Tabizi Pythons & Clendro Hawks: Using Imaginary Animals to Achieve Real Knowledge about Ecosystemsby: Michael Rockow

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In the engaging unit described here, imaginary organisms are used to teach a variety of topics related to ecosystems—food chains and energy flow, food webs, limiting factors, carrying capacity, and the effects of natural and human-made events on ecosystems. By inventing organisms, the teacher is able to control the level of complexity, and the number of organisms can be modified to meet each student’s level. Because the organisms are figments of the imagination, the assignment is not complicated by students’ prior knowledge. Once the unit is finished, the class can discuss the ecosystem and how it is similar to and different from real ecosystems.

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Reviews (5)
  • on Mon Sep 18, 2017 4:02 PM

This journal article is an outstanding example of an educator who went above and beyond to create a unique lesson that demonstrates the various roles within ecosystems. This enjoyable lesson will undoubtedly deliver a far reaching impact in students.

Kayla Wilson
Kayla Wilson

  • on Fri Sep 21, 2012 11:14 AM

In the unit described here, teacher created organisms are used to teach topics related to ecosystems such as food chains and energy flow, food webs, limiting factors, carrying capacity, and the effects of natural and human-made events on an ecosystem. This educator describes how he planned his unit and created organism cards as well as event cards to achieve student knowledge of the topics mentioned above. Included in this article are the cards, the unit outline and a modified activity. He felt that by creating his own creatures and events he was able to manipulate the complexity of the learning to meet student’s levels of achievement.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:42 PM

This article describes a way in which a teacher made up an imaginary ecosystem with imaginary plants and animals. The article includes card sets to go along with the lessons which are explained in great detail.

Betty Paulsell  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty Paulsell (Kansas City, MO)

  • on Sun Dec 12, 2010 9:02 PM

I used the ideas and materials presented in this article recently to teach food chains, webs, and limiting factors, and I was amazed at the high level of engagement of my students. All of the information on the species required for success in this lesson was clearly listed on cards for students to read and understand. (The cards need to be copied and cut out prior to use.) For example, a complete description of the imaginary species was included on each card, and the cards even listed the species imaginary food source, if any, prey and predators. The overall lesson was very clearly presented, along with areas of potential student misconceptions. I especially liked that my students were able to fully engage in the exploration and explanation of a food chain/web without getting hung-up on having to know the specific animals on the cards and their feeding characteristics. I highly recommend this article and lesson plan ideas for teaching food chains, webs, and limiting factors.

Susanne Hokkanen  (Orland Park, IL)
Susanne Hokkanen (Orland Park, IL)

  • on Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:02 AM

This is a good resource for explaining ecosystems.


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