Observe and identify compost animals
A 5th to 8th Grade Science Project Lesson Plan
This is an individual, small group or class activity to observe and identify members of the compost heap ecosystem that can be seen with the unaided eye.
- Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.
- Investigate populations of organisms that can be categorized by the functions they serve in an ecosystem.
- Investigate decomposers that recycle matter from dead plants and animals within the compost heap habitat.
- Communicate the steps and results from an investigation in written reports and oral presentations.
If the school does not have a compost heap, directions for building one are readily available. The project may also be done with home composters.
A magnifying glass, some clean, reused jars with lids, a small shovel, and gloves are helpful but optional.
Students with allergies or aversions to compost or leaves should wear rubber gloves or play a team role which does not require them to touch the materials.
- Introduce the idea that the compost pile is a habitat; it provides a suitable arrangement of food water shelter and space for its inhabitants.
- Ask students to suggest likely characteristics of compost animals. How would they react to light? What colors are they likely to be? What might they eat?
- Distribute copies or the URL's of the Observing the Compost World Worksheet and the two-page Giants of the Compost World. Students observe their compost heaps finding and identifying the larger invertebrates. Some students are probably familiar with many of the animals they are likely to see, such as ants, flies, grubs, spiders, slugs and snails.
- Using the Giants of the Compost World pages and resources that they locate on their own such as insect field guides from the library and the internet, students try to identify all the animals they find.
- Have students prepare a report on their findings and present it to the class. Encourage them to include drawings, photographs, graphs and printed class handouts.
- Have the class discuss the reports. From the reports, can you tell if all the groups found the same animals? Which reports made it easy to see how many of each kind of animal were found? Which reports made it easy to see what the animals were like and what they were called?
- Students create a classification scheme for the animals they find.
- Students arrange the animals they identify in compost heap food chains.
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