Ecology is one of my favorite topics to teach (along with evolution), so I'm excited to write up this blog post on biomes!
In biology we begin the year with the characteristics of life, and then move into ecology. I like starting with ecology because it involves relatively easy concepts. Many students will have learned the basics in middle school, so it's not a scary way to start the year. When working my way through the content, I essentially just teach in the order of the levels of organization (start with population dynamics, move onto community interactions... you get the idea. End with biomes).
I generally don't have a ton of time left in the quarter, so if I get to spend 2-3 days on biomes thats a win. Since time is short I focus on the big picture- what causes these biomes? What patterns do we see when we look at a biome map? Why is biodiversity important within biomes? What is the human impact on biomes? Big picture concepts. What I DO NOT spend time on is having students memorize information about each biome. My goal is for students to walk away with an understanding of why biodiversity is important and how we can protect the natural world, not ramble off facts such as which biome receives the most precipitation and which biome has the greatest swing in annual temperature. (Stepping off soapbox).
Here is a list of some fun activities you can use to teach biomes:
TRAVEL BROCHURE: Let your students get creative and create a travel brochure for a biome of their choice. You can have them do it electronically or give them some old Nat Geo magazines to cut up and paste. Here is a free handout to go with the assignment.
MISSION BIOMES: Need a website for students to do research on each biome so they can complete their brochure? Check out this site from NASA.
INTERACTIVE GAME: If you teach middle school, you may want to check out this interactive game where students match an animal to the continent it lives on.
BUILD A BIOME: This online interactive allows students to build a biome based on plants, animals, rainfall, and temperature.
VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP: Check out this fun virtual biome explorer from Arizona State University. Not every biome is included, but it is really fun to play around with!
CLIMATOGRAMS: Want to include some graphing practice in your ecology unit? Have students read climatograms for each biome with this worksheet.
INTERACTIVE DIAGRAM: I spent a ton of time working on this interactive diagram students could explore. What took the most time was scouring Google Earth looking for cool places students could virtually explore for each biome. Students will also see what plants and animals live in each biome, where they are located on a world map, and analyze a climatogram. Included is the 7 slide interactive diagram and a Google form quiz.
HHMI: If you teach biology, you have probably checked out lessons from HHMI Biointeractive (and if you haven't, do so now!) This biome viewer includes an interactive globe where students can click on different biomes and learn more about them.
SPEED DATING: There are a few biome speed dating activities that are available for free on the internet. (I cant always find a reliable link so you will need to do a Google search).
I hope you can use one (or two!) of those activities!