Hands-on Lessons and Activities about the Tundra and Ecosystems

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 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. Standards for the English Language Arts are available from the National Council of Teachers of English web site.


TUNDRA ANIMALS AND PLANTS

The Arctic Creature Mobile (Grades K-5)
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)
This Scholastic.com article includes ideas for hands-on activities about the tundra and its species. Great ideas for learning centers! 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 and the following lessons:

Listen, Look, and Learn: An Information-Gathering Process (Grades K-2)
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.

Predicting and Gathering Information with Nonfiction Texts (Grades K-2)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
This lesson includes pre-reading activities, note-taking and vocabulary development, and post-reading 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. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12.

Eeko Travelers: Exploring Diversity (Grades 3-5)
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. 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)
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.

Explore the Arctic Tundra (Grades 3-5)
Students learn about the Arctic tundra and compare it to other ecosystems, then compose a poem about this unique environment. 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:

Writing Science-Themed Poetry in the Elementary Grades
This Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears article describes types of poetry and links to lesson plans for elementary teachers.


PERMAFROST

Permawhat? (Grades K-5 with modifications)
Students model permafrost and observe what happens to structures built on thawing permafrost. 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)
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)

PREDATOR/PREY AND FOOD WEBS

The Wolf and the Moose (Grades 3-5)
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 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) 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)

This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright April 2009 – The Ohio State University. 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. This work is licensed under anĀ Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

One thought on “Hands-on Lessons and Activities about the Tundra and Ecosystems

Leave a Reply to simone Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *