Fifth Grade: Systems



In this unit students will begin a study of ecosystems with an introduction to Controlled Ecological Life Support System or CELSS, pronounced “sells,” NASA research on self-sustaining ecosystems, which would allow humans to colonize space. In order to understand the complexity of the challenge, students will investigate the interdependence between biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem. They will diagram the cycle through the ecosystem and experiment with a model ecosystem, a terrarium, to learn what factors may influence the success of a system. Follow-up investigations facilitate a closer inspection of plants, animals, decomposers, and abiotic factors so that the students will learn what they need to know to design their own CELSS for a space outpost on the moon, Mars, or orbiting the earth. A final action project challenges students to apply their new understanding to a local conservation effort or similar project for preserving the delicate balance of the ecosystem in which they live.


First person interpreter Rachel Carson visits the classroom. Carson was a famous biologist, conservationist and author of Silent Spring. Students learn about Carson’s life and her studies of the balance of nature as it is effected

by the actions of humans. She challenges students to consider the consequences of human actions. She encourages them to be scientists by observing and asking questions.


During the month of May classes visit Holden to study a stream ecosystem. Students explore the living and non-living components of the stream. They learn about the organisms that live here and explore their relationships to each other. Hands-on activities include collecting stream macro invertebrates, playing an interactive stream food web activity and collecting data to determine the health of the stream.