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TUNDRA: Life in the Polar Extremes

Highlights From Issue 13 (April 2009) Svalbard, landscape, tundra. Photo courtesy of Biillyboy, Flickr.


Table of Contents Tundra: Life in the Polar Extremes Issue 13 (April 2009) Science Content Knowledge

Life in the Tundra

By Jessica Fries-Gaither

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Literacy Content Knowledge

We Have Our Organizer...Now What? Writing Research Reports

By Tracey Allen and Clarissa Reeson

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Feature Story

A Tundra Tale

By Stephen Whitt

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Misconceptions

Common Misconceptions about Biomes and Ecosystems

By Jessica Fries-Gaither

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Across the Curriculum: Lessons and Activities

Modeling Ecosystems: Integrating Science, Literacy, and Art

By Jessica Fries-Gaither

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Science & Literacy: Lessons and Activities

Hands-on Lessons and Activities about the Tundra and Ecosystems

By Jessica Fries-Gaither

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Off the Bookshelf

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Tundra: Virtual Bookshelf

By Kate Hastings

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Science Content Knowledge Life in the Tundra By Jessica Fries-Gaither Deserts, grasslands, rainforests, coral reefs, and tundra may seem quite different, but they are all examples of biomes. A definition for biome is "a living community characterized by distinctive plant and animal species and maintained under the climatic conditions of the region." Biomes are made of many similar ecosystems (communities of organisms and the environments in which they live). A biome is characterized by abiotic (nonliving) factors such as geography and climate and by biotic (living) factors such as plant and animal species. Life in any biome includes producers (plants and other photosynthetic organisms) and consumers (organisms that obtain their energy from producers). These consumers may be further classified as herbivores (plant eaters), carnivores (meat eaters), or omnivores (feed on a combination of animals and plants). In addition, all ecosystems are dependent on detritivores (decomposers) -- bacteria and

other microorganisms that obtain energy from breaking down organic matter. The flow of energy from the sun through an ecosystem can be illustrated in a food chain, such as this generalized one: Tertiary Consumer

While food chains are a useful teaching tool, their simplicity doesn't usually capture the complex relationships within a biome or the fact that any one organism may be part of several food chains. A food web, which illustrates the overlap between multiple food chains, more accurately captures the flow of energy in an ecosystem.

Living organisms in any biome interact through a variety of relationships. Organisms Decomposers compete for food, water, Primary and other resources. Consumer Predators hunt their prey. Some organisms coexist in mutually Producers beneficial relationships (symbiosis), while others harm organisms for their own benefit (parasitism). Still others benefit from a relationship that neither helps nor harms the other organism (commensalism). Energy is lost in the form of heat Secondary Consumer

at each level of a food chain, which means that the number of individuals at each successive level decreases. For example, within a food chain there are always more producers than primary consumers, and more primary consumers than secondary consumers or tertiary consumers. Decreasing available energy and population sizes in a food chain are illustrated (right) by an energy (or ecological) pyramid:

Biomes (and their food webs) can change as a result of natural hazards or human activities. Changes in environmental conditions may limit the availability of resources (food, Tertiary Consumers

Secondary Consumers

Primary Consumers

Primary Producers

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Science Content Knowledge

ARCTIC TUNDRA

water, space or shelter), reducing the number of organisms that can survive in a given environment. A change at any level of a food web will impact all other organisms in that web in some way. Some species are considered keystone species because of the critical role they play in an ecosystem's food web. Examples of keystone species include grizzly bears, sea stars, and sea otters. TUNDRA The tundra is a biome characterized by an extremely cold climate, little precipitation, poor nutrients, and a short growing season. Other characteristics include low biodiversity, simple plants, limited drainage, and large variations in populations. There are two types of tundra: arctic and alpine. Arctic tundra is located in the Northern 4

Hemisphere; alpine tundra is located at high elevations on mountains throughout the world. Tundra is also found to a limited extent in Antarctica - specifically, the Antarctic Peninsula. ARCTIC TUNDRA Arctic tundra is found along the northern coasts of North America, Asia, and Europe, and in parts of Greenland. It extends south to the edge of the taiga (a biome characterized by coniferous forests). The division between the forested taiga and the treeless tundra is known as the timberline or tree line. The tundra is known for cold conditions, with an average winter temperature of -30 degrees F (-34 degrees C), and an average summer temperature ranging from 37 degrees to 54 degrees F (3 degrees to 12 degrees C). The growing season lasts from 50 to 60 days. The

Tundra Map. Photo courtesy of Aiyizo, Wikimedia Commons.

biome is also characterized by desertlike conditions, with an average of six to ten inches (15 to 25 cm) of yearly precipitation, including snow melt. Winds often reach speeds of 30 to 60 miles (48 to 97 km) an hour. Another hallmark of the tundra is permafrost, a layer of permanently frozen subsoil and partially decayed organic matter. Only the top nine or ten inches of soil thaw, leading to the formation of bogs and ponds each spring. Tundra and taiga permafrost stores about one-third of the world's soil-bound carbon. Warming Arctic temperatures due to climate change are causing the permafrost to thaw, releasing the carbon in the form of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse


Science Content Knowledge gas). Additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will intensify warming, leading to increased thawing and the release of even more carbon dioxide. This positive feedback loop thus has the potential to significantly increase the rate and effects of climate change. Approximately 1,700 species of vascular plants are found across the Arctic tundra, including flowering plants, low shrubs, sedges, grasses, and liverworts. Lichens, mosses, and algae are also common. In general, tundra plants are low growing, have shallow root systems, and are capable of carrying out photosynthesis at low temperatures and with low light intensities. Animals found in the Arctic tundra include herbivorous mammals (lemmings, voles, Secondary Consumer include arctic foxes, arctic wolves, snowy owls, brown bears.

Primary Consumer include pikas, musk oxen, caribou, lemmings, arctic hares.

Producers include flowering plants, lichens, mosses, algae.

From top to bottom: Caribou. Photo courtesy of Mickael Brangeon, Wikimedia Commons. Arctic Hare. Photos courtesy NOAA, Wikimedia Commons. Arctic Fox. Photo courtesy of Ber’Zophus, Flickr. Snowy Owl. Photo courtesy of Floyd Davidson, Wikimedia Commons.

caribou, arctic hares, and squirrels), carnivorous mammals (arctic foxes, wolves, and polar bears), fish (cod, flatfish, salmon, and trout), insects (mosquitoes, flies, moths, grasshoppers, and blackflies), and birds (ravens, snow buntings, falcons, loons, sandpipers, terns, and gulls). Reptiles and amphibians are absent because of the extremely cold temperatures. While many of the mammals have adaptations that enable them to survive the long cold winters and to breed and raise young quickly during the short summers, most birds and some mammals migrate south during the winter. Migration means that Arctic populations are in continual flux.

Caribou

Arctic Hare

Arctic Fox Decomposers include bacteria and fungi.

A generalized food web for the Arctic tundra begins with the various plant species (producers). Herbivores (primary consumers) such as pikas, musk oxen, caribou, lemmings, and arctic hares make up the next rung. Omnivores and carnivores

Snowy Owl

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Science Content Knowledge migration patterns in response to changing temperatures.

Arctic Tundra. Photo courtesy of ascappatura, Flickr.

(secondary consumers) such as arctic foxes, brown bears, arctic wolves, and snowy owls top the web. Bacteria and fungi play the important role of breaking down organic matter and returning nutrients to the soil for re-use. Of course, the exact species involved in this web vary depending on the geographic location. The interconnected nature of a food web means that as numbers of one species increase (or decrease), other populations change in response. An often-discussed tundra example is the lemming population. Lemmings are small rodents that feed on plants. Populations of lemmings fluctuate radically (from large populations to near extinction) in regular intervals. While scientists

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believed that populations of lemming predators (foxes, owls, skuas, and stoats) also fluctuated in response to these changes, there is now evidence that suggests that the predators themselves drive the changes in lemming populations. Climate change is affecting tundra ecosystems in many ways. Thawing permafrost not only releases carbon dioxide but also leads to coastal erosion- an increasing problem in Alaska where villages are at risk. Warming also means that seasons are arriving earlier - a shift not only in temperatures but also in the emergence and flowering of plants. Biologists suspect that a mismatch between plant availability and calving is increasing mortality rates of caribou calves. Finally, species distributions may change as birds and other animals shift their range or

ANTARCTIC TUNDRA Much less extensive than Arctic tundra, Antarctic tundra is found on the Antarctic Peninsula and several Antarctic and subantarctic islands. These areas have rocky soil that supports minimal plant life: two flowering plant species, mosses, algae, and lichens. Antarctic tundra does not support mammals, but marine mammals and birds inhabit areas near the coast. All species in Antarctica and the Antarctic Islands (south of 60 degrees S latitude) are protected by the Antarctic Treaty. LINKS The World's Biomes http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/ exhibits/biomes/index.php An overview of biomes and information on six major types: freshwater, marine, desert, forest, grassland, and tundra. Biomes and Ecosystems http://www.windows.ucar.edu/ tour/link=/earth/ ecosystems.html General information about biomes and ecosystems, with links to pages about tundra, taiga, temperate forest, tropical


Science Content Knowledge rainforest, desert, grassland, and ocean biomes. This site may also be used with upperelementary students. Geography4Kids: Biosphere http:// www.geography4kids.com/ files/land_intro.html Includes pages on ecology, ecosystems, food chains, populations, and land biomes. Appropriate for use with upper-elementary students. NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS: SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS The entire National Science Education Standards document can be read online or downloaded for free from the National Academies Press web site. The following excerpt was taken from Chapter 6, http:// books.nap.edu/openbook.php? record_id=4962&page=103.

K-4 Life Science The Characteristics of Organisms • Organisms have basic needs. For example, animals need air, water, and food; plants require air, water, nutrients, and light. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met. The world has many different environments, and distinct environments support the life of different types of organisms. Organisms and their Environments • All animals depend on plants. Some animals eat plants for food. Other animals eat animals that eat the plants. • An organism's patterns of behavior are related to the nature of that organism's environment, including the kinds and numbers of other

organisms present, the availability of food and resources, and the physical characteristics of the environment. When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce, and others die or move to new locations. • All organisms cause changes in the environment in which they live. Some of these changes are detrimental to the organism or other organisms, whereas others are beneficial. • Humans depend on their natural and constructed environments. Humans change environments in ways that can be either beneficial or detrimental for themselves and other organisms.

Teaching about biomes (including the tundra) can meet a wide variety of fundamental concepts and principles, including:

Frozen tundra in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Madhav Pai, Flickr.

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Science Content Knowledge K-4 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives Changes in Environments • Environments are the space, conditions, and factors that affect an individual's and a population's ability to survive and their quality of life. • Changes in environments can be natural or influenced by humans. Some changes are good, some are bad, and some are neither good nor bad. Pollution is a change in the environment that can influence the health, survival, or activities of organisms, including humans. • Some environmental changes occur slowly, and others occur

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rapidly. Students should understand the different consequences of changing environments in small increments over long periods as compared with changing environments in large increments over short periods. 5-8 Life Science Populations and Ecosystems • A population consists of all individuals of a species that occur together at a given place and time. All populations living together and the physical factors with which they interact compose an ecosystem. • Populations of organisms can be categorized by the function they serve in an ecosystem.

Plants and some microorganisms are producers - they make their own food. All animals, including humans, are consumers, which obtain food by eating other organisms. Decomposers, primarily bacteria and fungi, are consumers that use waste materials and dead organisms for food. Food webs identify the relationships among producers, consumers, and decomposers in an ecosystem. • For ecosystems, the major source of energy is sunlight. Energy entering ecosystems as sunlight is transferred by producers into chemical energy through


Science Content Knowledge photosynthesis. That energy then passes from organism to organism in food webs. • The number of organisms an ecosystem can support depends on the resources available and abiotic factors, such as quantity of light and water, range of temperatures, and soil composition. Given adequate biotic and abiotic resources and no disease or predators, populations (including humans) increase at rapid rates. Lack of resources and other factors, such as predation and climate, limit the growth of populations in specific niches in the ecosystem.

5-8 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives Populations, Resources, and Environments • When an area becomes overpopulated, the environment will become degraded due to the increased use of resources. • Causes of environmental degradation and resource depletion vary from region to region and from country to country. Natural Hazards • Internal and external processes of the earth system cause natural hazards, events that change or destroy human

and wildlife habitats, damage property, and harm or kill humans. Natural hazards include earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, floods, storms, and even possible impacts of asteroids. • Human activities also can induce hazards through resource acquisition, urban growth, land-use decisions, and waste disposal. Such activities can accelerate many natural changes. •

Arctic Tundra. Photo courtesy of Amy Loves Yah, Flickr.

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Literacy Content Knowledge We Have Our Organizer... Now What? Writing Research Reports By Tracey Allen and Clarissa Reeson This article is the second in a two-part series about research reports. In the first article (Issue 12), we discussed a strategy to help students organize information, This time, we talk about the writing process. In last month's article, we described the organizing process our students need to complete before writing a research report. We observed that organizing their research is the most daunting task that students face when it comes to writing reports. In their research gathering, our students write jot notes -- no more than three words per line -on index cards. This three-word requirement prevents copying whole sentences from a source and promotes sentence building later. In this article, we will examine the sentence-building concept. Students need direct instruction in how to turn jot notes into detailed sentences as well as guided practice opportunities before they are assigned this task on their own. From our example of jot notes on the 10

yak's habitat (see Diagram B), teachers would model how to use the notes to develop a strong, cohesive paragraph (see Diagram C). During the modeling, teachers should share their thinking process aloud to show students how they determine whether to include all of their jot notes. Students should hear their teachers "playing" with language and trying to form strong, compound sentences. Providing students with opportunities to orally practice stating their sentences before they put their pencils to paper will ensure stronger and more coherent sentences. Once the students are successful in transforming jot notes to sentences, they are ready to use their own notes to write their reports. This relationship between direct instruction and guided practice is an essential component in

C

bringing students to a level of independence in research writing. We realize that providing opportunities for students to practice transforming their jot notes into sentences is timeconsuming, but we promise it is a strategy your students can use across the content areas. We follow the same process for each library card pocket (see Diagram A) except for the opening paragraph. (Writing opening paragraphs will be addressed in a later issue.) After experiencing the research organizing and writing steps, your students will have a clearer understanding of how to include the most important information in their reports, the value of note taking, and, more important, how to write strong, cohesive sentences and paragraphs.

Although very few animals can survive the rough and rugged terrain of the Himalaya Mountains, the yak is able to thrive in this environment. The yak’s habitat consists of cold, snow-covered mountain s in China

where it inhabits altitudes betw een 13,000 and 20,000 feet.

A 1

2

5

Opening

Animal

Life Cycle

3

4

7

Habitat

Diet

Protection

6 Yak’s Habitat/Natur

al Environment • Himalaya Mount ains • Asia (China) • Altitude - 13, 000-20,000 ft. • Cold • Snow • Rugged • Rough Terrain

B


Feature Story A Tundra Tale By Stephen Whitt

Stories for Students (and Teachers)!

This nonfiction article is written for use with upper-elementary students (grades 4-5). Modified versions are available for students in grades K-1 and grades 2-3, or any student needing a simplified version. As always, consider the reading level and needs of your students when selecting a version for classroom use. At each grade level, the article is available in three forms Printable pdf files allow you to print this story in either text or a foldable book format. A partnership with Content Clips has allowed us to create electronic versions of the articles. Your students can read along as they listen to the text a wonderful way to support struggling readers! Related activities provide tips for integrating this story with your science and literacy instruction.

The tundra is a land with no trees. It is cold, even when the summer sunshine finally melts the top layer of ice. Below ground, away from the warming rays of the Sun, the ice never melts. This layer of permafrost keeps the water above from draining away. Instead, the water forms a shallow marsh. The tundra seems uninviting. It rarely rains or snows here. Yet there is life, if one knows where to look. The plants and animals of the tundra marsh depend on one another. Their relationships form interconnected webs of life. Each web tells a story. Here is one story of the tundra marsh. A splash of color, bright yellow against the dirty brown earth, Left: Marsh Marigold. Photo courtesy of color line, Flickr. Right: Barren Ground Caribou. Photo courtesy of Alfred Cook, Wikimedia Commons.

springs from the cold wet ground. It is a marsh marigold, its hardy flowers stretching toward the Sun. The flower of the marsh marigold is shaped like a cup. This shape protects the precious flower parts inside and helps the flower soak up the Sun's energy. There aren't many nutrients in the tundra's poor soil for the plants to use. But a yearly traveler, the large, shaggy caribou, fertilizes the soil with its droppings when it stops here to rest, to drink, and to nibble on the sparse plant life. On this day, a small group of caribou wanders by the marsh marigolds, looking for food and drink. They bend their heads and nibble. But then the caribou pause. They have sensed a most unwelcome intruder. The caribou snort and trot away. What caused their reaction? Arctic wolves? A human hunter? No, this is a small creature, one you might not even notice.

Interested in other nonfiction articles for your students? Browse all twenty sets from the Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears collection on our Stories for Students page, http:// beyondpenguins.nsdl.org/ information.php?topic=stories!

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Feature Story If you glance into the open flower of the marsh marigold, you will see it. Within the flower is a bot fly. The marigold's yellow color attracts the large, hairy, striped flies. Though they look like bumblebees, they are without stingers. Strangely, they also lack mouths. As adults, bot flies do not eat. Instead, bot flies seek out the marsh marigolds, not for nectar or pollen, as a bumblebee might, but for warmth.

second marsh marigold, the pollen from the first flower may fertilize the second. Later, as the summer fades away, seeds develop where the flower once grew. The seed pods dry, then explode, flinging marsh marigold seeds into the wind. The seeds will lie on the tundra floor until cold meltwater again dampens the soil. Then the seeds will sprout. The flowers will grow and spread a new splash of color across the tundra.

The marsh marigold follows the Sun in its slow movement across the Arctic sky. Inside the flower, the cold fly can warm itself up. While the fly gathers the rays, pollen from the flower settles on the fly's body. The pollen clings to the fly's legs and abdomen, even after the fly flies away.

But what of the bot fly? Why did the caribou run from this small creature? When the female fly is warm enough, she will leave the marsh marigolds behind and buzz through the Arctic air, searching out a mate. After mating, the bot fly now must find a home for her young. That home is the nose of the caribou.

Marigolds reproduce by moving pollen from one flower to another. If the same fly visits a

The bot fly is a parasite. It depends on its caribou host for

Spring in the Arctic. Photo courtesy of madpai, Flickr.

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warmth, food, and protection. When the bot fly finds a caribou, it crawls into the caribou's nose. There it releases its young; dozens of squirming, wormlike larva called maggots. The maggots crawl through the caribou's nose and into its breathing passages. There the maggots will feed and grow. When they have eaten their fill and changed into pupae, the maggots release their hold on the caribou's nose lining. The irritated caribou sneezes a loud sneeze, and out tumble the botfly pupae. Much like the marigold seeds, the pupae land on the tundra floor. And there, like a caterpillar in a cocoon, the pupae change and grow into adult flies. When the time is right, the flies emerge. If they are near summer meltwater, those same flies may find their way to a colorful marsh


Feature Story marigold, gathering both sunshine and pollen within the flower's protective cup. And so the web is complete. Without the caribou, the bot flies could not survive. But without the flies, the marsh marigolds could not spread their cheerful colors across the bleak tundra landscape. All are connected, and all play their role. And that's nothing to sneeze at!

another animal and feeding on that animal permafrost - a layer of frozen soil and ice below the ground. Permafrost does not melt. pupae - a stage in the life cycle of an insect, in between the larva and adult stages tundra - a place with a cold and windy environment and no trees. The land is covered with ice and snow for most of the year.

GLOSSARY RELATED ACTIVITIES emerge - come out into view larva - the first stage in the life cycle of an insect marsh - land covered by shallow water nutrients - substances, such as minerals, which all living things need to grow parasite - an organism that survives by living on or in

Caribou Migration http:// www.nationalgeographic.com/ xpeditions/lessons/09/gk2/ migrationcaribou.html This lesson introduces students to caribou and their migratory behavior. Students will learn some basic facts about caribou and map the migration route of

the Porcupine caribou herd of Alaska and northwestern Canada. They will conclude by drawing pictures of scenes along this migration route and writing captions to describe their drawings. Caribou on the Tundra http:// www.projectarticulate.com/ lessons/ caribouOnTheTundra.pdf This art-based lesson focuses on caribou and their tundra habitat. Students learn about the habits and habitat of caribou and their relationship to Athabascan people. They draw lichen growing on the tundra using layers of land to show perspective. Tissue paper and watercolor paint embellish the caribou on the tundra collage.

Caribou. Photo courtesy of Biillyboy, Flickr.

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Misconceptions Common Misconceptions About Biomes and Ecosystems By Jessica Fries-Gaither An ecosystem and its components (plants, animals, their interactions, and their surroundings) are all topics prone to misconceptions. Students may give human characteristics to, or anthropomorphize, plants and animals. They may struggle with ideas like predation, believe that only certain animals get eaten, or think that all organisms within an ecosystem "get along." They may assume certain characteristics about groups of organisms such as carnivores based on a few examples or they may simplify the complex set of relationships represented by a food web. Finally, students may not understand that ecosystems are dynamic and change as a result of natural and human-influenced processes.

Antarctica: Ice Cave. Photo courtesy of Elisfanclub, Flickr.

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Another topic prone to misconception is adaptation. Students (and adults) often misinterpret or misuse this word to indicate that individual organisms intentionally change in response to changes in their environment. Many children's books and web sites present

some variation of this misleading notion in an attempt to simplify the concept or the reading level of material. As a result, adaptation is an extremely misunderstood scientific concept. We've highlighted some common misconceptions about plants, food chains and webs, predator/prey relationships, ecosystems, and ecological adaptations that might be encountered in the elementary classroom. A more complete list can be found at the Overcoming Ecological Misconceptions web site, http:// ecomisconceptions.binghamton. edu/intro.htm. We've also included tools for formative assessment as well as lessons and suggestions for teaching correct scientific concepts. NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS Assessing and targeting student misconceptions about biomes and ecosystems meets the Life Science Content Standard for grades K-4 and 5-8 of the National Science Education Standards. The entire National Science Education Standards document can be read online or downloaded for free from the National Academies Press web site. Science Content Standards can be found in Chapter 6, http://books.nap.edu/ openbook.php? record_id=4962&page=103.


Misconceptions MISCONCEPTIONS: PLANTS S t u d e n t s m ay thi nk ...

In stead o f th in kin g. ..

Plants are dependent on humans.

Humans (and all other animals) are dependent on plants.

Plants cannot defend themselves against herbivores.

Plants have a range of defenses including external structures (sap, hairs, thorns, wax) and chemicals that either reduce digestibility or are toxic.

MISCONCEPTIONS: FOOD CHAINS AND WEBS S t u d e n t s m ay thi nk ...

In stead o f th in kin g. ..

Food webs are interpreted as simple food chains.

Food webs most accurately depict the flow of energy within an ecosystem. They depict a complex set of relationships that is not easily simplified to a food chain.

Organisms higher in a food web eat everything that is lower in the food web.

Organisms higher in a food chain eat some, but not necessarily all, of the organisms below them in the food web.

There are more herbivores than carnivores because people keep and breed herbivores.

There are more herbivores than carnivores because of the decreasing amount of energy available at each level of the food web.

Food chains involve predator and prey, but not producers.

Producers are an essential part of all food chains and webs.

Decomposers release some energy that is cycled back to plants.

Decomposers break down dead organisms, returning nutrients to the soil so they can be used by plants. Some decomposers are eaten by carnivores.

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Misconceptions MISCONCEPTIONS: FOOD CHAINS AND WEBS (CONTINUED) Carnivores have more energy or power than herbivores do.

While some carnivores may be larger and require more food than some herbivores, they do not have more energy or power.

Carnivores are big or ferocious, or both. Herbivores are small and passive.

Carnivores are big or ferocious, or both. Herbivores are small and passive.

MISCONCEPTIONS: PREDATOR/PREY POPULATIONS AND RELATIONSHIPS S t u d e n t s m ay thi nk ...

In stead o f th in kin g. ..

Predator and prey populations are similar in size.

Prey populations tend to be larger than predator populations.

The relative sizes of predator and prey populations have no bearing on the size of the other.

The sizes of predator and prey populations influence each other.

MISCONCEPTIONS: ECOSYSTEMS S t u d e n t s m ay thi nk ...

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In stead o f th in kin g. ..

Varying the population size of a species may not affect an ecosystem because some organisms are not important.

All organisms are important within an ecosystem. Varying a species' population size may not affect all other species equally, but it will affect the ecosystem as a whole.

Ecosystems are not a functioning whole but simply a collection of organisms.

Ecosystems include not just the organisms but also the interactions between organisms and between the organisms and their physical environment.


Misconceptions MISCONCEPTIONS: ECOSYSTEMS (CONTINUED) Ecosystems change little over time.

Ecosystems change as a result of natural hazards, environmental changes, and human activity.

Species coexist in ecosystems because of their compatible needs and behaviors; they need to get along.

Within an ecosystem, species compete for resources and feed on one another. Species live in the same ecosystem because of similar adaptations and environmental needs.

MISCONCEPTIONS: ECOLOGICAL ADAPTATIONS S t u d e n t s m ay thi nk ... Traits are developed by individuals in response to the needs of the individual.

PROBING FOR STUDENT UNDERSTANDING What do your students think? Formative assessment can provide insight into the ideas (correct and incorrect) that your students have before and during instruction. Teachers should note, however, that simply conducting formative assessment is not enough. Instead, teachers should reflect on the data and use it to plan and refine instruction. One useful set of resources is a collection of formative assessment probes from NSTA Press. Volumes 1, 2, and 3 of Uncovering Student Ideas in

In stead o f th in kin g. ..

Traits are developed across generations in response to environmental demands.

Science contain 25 formative assessment probes each to help teachers identify misconceptions. Volumes 2 and 3 contain several probes that relate to biomes and ecosystems. Related formative assessment probes in Volume 2 of Uncovering Student Ideas in Science: • "Habitat Change" asks students to predict what will happen to an animal population if its habitat changes. It can be used to elicit student ideas about adaptation; specifically

whether individuals intentionally change their physical characteristics or behaviors in response to an environmental change. Related formative assessment probes in Volume 3 of Uncovering Student Ideas in Science: • "Rotting Apple" asks students to think about why an apple eventually rots and disappears. It can be used to elicit student ideas about decay and the role of decomposers in an ecosystem.

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Misconceptions "Earth's Mass" asks students to decide if or how the mass of the Earth changes as organisms eliminate waste and die. It can be used to elicit student ideas about the cycling of matter through ecosystems. TEACHING THE SCIENCE While teachers will need to tailor their instruction based on student needs and formative assessment data, there are some general suggestions and lessons for teaching correct scientific concepts about biomes and ecosystems. Plants Teachers should devote time to producers when teaching about ecosystems and food webs, including a discussion of the ways in which plants defend themselves against herbivores. For other ideas about teaching

correct scientific concepts about plants, please see "Common Misconceptions about Plants" in our March 2009 issue. Food Chains and Webs Teachers should help students go beyond a basic understanding of food chains and webs by asking them to predict what would happen if various organisms were removed from the ecosystem. Teachers can also use these lessons to discuss the impact of pollution at all levels of a food web. • Cycle of Life 1: Food Chain • http:// www.sciencenetlinks.com/ lessons.cfm? BenchmarkID=5&DocID=491 • This lesson gives students the opportunity to learn about a variety of food chains in various environments.

• Cycle of Life 2: Food Webs • http:// www.sciencenetlinks.com/ lessons.cfm? BenchmarkID=5&DocID=492 • Students will explore how various organisms satisfy their needs in the environments in which they are typically found. In addition, they will examine the survival needs of different organisms and consider how the conditions in particular habitats can limit what kinds of living things can survive. Predator/Prey Populations and Relationships Teachers can help students understand the relative population sizes and balance between predators and their prey by varying the numbers of predators and prey in the activity below. Students can observe what happens with fewer prey,

Purchase Volumes 2 and 3 of Uncovering Student Ideas in Science at: http://www.nsta.org/store/ product_detail.aspx? id=10.2505/9780873552738 http://www.nsta.org/store/ product_detail.aspx? id=10.2505/9781933531243 Tundra, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Nic McPhee, Flickr.

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Misconceptions Tundra vegetation at Sydkap, East Greenland. Photo courtesy of Hannes Grobe, Wikimedia Commons.

fewer predators, and equal numbers of predators and prey. • The Wolf and the Moose • http://www.pbs.org/edens/ denali/mooswolf.htm • Students role play a predator/ prey relationship. This activity could be modified to focus on any predator/prey pair found in the tundra. Ecosystems Teachers can help promote correct scientific thinking by focusing on the relationships between organisms and by asking students to predict what might happen if an organism was removed from the ecosystem or if the environmental conditions changed. • Investigating Local Ecosystems • http:// www.sciencenetlinks.com/ lessons.cfm? BenchmarkID=5&DocID=80

• Students in grades K-2 learn about ecosystems and relationships by observing their local environment. • Pond 1: Pond Life • http:// www.sciencenetlinks.com/ lessons.cfm? BenchmarkID=5&DocID=77 • Students explore how various organisms satisfy their needs within their environments and the kinds of relationships that exist between organisms within an environment. • Pond 2: Life in a Drop of Pond Water • http:// www.sciencenetlinks.com/ lessons.cfm? BenchmarkID=5&DocID=378 • Students continue to develop an understanding of a pond ecosystem by observing microscopic life and by discussing how single-celled living things might satisfy their needs for food, water, and air.

• Making the Forest and Tundra Wildlife Connection • http://alaska.fws.gov/fire/role/ unit1/making_connection.cfm • Students create tundra and boreal forest food webs using Alaska Ecology cards (pdf provided) and string. Teachers may want to use masking tape to tape down the web once it has been formed. Ecological Adaptations Teachers should take care to use language and select books that describe the concept of adaptation correctly. Elementary students may be more successful thinking about adaptations (traits and behaviors that help plants and animals survive) than about animals adapting to their environment. Students need to have a basic understanding of heredity and genetics to truly understand how species adapt, so this concept may be best left for the middle and high school years. Animal Adaptations http:// www.sciencenetlinks.com/ lessons.cfm? BenchmarkID=5&DocID=232 Students analyze how the traits and behaviors of real and fictional animals reflect adaptations to their environment. 19


Across the Curriculum: Lessons Modeling Ecosystems: Integrating Science, Literacy, and Art By Jessica Fries-Gaither The study of biomes and ecosystems lends itself to an integrated approach as students combine scientific understanding, literacy skills,

and artistic abilities to understand the physical characteristics and plant and animal species of a region. Creating representations of a biome or ecosystem can be used during instruction to deepen understanding and engage multiple intelligences, or after instruction to demonstrate understanding. We've suggested both two- and three-dimensional options for

TORN-PAPER BIOMES In "Biome Is Where the Art Is," an article from the NSTA journal Science and Children, Kelly Gooden describes an authentic assessment in which students demonstrate understanding of a particular biome by creating collages using only torn paper and glue. Gooden explains her course of study, and how students use the medium to show indigenous species as well as evidence of the climate and geography of a particular biome. A rubric and print and online resources are included.

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integrating art into a study of ecosystems: collage, brochures and books, dioramas and trioramas, and even life-sized models. Choose what will engage your students and will make the best use of your time and available resources.

Biome Is Where the Art Is http://www.nsta.org/store/product_detail.aspx? id=10.2505/4/sc05_043_01_28 This Science and Children article (free for NSTA members, $0.99 for nonmembers) describes an integrated performance task that assesses students' understanding of the biomes of the earth. TRAVEL BROCHURES Travel brochures provide an opportunity for informational writing, presentation of information, and creation of appropriate visuals (graphs, charts, and illustrations). Students can create these by


Across the Curriculum: Lessons hand, or use word-processing programs to type information and design the brochure's layout. Eeko Travelers: Exploring Diversity http://pbskids.org/eekoworld/parentsteachers/ lessons4_2.html In this lesson students will explore the diversity of five distinct ecosystems. They will use EekoWorld's interactive site (The Environment) as they learn about plants and wildlife, threats to different ecosystems, and ways that people have made positive changes in the environment. They will conduct Internet research, create a travel brochure that highlights what they have learned about ecosystems, and stage a class presentation. All About Our Town: Using Brochures to Teach Informational Writing http://readwritethink.org/lessons/ lesson_view.asp?id=856 Students create brochures using print and nonprint resources. Teachers can modify the lesson so that students are creating a travel brochure about an ecosystem (such as the tundra) instead of one about the local community. ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN'S BOOKS Creating children's books can provide an ageappropriate, engaging, and authentic purpose for student writing. Students could create illustrated

books (alphabet, rhyming, nonrhyming) after researching a biome and reading a variety of published books on the subject. They could share their work with a class of younger students learning about ecosystems, or add their books to the school library. Making Books with Children http://www.makingbooks.com/freeprojects.shtml Ideas for creating a variety of books. Each page includes a printable pdf with illustrated directions. A-Z: Learning About the Alphabet Book Genre http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/ lesson_view.asp?id=982 Students learn about the alphabet book genre and create class and individual alphabet books. Q is for Duck: Using Alphabet Books with Struggling Writers http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/ lesson_view.asp?id=412 In this lesson, students investigate alphabet books, examine their different structures, and finally create their own alphabet books using a structure of their choice.

Svalbard, landscape, tundra. Photo courtesy of Biillyboy, Flickr.

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Across the Curriculum: Lessons Triorama Directions http://www.maasd.ecsd.net/ triorama_directions.htm Illustrated directions on making a triorama by folding, cutting, and gluing or stapling heavy paper.

Svalbard, landscape, tundra. Photo courtesy of Biillyboy, Flickr.

DIORAMAS/TRIORAMAS Some students are more engaged with a threedimensional project than with a two-dimensional drawing, brochure, or collage. Shoebox dioramas are a classic and popular option. Students can create their own plants and animals from clay or use pictures from magazines. Another option, the triorama, is created by folding, cutting, and gluing a piece of heavy paper (such as cardstock) to form a pyramid shape. Students can draw on the triorama, or create paper figures to illustrate plants and animals. Finally, students can create four trioramas and glue them back-to-back to create a 360-degree view of their selected biome. Biome Discovery Expedition http://www.education-world.com/a_tsl/archives/ 01-1/lesson0038.shtml Students take virtual expeditions to the world's biomes and create a three-dimensional model of one of them. Includes the student-friendly site What's It Like Where You Live?. At Home in a Biome http://alex.state.al.us/lesson_view.php?id=9797 Students create a poster with illustrations of six major biomes, then create a diorama of one biome. Includes directions and rubrics.

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LIFE-SIZED MODELS The most demanding of the projects in terms of time, space, and resources, life-sized models allow students to experience the model biome firsthand. Groups of students may research a biome and then create a large model in a corner of the classroom. Students (and parents) can walk through the biome and observe characteristic species. Alternatively, groups may create a booth or station that provides an experience or hands-on activity related to the biome. Each group serves as a "tour guide" of its biome, combining oral presentation skills with the artistic abilities needed for the building of the model. These types of projects are best accomplished in well-organized cooperative groups! Mi Biome, Su Biome http://www.netxv.net/esc/technology/ InstructionalTechnology/webquest%20examples/ DelRioMS%20WebQuests/biomes.htm This webquest gives students the task of researching and creating a life-sized model and a travel brochure for a particular biome. Originally written for middle school students but can be modified for upper-elementary students. Includes a link to a RubiStar rubric. Biome Bazaar http://www.education-world.com/a_tsl/archives/ 00-2/lesson0021.shtml This lesson simulates a field trip in which students visit various biomes and perform several sensory activities to learn about the world's ecological communities. Originally written for middle school students but can be modified for upper elementary students.


Science & Literacy: Lessons Hands-on Lessons and Activities about the Tundra and Ecosystems By Jessica Fries-Gaither Biomes (like the tundra) are a versatile topic that can meet science standards throughout the elementary curriculum. Primary teachers and students tend to focus on individual species that live in the tundra, while students in upper

elementary school learn about the biome's characteristics, interactions between species, and food chains and webs. This also presents an opportunity for students to compare and contrast their hometown and region's climate, plants, and animals with those of another type of ecosystem. We've highlighted lessons in four categories: Tundra Animals and Plants, the Tundra Biome, Permafrost, and Predator/Prey and Food Webs. We've paired lessons with suggestions for literacy integration - why not teach students to gather information from text or have

TUNDRA ANIMALS AND PLANTS The Arctic Creature Mobile (Grades K-5) http://www.windows.ucar.edu/earth/polar/ arctic_mobile.pdf Students create a mobile of Arctic animals that depend on each other for food. Although the animals are marine species, students will still gain the concept of a food chain. This may be a teacher-directed or independent activity, depending on grade level. This activity meets the Life Science content standard of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4. Life in the Arctic Tundra (Grades K-8) http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp? id=3704 This Scholastic.com article includes ideas for hands-on activities about the tundra and its species. Great ideas for learning centers!

them create a newspaper for the tundra biome? Finally, we've aligned all lessons to national science and literacy standards. You can read the entire National Science Education Standards online for free or register to download the free PDF. The content standards are found in Chapter 6, http:// books.nap.edu/openbook.php? record_id=4962&page=103. Standards for the English Language Arts are available from the National Council of Teachers of English web site, http:// www.ncte.org/standards.

These activities meet the Science as Inquiry and Life Science content standards of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4. To integrate literacy into these activities, try our virtual bookshelf (on page 28) and the following lessons: Listen, Look, and Learn: An InformationGathering Process (Grades K-2) http://readwritethink.org/lessons/ lesson_view.asp?id=15 This lesson models an information-gathering process for primary learners as they listen to and look at resources, seeking information pertinent to the questions on the information wheel. The lesson (and information wheel) can be modified to focus on an animal that lives on the tundra, or the tundra biome itself. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 7.

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Science & Literacy: Lessons Predicting and Gathering Information with Nonfiction Texts (Grades K-2) http://readwritethink.org/lessons/ lesson_view.asp?id=316 This lesson supports teachers in introducing nonfiction to their students and using it for informational purposes. Students develop an understanding of nonfiction through peer interaction and hands-on experiences with books. They use graphic organizers to record their thinking and new learning. While this lesson is written around a study of the African Savanna, teachers can easily modify it to fit a tundra lesson. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 3, 7, 11.

THE TUNDRA BIOME Where Creatures Live (Grades 3-5) http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/ tdc02.sci.life.oate.lp_environment/ Students use video, images, and interactive activities to learn about the environmental conditions and species found in several biomes, including the tundra. This lesson meets the Life Science content standard of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4 and 5-8. To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following: Ecosystem Journalism (Grades 3-5) http://www.nsta.org/store/product_detail.aspx? id=10.2505/4/sc05_043_03_42 This article from the NSTA journal Science and Children describes an assessment task in which students demonstrated knowledge of an ecosystem through a student-created newspaper. While the original lesson focused on the prairie, it could be easily modified to focus on 24

Autumn Tundra. Photo courtesy of DACphoto, Flickr.

the tundra. Includes a rubric, standards alignment, and related resources. Articles are free for NSTA members and $0.99 for nonmembers. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12. Biome Discovery Expedition (Grades 3-5) http://www.education-world.com/a_tsl/archives/ 01-1/lesson0038.shtml Students take virtual expeditions to the world's biomes and create a three-dimensional model of one of them. Includes the student-friendly site What's It Like Where You Live?. This lesson meets the Life Science content standard of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4 and 5-8. To integrate literacy into these activities, try our virtual bookshelf and the following lesson: Teaching Science Through Picture Books: A Rainforest Lesson (Grades 3-5) http://readwritethink.org/lessons/ lesson_view.asp?id=31


Science & Literacy: Lessons This lesson includes pre-reading activities, notetaking and vocabulary development, and postreading activities. While the lesson was created around the rainforest, teachers can easily modify it by using tundra-themed books from this month's virtual bookshelf.

Explore the Arctic Tundra (Grades 3-5) http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp? id=11903 Students learn about the Arctic tundra and compare it to other ecosystems, then compose a poem about this unique environment.

This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12.

This lesson meets the Life Science content standard of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4 and 5-8.

Eeko Travelers: Exploring Diversity (Grades 3-5) http://pbskids.org/eekoworld/parentsteachers/ lessons4_2.html In this lesson students will explore the diversity of five distinct ecosystems. They will use EekoWorld's interactive site (The Environment) as they learn about plants and wildlife, threats to different ecosystems, and ways that people have made positive changes in the environment. They will conduct Internet research, create a travel brochure that highlights what they have learned about ecosystems, and stage a class presentation.

To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following: Writing Science-Themed Poetry in the Elementary Grades http://beyondpenguins.nsdl.org/issue/ column.php? date=November2008&departmentid=profession al&columnid=professional!literacy This Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears article describes types of poetry and links to lesson plans for elementary teachers.

This lesson meets the Life Science and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standards of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4 and 5-8. To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following: All About Our Town: Using Brochures to Teach Informational Writing (Grades 3-5) http://readwritethink.org/lessons/ lesson_view.asp?id=856 Students create brochures using print and nonprint resources. Teachers can modify the lesson so that students are creating a travel brochure about an ecosystem (such as the tundra) instead of one about the local community. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 4, 5, 7, 8, 12.

Tundra, marching along. Photo courtesy of madpai, Flickr.

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Science & Literacy: Lessons PERMAFROST

PREDATOR/PREY AND FOOD WEBS

Permawhat? (Grades K-5 with modifications) http://www.pbs.org/edens/denali/permawht.htm Students model permafrost and observe what happens to structures built on thawing permafrost.

The Wolf and the Moose (Grades 3-5) http://www.pbs.org/edens/denali/mooswolf.htm Students role-play a predator/prey relationship. This activity could be modified to focus on any predator/prey pair found in the tundra.

This lesson meets the Earth and Space Science and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standards of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4 and 5-8. Alaska's Cold Desert (Grades 3-5) http://www.blm.gov/education/00_resources/ articles/alaskas_cold_desert/index.html This site includes background information and several hands-on activities about permafrost and adaptations for life on the tundra. This lesson meets the Science as Inquiry, Earth and Space Science, Life Science, and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standards of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4 and 5-8. Literacy skills addressed in these lessons include: • Making predictions • Creating diagrams and recording observations • Journal writing (to explain, clarify, and synthesize) Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska. The autumn tundra. Photo courtesy of Chris Russoniello, Wikimedia Commons.

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This lesson meets the Life Science content standard of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4 and 5-8. Making the Forest and Tundra Wildlife Connection (Grades 3-5) http://alaska.fws.gov/fire/role/unit1/ making_connection.cfm Students create tundra and boreal forest food webs using Alaska Ecology cards (pdf provided) and string. Teachers may want to use masking tape to tape down the web once it has been formed. This lesson meets the Life Science and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standards of the National Science Education Standards for grades K-4 and 5-8. Literacy skills addressed in these lessons include: • Making predictions • Creating diagrams and recording observations • Journal writing (to explain, clarify, and synthesize)


Off The Bookshelf Tundra: Virtual Bookshelf By Kate Hastings In elementary school classrooms, youngsters learn about human communities. How firefighters, police, teachers, business owners, librarians, doctors, and other workers keep a community running - each person having a special role. Nature has its communities, too.

And, in the way New York City differs from Findlay, Ohio, and Rapid City, South Dakota, plant and animal communities vary under different environmental conditions. Can you imagine an elephant living in Alaska? Its giant ears are great for cooling its body in the hot savannas of Africa, but they would freeze in the tundra. What about a polar bear living in Florida? The situation might make a great movie, but polar bears need ice to hunt seals and often go

hungry during the summer when the ice melts. This month's bookshelf includes books that will help students understand ecological communities, or biomes, and the unique species that reside in the tundra and taiga. Food chains and webs are an easy way to illustrate the interdependence of each organism in these communities. Of course, we've also included favorite penguin and polar bear books as well!

FOOD CHAINS AND FOOD WEBS Trout are Made of Trees. April Pulley Sayre. 2008. Nonfiction picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-1. Collage and mixed-media illustrations make this easy book about food chains and natural recycling perfect for sharing. As falling leaves land in the river and sink, bottom-feeders make a meal of them and are in turn consumed by larger animals until they are eaten by the trout. And who's at the top of the food chain? We are! Who Eats What? Food Chains and Food Webs. Patricia Lauber. 1995. Nonfiction book. Recommended Ages: Grades 2-4. Part of the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, this book introduces students to terrestrial

and marine food chains in a variety of ecosystems - including the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. What Do You Know About Food Chains and Food Webs? Suzanne Slade. 2008. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. An overview of food chains and webs, with marine and terrestrial examples, and how humans are part of and impact them. The question-and-answer format of this book makes it perfect for focused reading or a reading method such as SQ3R.

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Off The Bookshelf FOOD CHAINS AND FOOD WEBS (CONTINUED) Arctic Appetizers: Studying Food Webs in the Arctic. Gwendolyn Hooks. 2009. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 4-5. Did you know there are more than 200 species of algae that thrive on ice? These algae are the basis of the food chain for all of the animals that survive in the Arctic. The zooplankton eat the algae, fish and other animals eat the zooplankton, and predators eat fish and other predators. Life on the tundra is also described--from producers (plants) to consumers (herbivores, omnivores and carnivores) to decomposers (molds and bacteria). Because this book introduces a lot of vocabulary, teachers may want to consider using it as a readaloud or in the context of a vocabulary activity.

A Tundra Food Chain. Rebecca Hogue Wojahn and Donald Wojahn. 2009. Nonfiction book. Recommended Ages: Grades 4-5. Billed as a "follow-that-food-chain adventure," this book gives Arctic tundra animals a code to identify producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary consumers and decomposers. Two-page spreads have photos and facts about each organism and its adaptations to the tundra. Readers choose what the animal "dined on" and are directed to that organism's page. The backand-forth reading of this book helps to demonstrate the complexity of food webs.

TUNDRA AND TAIGA Some books incorrectly identify the many species of lichens found on the tundra as plants. Lichens are not plants; rather they are a fungus and an alga living together. For more information about plants and lichens, please refer to our March 2009 issue: Polar Plants. Arctic Tundra: Land with No Trees. Allan Fowler. 1996. Nonfiction easy reader. Recommended ages: Grades K-2. Part of the Rookie Read-About Science collection, this simply written book introduces the characteristics of a tundra - the landscape, the climate, the location, the plants and animals, and the native people.

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Living in the Tundra. Donna Loughran. 2003. Nonfiction easy reader. Recommended Ages: Grades K-2. This easy reader from the Rookie Read-About Geography series introduces the animals and people that live on the tundra.


Off The Bookshelf TUNDRA AND TAIGA (CONTINUED) Tundra. Aaron Frisch. 2008. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades K-2. Large type and many photos engage students as they learn about the seasons and life on the tundra. Living in the Tundra. Carol Baldwin. 2004. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. An overview of the tundra, its plant and animal species, food chains and webs, and importance for humans. Discovering the Arctic Tundra. Janey Levy. 2008. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. Students will learn the location and characteristics of the tundra biome. They will discover where tundras are located, and how the average temperatures and precipitation make this biome different from hot deserts, temperate forests, and polar ice caps. Plant and animal adaptations to the environment, such as plants with hairy leaves and animals that change color with the seasons, are discussed. The impact of global warming and the importance of conserving this biome are covered.

Explore the Tundra. Linda Tagliaferro. 2007. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. This book introduces the concept of biomes and shares the climate and organisms unique to the tundra. A map of the world shows where tundra biomes are located. Food chains vary greatly from season to season in the tundra. Summers bring diversity in both plants and animals, creating more complex food webs. The last third of the book discusses the human impact on tundra biomes and conservation. The Forested Taiga: A Web of Life and The Frozen Tundra: A Web of Life. Philip Johansson. 1999, 2004. Nonfiction books. Recommended ages: Grades 4-5. Both titles are part of Enslow Publishers' World of Biomes series. These books begin by locating and describing each biome: what the weather and climate are like, what the soil is like, and what plants and animals are typically found. A deeper look is taken at the community of life in each biome, and how each plant and animal contributes to the energy cycle that makes life possible. Both books have an attractive layout with many photographs and diagrams.

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Off The Bookshelf PENGUINS AND POLAR BEARS Where Is Home, Little Pip? Karma Wilson. 2008. Picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-1. Pip the penguin, who lives "where the land is free from hill or mountain, twig or tree, in a pebbly nest by the stormy sea," gets lost when she wanders off after a stray feather. Along the way she meets a whale, an albatross and some sled dogs. They describe their homes, but the homes aren't like Pip's. Finally, she remembers the words to a song her parents sing to her and finds her way back to the pebbly nest by the stormy sea.

Ice Bears. Brenda Z. Guiberson. 2008. Nonfiction picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-3. A mother polar bear digs out a den in the middle of winter and gives birth to two cubs. As spring approaches, the mother's fat reserves are depleted, and she is forced to venture into the open to search for food to keep herself and her cubs alive. The cubs must learn how to walk in the snow, smell the air for predators, dig with their sharp claws, and swim. Summer is a time of hunger; there is no ice cover from which to hunt seals. The cubs are always at their mother's side and eventually follow her lead to help hunt when autumn's ice returns. Watercolor illustrations show the bears' journey.

Why Use Children’s Literature? Linking science instruction to children's literature has become increasingly popular in recent years for a variety of reasons: the literature connection motivates students, provokes interest, helps students connect scientific ideas to their personal experiences, accommodates children with different learning styles, and promotes critical thinking. Whatever the reason, we know that books about science can capture even the most reluctant readers and writers. Students are naturally drawn to the colorful photographs and layouts of nonfiction science texts. Using science books allow teachers to meet their reading and writing goals while filling a need to teach more science. Teachers can use books as a starting point for meaningful classroom discussions; some teachers even begin class by reading a poem or a picture book aloud, simply for the enjoyment of the literature. Some teachers project the book onto a screen so the class can read the text together. Picture books make wonderful writing prompts and can provoke good journal writing. Interdisciplinary thematic units can be broadened by use of children's literature. You’ll notice that most of our selected books are nonfiction. We believe that elementary students need exposure to this genre to set a compelling purpose for reading and to become familiar with the text structures used in expository and informational text. Reading nonfiction trade books also supplements scientific investigations and helps students connect hands-on experiences with abstract concepts. In other cases, the text provides valuable information that cannot be gained through hands-on experience. Finally, nonfiction books can serve as mentor texts, providing models after which students can pattern their own writing.

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THE BEYOND PENGUINS AND POLAR BEARS PHOTO GALLERY In our polar photo gallery, you can browse color images from past cyberzine issues and polar researchers. We include rights and re-use information to help you use the images in your classroom! Visit http://beyondpenguins.nsdl.org/photogallery/index.php to discover amazing images of icebergs, glaciers, polar animals, and much more!

BEYOND PENGUINS PODCAST SERIES In our series of podcasts, we trek across the poles to find ways to help you teach science in your elementary classroom! We also tackle common misconceptions your students might have about science and share stories, teaching activities, and the latest news related to the poles. You can listen to the podcast episodes through your audio player or iTunes. To see the entire list of episodes, go to http://beyondpenguins.nsdl.org/podcast/index.php.

STANDARDS ALIGNMENT Are you wondering how the contents of each magazine issue align with the National Science Education Standards? On our Standards page, we’ve created two tables - one for grades K-4 and the other for grades 5-8 that show the alignment to the science content standards. Visit http://beyondpenguins.nsdl.org/information.php?topic=standards for more information.

EMPERORSTHREE. Photo courtesy of Robyn Waserman, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation

Greenland Ice Sheet. Photo courtesy of chrissy575, Flickr.

The Polar Bears at Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Photo courtesy of James Seith Photography, Flickr.

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Abo u t U s Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is an online professional development magazine for elementary teachers. It prepares teachers to integrate high-quality science instruction with literacy teaching. The magazine is available for free at http://beyondpenguins.nsdl.org. Twenty thematic issues link polar science concepts to the scope and sequence of elementary science curricula. The result is a resource that includes issues devoted to day and night, seasons, plants and mammals, erosion, and other physical, earth and space, and life science concepts. Some issues are also interdisciplinary, focusing on polar explorers, the indigenous people of the Arctic, and the challenges of doing science in the polar regions. To browse the complete archive of issues, visit http://beyondpenguins.nsdl.org/archive.php. Other project features include a companion blog (http://expertvoices.nsdl.org/polar) about polar news and research, a polar photo gallery (http://beyondpenguins.nsdl.org/photogallery/index.php) and a podcast series (http://beyondpenguins.nsdl.org/podcast/index.php). Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024 and is produced by an interdisciplinary team from Ohio State University (OSU), College of Education and Human Ecology; the Ohio Resource Center (ORC) for Mathematics, Science, and Reading; the Byrd Polar Research Center; COSI (Center for Science and Industry) Columbus; the Upper Arlington Public Library (UAPL); and the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) Core Integration team at Cornell University and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

Copyright September 2010. Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is produced by an interdisciplinary team from Ohio State University (OSU), College of Education and Human Ecology; the Ohio Resource Center (ORC) for Mathematics, Science, and Reading; the Byrd Polar Research Center; COSI (Center for Science and Industry) Columbus; the Upper Arlington Public Library (UAPL); and the National Science Digital Library (NSDL). This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Content in this document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Printed version layout and design by Margaux Baldridge, Office of Technology and Enhanced Learning, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University. For more information email: beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

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Tundra: Life in the Polar Extremes  

At first glance, the polar regions may seem barren and lifeless. Yet the tundra - found in both the Arctic and Antarctica - is home to a sur...

Tundra: Life in the Polar Extremes  

At first glance, the polar regions may seem barren and lifeless. Yet the tundra - found in both the Arctic and Antarctica - is home to a sur...

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