Google Expeditions offers students an opportunity to visually experience places and locations they may not otherwise get to see and observe. This lesson uses the Google Expedition called "Ecosystems," which allows students to visit various biomes (deciduous forest, wetland, tundra, ocean, desert, and microecosystem) and observe the living and nonliving factors in each environment.
This lesson will work best if students have appropriate ecosystem vocabulary and background knowledge on:
- biome characteristics
- how energy flows through an ecosystem
- abiotic and biotic factors
- types of producers, consumers, and decomposers
- adaptations for survival
Students will explore different ecosystems using the Google Expedition app to engage in a virtual reality experience. Throughout the experience, they will document their thinking while observing specific ecosystem characteristics and biotic/abiotic factors having an impact on the ecosystem.
- Set up the Google Expedition Kit with your technology coordinator (or follow attached directions) and download the "Ecosystem" Expedition in the Google Expedition app on the teacher device.
- Share "Ecosystem Expedition Guide" slideshow (through Google Classroom or other method) so students can display it on their individual devices. Display this guide on a classroom screen if students do not have individual devices.
- Give each student a copy (or share a digital copy) of the "Ecosystem Expedition Passport" for documenting student thinking.
- Pass out the VR headsets - students will work in pairs for the activity, so each pair of students should have a VR headset.
- Provide an overview of each ecosystem scene (found in slideshow), and allow ample time at each scene so that students can document their thinking and answer questions on the "Ecosystem Expedition Passport". While one partner is making observations through the headset, the other partner can be documenting and then switch roles.
- At the conclusion of the Expedition, discuss observations, ecosystem characteristics, and how the abiotic and biotic factors impact each ecosystem. This can be done in small groups or as a whole class.
The teacher can use the "Ecosystem Expedition Passport" as a formative assessment of students' ability to make observations and identify ecosystem characteristics, abiotic factors, and biotic factors.
For a summative assessment, students can choose one ecosystem to model how energy flows through that ecosystem. Have students choose 9-10 organisms in that ecosystem and create a digital food web that shows how energy is transferred through the ecosystem. On this digital food web, students can identify producers, consumers (primary, secondary, tertiary), and decomposers. Students should also be able to explain how the abiotic factors impact that ecosystem.
Teachers can differentiate the content by only covering the scenes or ecosystems they feel appropriate for their students.
Vocabulary words or unfamiliar concepts (abiotic, biotic, etc.) can be simplified or front-loaded for understanding.
Teachers can modify the "Expedition Passport" or "Expedition Guide" to include additional prompts for students who may need assistance with observations or higher-level analysis questions to challenge student thinking.