Organisms in ecosystems interact in many different ways and understanding these relationships is the focus of Next Generation Science Standards MS-LS2-1 (Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem) and MS-LS2-2 (Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems). These are some symbiosis resources for middle schoolers.
Interactions among organisms
Any ecosystem unit is made more interesting by adding the nuances in the ways different species interact. Of course, the most obvious interaction among species is predation and we cover that in our food webs unit. But there are other interactions that are interesting and important in the ecosystem.
One type of interaction is competition. Species compete with each other for resources because there isn’t an infinite amount of food, water, shelter, and oxygen to go around. Organisms also compete with other members of their own species for resources but also for mates.
Middle school students find symbiosis fascinating so this is an easy unit for engagement. Symbiosis is a relationship in which unrelated species interact usually in a long term or life long situation. There are different types of symbiosis depending on if each species is benefited or harmed.
Mutualism is a type of symbiosis in which both species benefit. One example is the relationship between crocodiles and plovers. Plovers are birds which crocodiles allow to climb into their mouths and pick the food out of their mouths. The plovers get a free meal and the crocodiles get free dentistry – win, win!
Commensalism is a type of symbiosis in which one species benefits and the other is unaffected. A classic example is the relationship between sharks and remoras. Remoras are fish that swim behind sharks and eat any leftover food that shark discards. The shark doesn’t care, and the remora gets a free meal without having to do the hunting.
Parasitism is a type of symbiosis in which one species harms another one. The parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism and harms it. Tapeworms live inside the intestines of many mammals and steal nutrition from the animal they are living inside, harming the animal. Fleas and ticks are examples of insects that live in the fur of other animals and bite them, causing discomfort and possibly spreading injury.
Amensalism is a type of symbiosis in which one species is harmed and the other is unaffected. A good example is when animals walk on grass and crush it or kill it. The animal is indifferent to the grass but the grass dies.
What you need when you’re teaching interactions in ecosystems is lots of examples and lots of ways to identify the type of interaction.
Middle School Symbiosis Resources:
I’ve just posted my symbiosis resources for middle schoolers and I’m offering it for 50% off through April 25th! Here’s what’s included:
- Interactive notes. I’ve been teaching in a hybrid classroom since October so I always have at least some students online at home. Engaging them is nearly impossible, and getting remote students to keep up with notes and classwork is always a challenge. I use interactive notes because remote students can follow along without the stress of copying notes and watching a slide show. Drag and drop features make it easy for in person and remote students to ensure that they have the correct information without struggling to manage multiple screens. For more about why I use interactive notes, check out my blog post from a few months ago 🙂
- Task cards and digital Boom cards.
Both are fantastic ways to practice vocabulary and skills. Task cards can be used for independent practice, stations, Do Nows, and closure activities. They’re also handy for games, Q&A, and pre-assessment review. I print out my task cards at the beginning of the unit and keep going back to them over and over again, even spiraling back to a few later on in the year.
3. Pixel Reveal Worksheet. I love pixel reveal worksheets and I’m a little annoyed with myself for not using them sooner! They work on Google Sheets. On the left side of the spreadsheet are questions about interactions between organisms and on the right side of the spreadsheet is a large white box. As each question is answered correctly, pixels of the white square change colors. When all questions are answered correctly, an image is revealed. In this case, it’s an image of a clownfish in an anemone as another example of mutualism
4. Escape Room. I love escape rooms and so do my students. A digital escape room uses the same principle as a regular escape room – find clues and solve puzzles to break out of a room – but a digital escape room is completely digital and has the added benefit of being easily used in remote and hybrid classrooms. A digital escape room requires no work on the part of the teacher – just share a link and students will get to work. For more info, check out this blog post on creating a digital escape room.
5. Self-grading assessment. My time is limited so I depend on self grading assessments as much as possible. I wrote a 25 question multiple choice quiz and uploaded it to Google Forms which will grade the assessment for me and produce a nice spreadsheet for me to copy into my gradebook.
If you’re interested in the symbiosis bundle of all 6 resources for middle schoolers, you have until 4/24/21 to snag it for 50% off!