrogen cycle, atom, molecule, element, compound.

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