In honor of Earth Day, I decided to use classes at Atwater Ave Elementary to talk about ecosystems and interconnectivity. The garden is very important to us, but what relationship does that have in our everyday lives and in Los Angeles?
We talked about what makes up our immediate physical environment, and what plays a role in our ecosystem. Students each got a card and wrote down a part of our habitat web, which includes the sun, plants, insects, reptiles, fish, birds, small and large mammals, decomposers, and non-living things like rocks, water, and air. Next, we all got into a circle with a ball of twine. Starting with the sun, the source of all energy, students threw the ball to each other. I asked students to choose a classmate, who then read their card. Together, we determined what the relationship was between the two cards – how do hawks and mice work with or against each other? How do butterflies depend on water?
After we successfully made a web of connectivity (and some of these gardeners had great aim, too!), I asked different categories of players to alternately tug on their string or drop it. I asked the students who felt the tug raise their hand and tug on their string in turn, and we counted how many tugs it took to make it through the whole web.
The students were fantastic with this lesson! So many of them were able to make intuitive leaps between different animals and their relationships. Just like in the garden, every living and non-living thing has a purpose in our ecosystem, and it’s our responsibility as environmental stewards to respect and maintain our habitat webs.
Happy Earth Day to all, and I’ll see you next week!