Middle School Biodiversity Unit

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A Middle School Unit

A composite of lessons directed towards 6-8th grade students to dive into the subject of biodiversity.  Students will participate in the scientific process, go on field trips and gain a depth of information on local biodiversity.

Essential Question

How do interactions between abiotic and biotic factors in ecosystems affect the biodiversity of those ecosystems?

Processes and Skills

At the end of this unit:

  • Students will understand how the cycling of materials such as carbon, water and nitrogen affect populations of organisms.
  • Students will investigate predatory relationships, competitive relationships, dispersal, disturbance, organism identification, food webs and human impacts on biodiversity.
  • Students will have gone through the scientific process of asking questions, making a hypothesis, collecting and analyzing data to present their information on a specific species and a local ecosystem. 

Assessment opportunities:

  • Students will create a prairie poster.
  • Students will reflect on their field trip and be able to define biodiversity.
  • Students will be able to articulate relationships in ecosystems, disturbances on ecosystems, changes in local biodiversity and impacts of invasive species  to a system.
  • Students will complete a field guide entry through a detailed species account.
  • Students will enter observations into a citizen science database, such as WyoBio website. 

Performance Expectations: Next Generation Science Standards


Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.


Construct and explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organsims across multiple ecocystems.


Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.


Construct an argument supported by emperical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.


Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodviersity and ecosystem services. 

Disciplinary Core Ideas: Next Generation Science Standards

LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

  • Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental  interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors. (MS-LS2-1)
  • In any ecosystem, organisms and populations with similar requirements for food, water, oxygen, or other resources may compete with each other for limited resources, access to which consequently constraints their growth and reproduction. (MS-LS2-1)
  • Growth of organisms and population increases are limited by access to resource. (MS-LS2-1)
  • Similarly, predatory interactions may reduce the number of organisms or eliminate whole populations of organisms.  Mutually beneficial interactions, in contrast, may become so interdependent that each organism requires the other for survival.  Although the species involved in these competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial interactions vary across ecosystems, the patterns of interactions of organisms with their environments, both living and nonliving, are shared. (MS-LS2-2)

LS2.B Cycle of Matter and Energy Transformation in Ecosystems

  • Food webs are models that demonstrate how matter and energy is transferred between producers, consumers, and decomposers as the three groups interact within an ecosystem. Transfers of matter into and out of the physical environment occur at every level.  Decomposers recycle nutrients from dead plant or animal matter back to the soil in terrestrial environments or to the water in aquatic environments.  The atoms that make up the organisms in an ecosystem are cycled repeatedly between the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem. (MS-LS2-3)

LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning and Resilience

  • Ecosystems are dynamic in nature; their characteristics can vary over time Disruptions to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its populations. (MS-LS2-4)
  • Biodiversity describes the variety of species found in Earth's terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems.  The completeness or integrity of an ecosystem's biodiversity is often used as a measure of its health.  (MS-LS2-5)

LS2.D: Biodiversity and Humans

  • Changes in biodiversity can influence humans' resources, such as food, energy, and medicines, as well as ecosystem services that humans rely on- for example water purification and recycling. (MS-LS2-5)

LS2.E: Developing Possible Solutions

  • There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem. (MS-LS2-5)

Wyoming State Standards

SC8.1.4 Diversity of Organisms 

  • Students investigate the interconnectedness of organisms, identifying similarity and diversity of organisms through classification system of hierarchal relationships among producers, consumers and decomposersS.

SC8.1.5 Behavior and Adaptations 

  • Students recognize behavior as a response of an organism to an internal or environmental stimulus to connect the characteristics and behaviors of an organism to biological adaptation.

SC8.1.6 Interrelationships of Populations and Ecosystems

  • Students illustrate populations of organisms and their interconnection within an ecosystem, identifying relationships among producers, consumers and decomposers.


Unit Creation: Deb Freitas

Downloadable Lesson Plans

Unit Coversheet:

Unit overview and listed standards.



Lesson 1: Prairie Ecosystem Brainstorm

What do we already know about our local ecosystem?



Lesson 2: Visit the Berry Center

Take a trip to the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center.




Lesson 3: Citizen Science 

Participate in a citizen science project. 



Download WyoBio's Data collection spreadsheet here

Lesson 4: Local Study Site Investigation

Define a local study site and collect baseline abiotic data.



Lesson 5: Biodiversity Determination

Explore the species that live in your local study site.



Lesson 6: Species Account Creation

Start a student driven research project focusing on one local species.




Lesson 7: Relationships in Ecosystems

Create a class-wide food web to understand how local species interact.



Lesson 8: Disturbances in Ecosystems

How does your local system react to disturbances?




Lesson 9: Changes in Local Biodiversity

Are there rare, threatened or endangered species in your area?



Lesson 10: Alien Invasion

What invasive species live locally and what impact do they have?



Lesson 11: Conclusion

Share out findings to the rest of the class and understand how to take learnings from this unit and apply them to other ecosystems.



Resources and Links specific to this unit:

Biodiversity Progression Template

  • A template designed to recognize different levels of understanding pertaining to biodiversity.  A great cool to recognize both higher level processing and students that may not be achieving at a proficient level.Biodiversity_learning_progression.pdf

Threatened, Endangered or Rare resources

Invasive Species resources

Citizen Science Initiatives Resources

  • WyoBio (wyobio.org) accepts observations of all organisms found in Wyoming, but if you have more focused needs, here are some other possibilities.
  • iNaturalists.org also collects observations, and well beyond Wyoming. 
  • Bumblebee watch (www.bumblebeewatch.org) is a new project of the Xerces Society focused on bumblebee conservation.  The site has good identification tools as well.
  • Project Budburst (budburst.org) collects data on plant phenology 
  • ebrid.org is perhaps the best known citizen science project, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also has a nice site to search many other citizen science projects (www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit).
  • scistarter.com also has many projects to choose from.