This Virtual Pathways focuses on the different types of ecosystems in the eastern Mediterranean region, their non-living and living elements, the food chains and food webs, and the threatened or endangered species. It is aimed at mobilising students’ interest and raising questions about the natural ecosystems, searching for information, and answering their own question, using ICT and interactive educational material of the Museum of Natural History of Crete in the classroom.
Student Learning Objectives:
- Describe the types of ecosystems, identify their non-living and living elements and observe their relationships.
- Understand how the food chains and food webs are formed and function.
- Realize that there are species threatened or endangered because of human activities.
- Be aware of anthropogenic environmental problems that affect the ecosystem function and balance.
- Propose actions for the protection and conservation of the environment.
- Learn how to approach a scientific issue, how to investigate, to observe, to come up to conclusions and solutions, etc. Generally, to gain a scientific way of thinking.
- Regarding the use of new technologies, familiarize with the use of ICT through information retrieval, data collection and organization, manage and analyze them and draw conclusions.
- Cooperation, teamwork, development of critical thinking, socialization, environmental awareness, and sensitiveness.
- Cultivate higher forms of thinking, such as analysis, synthesis, and comprehension of information.
Biology, ecosystem, food chain, food web, endangered species, environmental protection
9-11 years old
School, Natural History Museum, Web
In school: 7 hours (5 pre-visit and 2 post-visit)
In the museum (virtually): 2 hours
Computer, printer, books, internet access
Connection with the curriculum
The content of the program “Natural ecosystems of the eastern Mediterranean” is part of the course “Environmental Study” and specifically of the thematic unit “Nature is our Home” (4th grade of Primary School). The program is fully compatible with the Interdisciplinary Unified Curriculum Framework for the course “Environmental Study” and fulfills the purpose of its teaching. It fully meets the requirements of the curriculum, as well as the individual learning objectives of the thematic units “Ecosystems of Greece”, “Food relationships” and “Threatened and endangered animals”.
Finally, it could also support the initiative “Skills’ Lab” under the pillar: “ENVIRONMENT”.
This educational pathway follows an inquiry-based pedagogical approach, organised into 3 logical stages:
Teacher Support Materials
Useful resources, suitable for the age group of your students, are available at the “Teacher Support Materials” tab.
Guidance for Preparation
- Communication with the school director and the teachers involved to the project.
- Guidelines for the implementation.
- Suggest resources (ppt, videos, web pages, printed material).
Pre-visit (5 hours)
The teacher tries to mobilize the students’ interest around the concepts of ecosystem, food chains and food webs, as well as threatened and endangered animals. Some examples of such motivating activities are the following:
- Watch the presentation about Nature and Ecosystems (in Greek)
- Watch the following videos related to ecosystems.
- Watch two videos related to threatened and endangered animals. English translations are available under the “Teacher Support Materials” tab.
- Divide children into groups and ask each group to bring photos of different ecosystems: forest, lake, high mountains, shores, shrubland, etc. Then, discuss their similarities and their differences.
- Take a walk around the school and observe the different organisms (trees, shrubs, insects, etc.) as well as the non-living elements (stones, soil, water, etc.). It is good to ask each group to record as much information as they can from what they see around.
An interesting and easy method to build pre-experience on the concepts o nature and ecosystems, is to complete two thinking maps suggested in figure 1 and 2 (in Greek). You may use the maps with the empty spots that you may find here and here. The first map (fig. 1) has the basic meaning of the word “Nature” and the second (fig. 2) elaborates more on the concept of “Ecosystem”, a sub-concept that emerged in the first one. The two thinking maps are drawn on cardboard and placed on a classroom wall so that students can refer to them during the program. They could also be used during the final stage, in the confirmation phase.
Figure 1: Thinking map about the basic meaning of the word “Nature” (in Greek)
Figure 2: Thinking map about the basic meaning of the word “Ecosystem” (in Greek)
After the above proposed activities, the students are divided into groups to process the concepts a) “Ecosystems – Trophic relationships” and b) “Threatened and endangered animals” and edit the relevant worksheets found here and here (in Greek). Each worksheet consists of three parts: “I guess”, “I investigate” and “I verify”, which correspond to the three steps of the basic learning process of the program, i.e. Questions and hypotheses, Research, and Verification.
Questions and Hypotheses
Each worksheet has three formal questions about the concept a) “Ecosystems – Trophic relationships” and b) “Threatened and endangered animals”. These questions cover the most important issues addressed in the program. The group works together and tries to make hypotheses based on their pre-existing knowledge, i.e. to think of possible answers to these questions. The group’s hypotheses are written on the “I guess” page of the worksheet.
The questions for each concept are:
a) “Ecosystems – Trophic relationships”
- Write down different types of ecosystems
- How can an ecosystem be disrupted?
- Can you describe what will happen if an animal or a plant is lost from the ecosystem?
b) “Threatened and endangered animals”
- Can you write down some animals that live in Greece and are threatened or endangered of extinction?
- What are the dangers that these animals face?
- Do you know if any of the following animals live in Crete: Wolf, Fox, Wildcat, Bear, Lynx?
Students are expected to have incomplete knowledge of the above topics. The teacher, in this case, does not try to fill in the gaps by giving the correct answers but helps the students to realize that they need to do careful research in order to enrich their knowledge in a more systematic way.
PLAN AND CONDUCT SIMPLE INVESTIGATION
After the group has written its hypotheses for each question, it can then conduct a little research to come up with the most likely answers to each of the above questions. Each group will cooperatively make research, using the supporting material provided by NHMC and will answer the questions of each concept as best as possible. The following files (in Greek) could be used for this research:
- dioramas with animal info
- dioramas for the different types of ecosystems in the eastern Mediterranean region
- endangered species in the eastern Mediterranean region
The answers to each question will be written on the “I investigate” page.
After completing their research, the students are ready for the virtual visit phase.
Support or guidance available before the visit
For more info, please contact Dr Iasmi Stathi, Head of NHMC Education Lab here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit (the minimal core of the learning experience) (2 hours)
Provoke curiosity: questions to ask, things to observe
After completing their research in the pre-visit phase and filling in the “I guess” and “I investigate” sections of their worksheet, the students are ready for the virtual visit phase, where they will continue their investigation and finalize their quest. This phase includes activities, based on worksheets that the students fill in while making their research in the NHMC virtually. During this phase, the students will:
- Consolidate the concept of ecosystem through activities of recording, observation, combination and selection
- Interview animals that are threatened or endangered, such as the Wolf, the Bear the Lynx, etc.
- Deal with food chains and they will design their own food webs.
The core experience
Watch the video about the forest ecosystem (in Greek) here and try to fill in the relevant worksheet. All the ecosystems in the NHMC dioramas with information about their plants and animals are available here. By observing the ecosystems of wetlands and deserts, you may also fill in the worksheet of wetlands and deserts.
Afterwards, you will investigate the trophic relationships among the biotic parts of the ecosystems. Watch the video (in Greek) here and fill in the relevant questions on the worksheets of the forests/bushes and the wetlands/deserts. You may take an interview of a threatened and endangered animal using the relevant information in the respective file.
Finally, after having completed your research in the visit phase and filled in the worksheets of the forests/bushes and the wetlands/deserts, you are now ready to check your worksheets about “Ecosystems – Trophic relationships” and “Threatened and endangered animals” again and proceed with the “verification” session.
Support or guidance available during the visit (optional)
Combine your observations with the info you may find in the Educational Material in the VP Repository (virtualpathways.eu)
Post-visit (3 hours)
For each question, the students will compare their assumptions with their answers through their research and the information they gathered from the activities during the visit phase. This way, each group will be able to verify which hypotheses and which answers were correct.
Then, each group will present the results of their work in the classroom. The groups are encouraged to discuss, judge and make a) self-evaluation for their work, b) well-meaning evaluation for the work of other groups, and c) decision on the elaboration of a collective project that will announce the results of their work (e.g., announcements in another class, parents, etc., book to be written by the groups, PowerPoint presentation, creation of a play, theatrical play, etc.).
Pre-visit, visit and post-visit materials
- Presentation (in Greek)
- Thinking map “Nature” (in Greek)
- Thinking map “Ecosystem (in Greek)
- Dioramas with animal info (in Greek)
- Dioramas zip file
- Dioramas endangered animals (in Greek)
- “Forests – bushes” worksheet (in Greek)
- “Wetlands – deserts” worksheet (in Greek)
Follow-up activities materials
English texts for NHMC videos
“I am Kostas and I am an ornithologist at the Natural History Museum of Crete. I study the birds of prey and especially the bearded vulture. The bearded vulture is one of the largest birds of prey with a wing span that reaches up to 3 meters. Although it is big, the structure of its wings together with its long tail help it to fly with great agility.
Under its beak, there is a characteristic black flock of feathers that looks like a beard, and that is why its scientific name is Gypaetus barbatus.
The characteristic orange color of its breast is due to its habit of taking a bath in red mud. The Gypaetus is the only bird that feeds almost exclusively upon the bones of dead animals, that’s why the people of Crete call it “kokalas”, i.e. Bone-Eater.
Each pair of birds can raise only one young chick every year. We systematically watch the nests with binoculars or telescopes, to count the newborn birds.
Before the young birds are strong enough to fly away from their nests, we climb down to the nest and we mark them, also putting a radio transmitter on them, which is later going to give us information about their movements, the territories they prefer and the hazards they face. Thus, we can protect the areas where the gypaetus lives. It doesn’t have natural enemies, but it is threatened by the illegal use of poisons and illegal hunting.
Today, it is one of the rarest animals in Europe and Crete is its last refuge in all the Balkans. No matter how hard the ornithologists try, the gypaetus’ protection is everyone’s responsibility.”
“My name is Maria and for the last 20 years I have been working on the treatment of wild animals. I am one of the founding members of ANIMA, which is an organization that focuses on the health care and protection of wildlife.
Wild animals face many threats, not only in our country but all over the whole world, and man is responsible for most of them.
-This is the buzzard and this is its fracture. If the bird has been shot and wounded in its liver, stomach, etc. there is a big problem.
The birds are the animals that are mostly brought to us for treatment, since they are more often found in nature.
-I am putting the mask on it, ok?
Buzzards are very tough birds, although unfortunately they are also the most shot during winter.
-Do they have contact?
-One edge of the bone is joined with the other.
Birds very often have fractures that need complex and long-lasting operations. It also takes them a long period to recover, to return to nature and to be able to live on their own. Every time we cure a bird, we do our best, so that it will be able to live without our help anymore.
The release of an animal that has recovered is the best part of our job. It is a very happy moment for everyone, but we are always worried: is everything going to be ok? Will the bird leave and fly beautifully? If all these things happen, weare all satisfied, and we know that the whole operation was successful.”
All resources will be available in the project’s repository (www.virtualpathways.eu) and in the NHMC-UOC site (https://www.nhmc.uoc.gr/el/education/school-groups-programs)
In order to summarize and consolidate the information and knowledge acquired by the students, additional activities can be done in the classroom.
At this stage students may also deal with the concept of pollution from human activities, and more specifically a) Air pollution, b) Water pollution and c) Trash, in exactly the same way as previously. A blank worksheet (in Greek) could be used, where questions could be formed and answers could be looked for, following the three steps of “I guess”, “I investigate” and “I verify”.
Relevant questions for these concepts could be:
a) Air Pollution
- Do we see air pollution? Do we recognize it? Do we feel it? Do we smell it?
- Which parts of the world have the dirtiest air?
- What can people do to reduce air pollution?
- In which areas is air pollution higher? (in the countryside, in the city, near highways, near industrial areas). Why?
b) Water Pollution
- Who and how pollutes the water of seas, lakes and rivers?
- Does water pollution affect our lives and how?
- How does water pollution affect animals living in or near water? (e.g. Otter, Mediterranean Seal)
- What can people do to reduce water pollution?
- How much trash does a family (your family) produce every day?
- Is all this trash useless or can some of it be reused? What could be reused?
- What can we do to reduce waste?
- Where does all the garbage that is collected every day go?
- Does garbage affect the environment?
- Do they pollute the air and water?