Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Forest for the trees: 5E lesson addresses NGSS


Biology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Life Sciences


In this workshop I present a 5E lesson on community structure and ecological succession that addresses middle school performance expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards (Achieve, Inc. 2013). Specifically, students investigate a fictitious forest to learn that communities can be described by their species composition and abundance, physical structure, and dominant species. They also learn that succession is a change in these characteristics over time. In a forest for example, trees grow in girth and height, and over time the canopy thickens and reduces light levels on the forest floor. This leads to more shade-tolerant species replacing those that cannot tolerate the changing conditions. Finally, the lesson highlights integration of the three NGSS dimensions within performance expectations by having students analyze data and use evidence to explain the cause of changes in the pattern of tree species in a forest. This inquiry-based ecology lesson is designed to take place entirely inside the classroom, which is particularly helpful in suburban and urban schools without access to natural areas. In addition, the lesson can be used as a primer for students prior to any outdoor experience so they can better understand what they observe. This lesson was published in the fall 2014 issue of MSTA Journal, 58(2):1-8.

Conference Name

National Association of Biology Teachers Professional Development Conference

Conference Location

Cleveland, OH

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