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Delivery guides are designed to represent a body of knowledge about teaching a particular topic and contain:
- Content: A clear outline of the content covered by the delivery guide;
- Thinking Conceptually: Expert guidance on the key concepts involved, common difficulties students may have, approaches to teaching that can help students understand these concepts and how this topic links conceptually to other areas of the subject;
- Thinking Contextually: A range of suggested teaching activities using a variety of themes so that different activities can be selected which best suit particular classes, learning styles or teaching approaches.
Life on Earth is supported by global ecosystems and the link between human wellbeing and ecosystem wellbeing is vital. This topic seeks to explore the distribution and characteristics of the Earth’s ecological wonders. Learners investigate the two contrasting ecosystems of tropical rainforests and polar environments, exploring physical cycles and processes that make these ecosystems distinctive, the threats posed to their existence and how humans are attempting to manage them for a more sustainable future.
|4.1. Why are natural ecosystems important?||Scale|
|a. What are ecosystems?||• Understand the concept of an ecosystem as being the interdependence of climate, soil, water, plants and animals.|
|• Outline the global distribution of polar regions, coral reefs, grasslands, temperate forests, tropical forests and hot deserts.||G|
|• Overview of the climate, flora and fauna within these ecosystems.||G|
|4.2. Why should tropical rainforests matter to us?|
|a. What biodiversity exists in tropical rainforests?||• The distinctive characteristics of a tropical rainforest ecosystem, including the climate, nutrient cycle, soil profile and water cycle..
• The interdependence of climate, soil, water, plants, animals and human activity in tropical rainforests.
|b. Why are tropical rainforests being ‘exploited’ and how can this be managed sustainably?||• Explore the value of tropical rainforests through the study of their goods and services.||G, R, N, L|
|• Human impacts in the tropical rainforest from activities such as logging, mineral extraction, agriculture and tourism.||R, L|
|• A case study to illustrate attempts to sustainably manage an area of tropical rainforest, such as ecotourism, community programmes, biosphere reserves and sustainable forestry, at a local or regional scale.||R, L|
|4.3. Is there more to polar environments than ice?|
|a. What is it like in Antarctica and the Arctic?||• Outline the distinctive characteristics of Antarctica and the Arctic, including climate, features of the land and sea, flora and fauna.||R, L|
|• The interdependence of climate, soil, water, plants, animals and human activity in either the Antarctic or the Arctic polar region.||R, L|
|• Explore a range of impacts of human activity on either the Antarctic or the Arctic ecosystems, such as scientific research, indigenous people, tourism, fishing, whaling and mineral exploitation.||R, L|
|b. How are humans seeking a sustainable solution for polar environments?||• A case study to examine one small-scale example of sustainable management in either the Antarctic or the Arctic such as sustainable tourism, conservation and whaling.
• A case study to examine one global example of sustainable management in either the Antarctic or the Arctic by investigating global actions such as Earth Summits or the Antarctic Treaty.
|G, R, L|
This topic will introduce learners to the concepts of core topics such as the physical processes, cycles and systems which operate within ecosystems at a variety of scales. This will be studied within the context of the value of these ecosystems to humans and the capacity humans have to alter these processes. The topic requires students to ‘get under the skin’ of polar environments and tropical rainforests to create a sense of awe and wonder about places which are geographically distant and very distinct from their own environments. Students will need a good geographical knowledge of the distribution of global ecosystems and global climatic regions. A skills based mapping exercise in which the global ecosystems are located in an atlas is often a good place to start. Students will need to have a clear conceptual understanding of sustainability for the final section of this topic and be able to evaluate the extent to which ecosystems are managed sustainably at different scales.
Common misconceptions or difficulties students may have
Geographical knowledge of global climatic regions may hinder understanding of the global distribution of ecosystems. Students may have a poor geographical knowledge of the Arctic and Antarctica – a good starting place would be to challenge student perceptions that there is more to polar environments than ice. Students may also perceive that all polar environments are inhabited by humans, so it will be important to distinguish between native populations in the Arctic polar environment and scientific research stations in Antarctica and reasons for this difference. In addition, students may have already studied ecosystems, processes, flows and cycles at KS3 but will need to revisit these core concepts in order to apply them to the topic.
Conceptual links to other areas of the specification – useful ways to approach this topic to set students up for topics later in the course
Students will have already studied the concept of sustainability at KS3 and there are other opportunities to reinforce this across other topics where sustainable strategies are addressed; Urban Futures (topic 5) and Resource Reliance (topic 8). There are also a wealth of opportunities to integrate a skills based approach which could include; climate graphs, use of GIS mapping, interpretation of satellite images and aerial photos of the polar regions. The issues which arise from this topic also lend themselves readily to opportunities to practise sustainable decision making exercises. In addition, there are cross-curricular links with biology (ecosystem components and interdependence) and maths when developing and applying mathematical and statistical concepts to ecosystems.
Approaches to teaching the content:
The teaching and learning activities below require students to apply a wide range of skills linked to enquiry learning. The tasks which are introduced and facilitated by teachers are intended to promote student-led understanding and to develop an interest and passion for the topic in a ‘real world’ context. There is a heavy emphasis on the use of visual resources to enable students to create a picture of an environment which is geographically very distant and distinct from their own. A good starting point for the whole topic maybe to use Google Earth to virtually travel around the Earth to introduce the world ecosystems.
Throughout the topic, students are encouraged to work together to explore ecosystems in a way which makes their learning relevant and interesting for them, encourages linking of ideas, challenges them to think more deeply, to ask questions and be creative in their learning.
A pair’s activity to introduce the concept of an ecosystem. Provide each pair with images of global ecosystems (Learner Resource 1). Students describe each picture using a table with these headings; climate, soil, water, plants and animals.
See separate Teacher Resource 1 which locates the images and gives a suggested definition for an ecosystem.
Alternatively, students could carry out the same activity but could use the web link to create a wordle.
Students use their descriptive words to devise a definition for ‘ecosystem’. They could then pair and share with another pair to discuss, compare their definitions and decide on a definition together.
This practical activity will help students understand how the components of an ecosystem are interlinked. Students make their own biosphere or ‘garden in a bottle’ (Learner Resource 2). Students use the Daily Mail web link to answer the questions about interdependence in ecosystems (Learner Resource 2) linked to this activity.
An outdoor learning opportunity exists here as students could collect the resources (e.g. wood/soils) for the activity. This could also be a homework activity or a joint practical activity with Science.
Watch the short video clip as an introduction to global ecosystems. Students use an atlas to locate the main types of global ecosystem. They are given copies of images (Learner Resource 1) to locate, cut out and label photos onto a blank world map.
An alternative activity involves students physically creating a global ecosystem map on the floor. Use string for the Equator, cotton wool for the poles and name cards for continents. Groups of 4-6 students are assigned an ecosystem and have to decide where they should sit. It should promote a lot of discussion.
Use the BBC Bitesize web link to project a large world map on the whiteboard to help students make decisions about where each ecosystem is located on the floor map and the relative size of each biome.
This activity lends itself to a student-led enquiry opportunity. In groups of 4-6, students are assigned one of the 6 global ecosystems. They research the location, climate, flora and fauna using a range of web and non-web based resources. It could be presented in a variety of ways; as a display, documentary report, power point or Vlog. Students must include evidence of geographical skills (e.g. climate graphs, satellite images, use of GIS etc). A peer assessment opportunity exists here to evaluate WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if) in different categories for content, geographical skills and presentation.
Part of the group task could be to produce a revision card for the other students with a summary of the climate, flora and fauna of their ecosystem. Encourage students to include ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions to extend the nature and depth of their enquiry.
Introduce the 5 minute video clip. Students write key words under the headings; layers, soil, nutrient cycling and competition. Students use the two web links to carry out a mini enquiry into the climate, soil, water, plants, animals and human activity in tropical rainforests.
There are also links to some online activities and quizzes on the Rainforest Alliance website. Students could also devise their own quizzes and try them out on each other.
Students watch the NASA time lapse satellite video clip which shows rainforest loss between 1975 and 2008. Students suggest reasons for the loss.
Use the Young People’s Trust link to work in pairs to create a power point presentation to convince world leaders of the importance of the rainforest and how it is under threat from humans.
Assessment opportunity here linked to SAM Q4(c).
Students watch the video about Yachana Lodge, and make notes on how it meets the principles of ecotourism under these headings:
- Supporting the local community
- Energy use
- Celebrating culture
As an alternative, students can use the Yachana Lodge website to create their own information leaflet or webpage which explains how ecotourism at Yachana Lodge is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.
Watch the short introductory videos from the Arctic and Antarctica showing wildlife, landscape and climate. Students then use images of the Arctic (Learner Resource 3) and Antarctica (Learner Resource 4) to either write a 140 character tweet (#aweandwonder) or a poem about the wildlife, landscape and climate of each place.
Students use the web links and activity guide (Learner Resource 5) to plan a polar expedition to explore the Arctic or Antarctica.
Sign up to take part in the annual ‘Arctic Live’ event held every year, with activities for schools including live Skype calls to Arctic explorers.
Alternatively, create your own Arctic Live event. Use the web link with question ideas for Arctic Live 2016. Can you answer them? What other questions would you ask an Arctic explorer?
Follow up activities could include keeping a diary of their adventures, creating a blog, sending tweets about their experiences or recording their experiences on a webcam.
Watch the 2 ‘Blue Planet’ video clips from Antarctica. Students draw a food web for this polar environment.
Possible discussion questions:
- What are the main components of the Antarctic food web?
- Why is it described as ‘delicate’?
- Explain the impacts on the food web of removing one of the components (e.g. Krill)
- Assess the extent to which climate change is a threat to the food web.
A fun homework quiz can be found at Cool Antarctica along with examples of Antarctic food chains and food webs.
Students use the impact images (Learner Resource 6) to construct a table or mind map to describe each impact (e.g. oil pollution harms wildlife) and categorise the impacts according to whether they are economic, environmental or social impacts (or overlap). They then develop their mind map or table to a higher level through use of ‘this means that’ (See example for image A Teacher Resource 6).
Teacher Resource 6 describes each image and gives suggestions of the impacts (both positive and negative) students may discover. Opportunities for extended learning exist if students are encouraged to also think about how each of the impacts they identify can be managed in a sustainable way.
Students use the WWF link to read the 10 principles for Arctic tourism. Then read the link on the Arctic Ice Hotel and decide whether they think it follows the Arctic tourism principles and assess whether it is a successful example of sustainable tourism.
AfL - Answer the exam question 4 (d) (see Learner Resource 7). Give students the mark scheme (p17/18 – see link) and ask them to self assess their answer in terms of what they did well and what they can do to improve. Work in pairs to discuss their answers further (WWW / EBI).
See Sample Assessment Material link for mark scheme.
Students watch the 15 minute TED talk by Robert Swan about his walk to the poles and the Antarctic Treaty. Students use the web link to find out to devise their own TED talk to be delivered in 2041 about:
- The importance of the existing treaty (why it is needed – the threats)
- The local, regional and global importance of Antarctica – fauna, flora, scientific importance
- The link between global warming, melting ice and climate change
- The future without an extension to the treaty in 2041.
Robert Swan is the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles. His talk is interesting, inspiring and entertaining. He is passionate about inspiring young people.
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