Exploring Ecosystems: Biodiversity in my Backyard

Explore the ecosystems of Montana alongside researchers from the Montana Institute on Ecosystems and enhance your students’ understanding of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This unit parallels research that is being done in Montana and the Rocky Mountain region and includes five hands-on lessons. Filled with inquiry-based activities, these lessons will guide you and your students through the biodiversity of various ecosystems while applying wildlife ecology research techniques to your own local schoolyard.

Lesson Overview

The lessons on ecosystems, biodiversity, wildlife ecology, and climate change were provided by the Montana Institute on Ecosystems (IoE) (http://montanaioe.org) via its CLimate In My Backyard (CLIMB) curriculum series. The lessons can be completed in any order and can be taught independently and outside of the unit.

Lesson five can be completed at the end of the unit, or completed in portions after each of the other lessons to complement lessons one through four. Each lesson is approximately one hour long and has options for adapting the lessons to different age groups and extending the learning.



Length: 60 minutes for each lesson
Grades: 3 - 7

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Materials Needed:
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Resources Provided:
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Individual Lessons

Lesson 1: Explore the Ecosystem Learn about ecosystems and how their species are interconnected through games and diagrams. Students will explore how species’ survival depends on the health of their entire ecosystem. Download Lesson 1 »

Lesson 2: Become a Wildlife Ecologist Explore how scientists gather data on wildlife and the techniques they use in the field. Investigate signs of life and search for evidence of life in your own schoolyard. Download Lesson 2 »

Lesson 3: Biodiversity Basics Discover how biodiversity is calculated by using candy, then calculate biodiversity of a model of a Rocky Mountain Forest ecosystem (or another ecosystem of your choice). Research species that live in the ecosystem and play a whole-class game to explore the biodiversity of the region. Download Lesson 3 »

Lesson 4: Climate Change and Endangered Species Study various climates around the world by exploring global data and comparing different cities. Identify how your actions contribute to climate change and how various species are affected by warming temperatures. Take action to help protect your environment. Download Lesson 4 »

Lesson 5: Schoolyard Biodiversity Study Become an adventure scientist by examining the biodiversity of your schoolyard. Use a field journal to plan and prepare for your adventure, collect data in the field, and draw conclusions from your findings. NOTE: This lesson’s activities can be completed after each corresponding lesson or as a whole project at the end of the unit. Download Lesson 5 »


For more information about CLIMB please contact:
Suzi Taylor
Director of Outreach
Montana State University Academic Technology & Outreach
Email: outreach@montana.edu