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Food Chain

Food Chain

Learning Laboratory in Environmental Science

Learning is most exciting when there is opportunity to experience and discover what happens. Food Chain offers a practical way to conduct experiments and investigate a simple lake ecosystem. Students deepen their understanding of natural systems as they learn by doing.

Biology and Environmental Science classes at all levels, from middle school through high school and introductory college courses, use Food Chain to explore a virtual lake ecosystem and conduct computer simulation-based experiments to test hypotheses.

Students build a sound understanding of ecosystem relationships, including:

  • Interdependencies between the four trophic levels
  • Factors that affect population, births, deaths and carry capacity
  • Dynamics of oxygen, carbon dioxide, detritus, and nutrient levels

Inquiry-Based Approach

Using an inquiry-based approach to learning, Food Chain presents specific challenges for students to design their own experiments and test their hypotheses through simulation. Challenges pose questions like:

  • Which two species can survive in the lake by themselves for 90 days?
  • What is the minimum number of species needed to keep the sunfish alive?
  • How will various housing development proposals impact the lake ecosystem?

Outcomes of experiments must be explained even if they were not successful. Graphical output and data analysis help students rationalize their results and, if necessary, reformulate another hypothesis.

Critical Thinking Skills

Food Chain challenges students to think critically as they hone their skills in applying the scientific method. Students are guided through the steps of formulating and testing hypotheses, interpreting data, analyzing graphs, and suggesting reasons for the results.

Systems Thinking concepts introduced while exploring a lake ecosystem are reinforced in an optional Generalizing section. Students are challenged to apply concepts like “feedback loops” and “unintended consequences” to issues in their own life.

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