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Lesson Plans Library 6-8 > Ecology
Biomes: Forests & Seeds image
Biomes: Forests & Seeds
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Ecology Duration: Two class periods

lesson plan support
Students will
  • discover that seasonal changes affect life in a temperate forest ecosystem; and
  • learn how organisms in a temperate forest are dependent on one another for proper nutrition.
  • Field guides, encyclopedias, and Internet resources about plant and animal life in temperate forests
  • Index cards
  • Card stock or poster board for seasonal displays
  • Five skeins of yarn (different colors)
  1. In this activity, students will study organisms from an Asian temperate forest and create a food web. Begin the lesson by brainstorming the different kinds of life in a forest. Make a list on the board.

  2. Explain that three major types of organisms live in an ecosystem. Producers create their own food through photosynthesis. Consumers hunt or forage for nutrients. Decomposers obtain nutrients by breaking down parts of organisms into simple forms. Example: Bacteria on a forest floor feed off the leaf tissue of fallen leaves, causing the leaves to decay. On the list, have students identify the types of organisms as "P" (producers), "C" (consumers), and "D" (decomposers).

  3. Review the three types of consumers. Herbivores are animals that eat plant material—for example, caterpillars that eat leaves. Carnivores are animals that eat other animals—for example, forest ants that eat other insects. Omnivores are animals that eat plant material and other animals—for example, humans that eat vegetables and meat. Ask students to look at the list and decide with type each consumer is.

  4. Next, define a food web, which is a diagram showing how organisms in an ecosystem depend on one another to obtain nutrients and energy. Example: An oak tree food web shows that caterpillars eat the tree's leaves; beetles eat the bark; woodpeckers eat beetles; jays and squirrels eat the acorns; and the tree makes its own food with photosynthesis.

  5. Tell students that they will make food webs for the temperate forest ecosystem in northern Japan. Temperate climates have four distinct seasons, and the plants and animals there must adapt to the changing seasons to survive. Explain that deciduous trees, or trees that shed their leaves in the fall, dominate the plant life in Japanese and North American temperate forests. Oaks, maples, and beeches are found in both. Jays and squirrels are similar animals in both.

    Spring Summer Fall Winter
    Cherry tree Cherry tree Cherry tree Cherry tree
    Maple tree Maple tree Maple tree Maple tree
    Oak tree Oak tree Oak tree Oak tree
    Beech tree Beech tree Beech tree Beech tree
    Macaque Macaque Macaque Macaque
    Squirrel Squirrel Squirrel Squirrel
    Great spotted woodpecker Great spotted woodpecker Great spotted woodpecker Great spotted woodpecker
    Dogtooth violet Dogtooth violet    
    Hornet Hornet Hornet  
    Horned beetle Horned beetle Horned beetle Horned beetle
    Ant Ant Ant Ant
    Dormouse Dormouse Dormouse Dormouse
    Caterpillar/ butterfly Caterpillar/ butterfly Caterpillar/ butterfly Caterpillar/ butterfly
      Moth Moth  
    Jay Jay Jay Jay

  6. Divide the class into four groups, each representing a season. Using the chart above, assign each student one organism to research. Each group must include five or six animals and at least three plants.

  7. Distribute copies of the chart below as homework. Students assigned to a plant must describe what nutrients it needs and how it changes seasonally. Students assigned an animal must research what it eats in each season.

    Life in a Temperate Forest
    Name of organism:
    1. Describe the organism's appearance.
    2. What does the organism eat, or how does it get nutrients?
    3. How does this food source change during each season?
    4. How does the organism react to seasonal changes?
    5. What eats or preys on this organism?
    6. Is this organism a producer or a consumer?
    7. During which season is the organism most active? Why?

  8. Have each group make a food web for their season. Students should write the name of their plant or animal on an index card and arrange the cards in a circle on poster board. Assign each group a different color yarn. Use the yarn to show the organisms' interdependency in each season. Example: In fall, the oak tree would have yarn leading to squirrels and jays, which eat acorns, and to macaques, which eat the leaves and bark.

  9. Discuss how the organisms are dependent upon each other during each season.

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:Students' research was exceptionally well-done: accurate and detailed information on the assigned organism, complete answers to all activity sheet questions; demonstrated a clear understanding of seasonal food webs.
  • Two points:Students' research was somewhat carefully completed: somewhat detailed information on the assigned organism, completion of most of the activity sheet questions; demonstrated a general understanding of seasonal food webs.
  • One point:Students' research was partially completed: lack of detail on the assigned organism, completion of some of the activity sheet questions; demonstrated little of an understanding of seasonal food webs.

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Definition:Bearing cones and having needle-shaped leaves
Context:A small number of coniferous trees live in temperate forests.

Definition:Shedding or losing foliage at the end of the growing season
Context:Deciduous trees are the dominant plant life in temperate forests.

Definition:In a condition of biological rest or inactivity
Context:During the winter, deciduous trees become dormant to survive the cold.

Definition:The place an animal or plant normally lives
Context:The temperate forest habitat is rich with plant and animal life.

Definition:To pass the winter in an inactive or dormant state
Context:Small mammals lower their body temperatures when they hibernate.

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The National Academy of Sciencesprovides guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit

This lesson plan addresses the following national standard:

  • Life Science: Populations and ecosystems

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Discovery School staff (based on lesson plan by Mary C. Cahill, middle school science coordinator, Potomac School, McLean, Virginia)

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