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Grades 5-8

 Life science (Content standard C) How do we know that?

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 micro-organisms 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.
    See "Productivity"
  • For ecosystems, the major source of energy is sunlight. Energy entering ecosystems as sunlight is transferred by producers into chemical energy through photosynthesis. That energy then passes from organism to organism in food webs.
    See "Productivity"
  • 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.
    See "Productivity"

Diversity and adaptations of organisms

  • Millions of species of animals, plants, and microorganisms are alive today. Although different species might look dissimilar, the unity among organisms becomes apparent from an analysis of internal structures, the similarity of their chemical processes, and the evidence of common ancestry.
  • Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. Species acquire many of their unique characteristics through biological adaptation, which involves the selection of naturally occurring variations in populations. Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors, or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment.
    See “Diversity
  • Extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient to allow its survival. Fossils indicate that many organisms that lived long ago are extinct. Extinction of species is common; most of the species that have lived on the earth no longer exist.
    See “Resilience
 Science in personal and social perspectives (Content standard F) How do we know that?

Populations, resources, and environments

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.
    See “Disturbance”, “Reefs & resorts”, “Why protect your own reefs?”, “The sea is green”, “City vs. village fishing
  • Human activities also can induce hazards through resource acquisition, urban growth, land-use decisions, and waste disposal. Such activities can accelerate many natural changes.
    See “Disturbance
  • Natural hazards can present personal and societal challenges because misidentifying the change or incorrectly estimating the rate and scale of change or incorrectly estimating the rate and scale of change may result in either too little attention and significant human costs or too much cost for unheeded preventive measures.
 References How do we know that?

Council, N. R. (1996). National Science Education Standards. National Academy Press: Washington, DC.


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