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6-10 > Ecology

Hyperlink Habitat
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Hyperlink Habitat
Grade Level  6-10
Subject Area  life science

Curriculum Focus
  environmental studies, nature/wildlife, ecology

  five 50-minute class periods

  Students will—
  1. explore an online Hyperlink Habitat—a series of Web pages designed to illustrate the interconnectedness of a tropical rainforest ecosystem;
  2. discuss and understand a variety of concepts related to ecosystems and the relationships between humans, animals, and natural cycles;
  3. create a map of the Hyperlink Habitat illustrating the relationships among various elements of a tropical rainforest ecosystem; and
  4. research a local ecosystem and create their own print or Web version of a hyperlink habitat.

  computers with Internet access
  copies of theHyperlink Habitat Map
  poster board
  library access
  Web-authoring software (if available—not necessary)
  digital camera or scanner (if available—not necessary)

  This activity will help your students understand the complexity of nature by utilizing aHyperlink Habitat—an online illustration of the ways in which various elements of a rainforest ecosystem are interconnected. Your students will map this online habitat, then create their own hyperlink habitat—either in print or on the Web—for a local ecosystem. When they are finished, they can evensubmit their work to Discovery Channel School!
  1. To begin the activity, ask your students what they already know about the tropical rainforest. They may be familiar with particular animal or plant species, and they may be familiar with concerns over deforestation. Ask them, furthermore, if they know how any of these species or issues are interconnected. What effects do they have on each other, if any?
  2. Next, allow your students time to explore theHyperlink Habitat—a series of 10 linked Web pages (and an initial “hub” page) designed to illustrate how various elements of a tropical rainforest ecosystem are interconnected. Students may work either individually or in small groups, depending on your level of computer access.
  3. After they have all explored the Hyperlink Habitat, lead a class discussion about the various ideas connected to the concept of an ecosystem, all of which appear in the Hyperlink Habitat. These ideas should include food chains or webs; producers, consumers, and decomposers; predators and prey; symbiosis, parasitism, mutualism, commensalism, and competition; the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and the nitrogen cycle; and carrying capacity. What do students already know about these concepts, and what would they like to know? (If there are any terms with which your students are unfamiliar, you might consider asking them to define them for homework.) Next, ask your students to consider that everything within a given ecosystem is interconnected—you can’t change one aspect of an ecosystem without affecting others. Explain that an understanding of how a given ecosystem is interconnected can help us know what effects our treatment of the natural world might have.
  4. Next, ask students to return to the Hyperlink Habitat. This time, as they review it, their goal will be to create a complete map illustrating how the 10 tropical rainforest elements that it features are connected to one another. Their maps should indicate not only the connections between the various elements, but also thekindsof connections they have. For example, bats and figs are involved in amutualisticrelationship—the bats eat the figs, but then they spread the fig seeds in their droppings, allowing the figs to propagate. If bats and figs were part of the Hyperlink Habitat, then, students might indicate this relationship by drawing a two-way arrow between them and labeling it “mutualistic.”
  5. When their maps are complete, invite students to compare the maps they have created to determine whether they have labeled all of the proper connections—you can also distribute copies of theHyperlink Habitat Mapfor their comparison. You can then lead a brief discussion about what a small part of the rainforest ecosystem they have actually mapped—there are infinitely more elements and connections that could have been included. What might a complete map look like? How could it be useful?
  6. The next step is for students to create a new hyperlink habitat for a different ecosystem. (You might want to ask them to use a local ecosystem.) Their first step will be to research whichever ecosystem they are working with; you might want to divide the class into groups and have students work together. Ask them to find at least 10 different elements of that ecosystem, making sure that there are connections of one kind or another between all of them.
  7. When their research is complete, ask them to write two to three paragraphs about each of the elements they have researched. These descriptions should also include details about the connections between the various elements (including underlined linking words)—just as in the tropical rainforest Hyperlink Habitat they examined.
  8. After students have written their descriptions, you can have them proceed in two different ways:
  • You can simply ask your students to compile their descriptions into a kind of choose-your-own-adventure booklet. Each description should appear on its own page, and each description should include bold or underlined words that correspond to the headings on other pages. When their work is complete, you can ask them for electronic copies (Microsoft Word files) of their hyperlink habitat booklets—thensubmit their work to Discovery Channel School!

  • If you have access to Web-authoring software, you can ask your students to use their descriptions to create an actual hyperlink habitat for your school’s Web site. Students can also enhance their work by using a digital camera or a scanner to add images to their Web pages. If you choose this option, you can thensubmit your work to Discovery Channel School, and we’ll post a link to it on our site!

  After students have presented their work to the class, lead a discussion about the positive and negative effects that humans can have on an ecosystem. Given how many things we can change with only one small decision—logging acres of a forest, hunting an animal to extinction, and so on—how should we be treating the environment? What are the possible consequences of our actions in local ecosystems—even if those actions are well intended? Ask your students to choose one of the ecosystems they have learned about and brainstorm a list of positive changes that humans might make to it. How can we help our habitats continue to flourish?

  1. When your students’ hyperlink habitats are complete, you can ask them to spend time reviewing each other’s work—either in print or on the Web—and creating maps for them just as they did for the tropical rainforest Hyperlink Habitat. Students can then check their maps with the habitats’ creators to determine whether they have properly detailed all of the relevant connections.
  2. To inform the rest of the school about their involvement in this project, your students can create an in-class or hallway bulletin board describing their work. This bulletin board could include maps, descriptions, and pictures of the ecosystem and its plants and animals, brochures and information about conservation groups, screen shots of students’ Web pages, and personal reflections that highlight your students’ involvement.

Related Links
  The Rainforest Report Card

Virtual Rainforest

The Rainforest Alliance

Environmental Protection Agency—Ecosystems

The Evergreen Project: Biomes of the World

The Sierra Club—Ecoregions Program

  Kirsten Rooks, former biology and geography teacher and current freelance educator.