Biosphere Teaching Ideas – Biology Activities for Kids

Looking for biosphere teaching ideas? Prepare your students before launching into Earth’s spheres. First, kids must understand photosynthesis. Second, teach how energy and matter move through an ecosystem. Then they’ll be ready to analyze interactions between the spheres.

Biosphere Teaching Ideas Cover

Mr. Grow Plans to Teach the Biosphere

Our favorite fifth grade teacher sat at the side table with his teaching partner. “Today,” he said, “we’ll continue planning earth science. Specifically, we’ll work on this standard:

NGSS 5-ESS2-1 Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.”

“We’ve already worked on the geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere,” said Mrs. Washington. “Furthermore, we have plans for interactions between Earth’s spheres. So today we’ll focus on biosphere teaching ideas.”

Mr. Grow tapped his finger on the table. Then he paged through the fifth grade life science standards. “You know, other standards set the stage for understanding the biosphere. And actually, they front-load kids with understanding of how it interacts with other spheres.”

Photosynthesis Allows the Biosphere to Exist

He turned his laptop toward Mrs. Washington so she could follow along. “For NGSS 5-LS1-1, we teach hydroponics,” he continued. “Our students learn that plants get what they need mainly from air and water. Furthermore, we discuss photosynthesis. That’s key.”

“Right, said Mrs. Washington, “I see where you’re going with this. In NGSS 5-PS1-2, kids learn about chemical changes. To understand photosynthesis, they need that.”

Mr. Grow nodded. Then he pulled up a diagram of photosynthesis. From this diagram, you can see interactions between Earth’s spheres. For example, the plant takes in water from the hydrosphere. Furthermore, it takes in carbon dioxide and lets off oxygen. Both of these exchanges occur with the atmosphere.”

Photosynthesis provides the key to understanding the biosphere. This chemical reaction allows all life on Earth. All biosphere teaching ideas hinge around it.
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Energy Flows Through the Biosphere with Ecosystems

“Now look at NGSS 5-PS3-1. Kids explore how animals’ food was once energy from the Sun.”

“Um-hm. we teach that as a part of ecosystems.” Mrs. Washington rummaged around in her bag and pulled out a stack of papers. After a little shuffling, she said, “Here it is.”

She laid an information sheet on the table. “This diagram shows how energy from the Sun flows. First, the producers use photosynthesis to convert it to glucose. When primary consumers eat the plants, energy moves to them. Next, the energy moves to secondary consumers. Finally, it reaches tertiary consumers.”

“I like this part about loss of energy,” said Mr. Grow. “It helps kids understand why there are so many more organisms in the lower levels of this pyramid.”

Get more biosphere teaching ideas from ecosystems.This information sheet shows how energy flows.

Mrs. Washington pulled out another page. Then she grabbed a yellow highlighter and began labeling. “As kids show energy from the sun flowing through an ecosystem,” she said, “they begin to understand interactions.”

In each ecosystem, energy flows from the Sun to producers (plants) and then to primary and secondary consumers. After they die, they're broken down by decomposers.

Matter Moves Through Ecosystems

Mr. Grow sighed. “Okay. First, photosynthesis. Second, energy in ecosystems. What’s third?”

Once again, Mrs. Washington pulled a page from the ecosystems unit. Then she referred to the standards again. “In NGSS 5-LS2-1, kids describe movement of matter in the environment.”

She slid the page over toward Mr. Grow. “This page shows how matter cycles,” she said. “At the top, kids learn about biogeochemical cycles. Wow, I never realized how well these standards compliment each other. With the word parts bio (life) and geo (earth), it fits perfectly. If we review this before kids analyze interactions between Earth’s cycles, they’ll really get it!”

Mrs. Washington grinned. “Moving on,” she said. “The middle of the page explains the carbon cycle. Then, at the bottom of the page, the nitrogen cycle.”

“Cycles of matter,” Mr. Grow murmured. “Actually, discussing this makes me understand interactions between Earth’s spheres!

“I can’t believe that our biosphere teaching ideas come from other standards,” he continued. “Before this, I never really thought about scaffolding understanding this way.”

Prepare biosphere teaching ideas with important cycles. Biogeochemical cycles move substances from nonliving to living and back again. The carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle also move matter through an ecosystem.

Interactions Between the Biosphere, Hydrosphere, Geosphere, and Atmosphere

“So,” Mrs. Washington said. “If we review photosynthesis and ecosystems, will that be enough?”

Mr. Grow nodded. “Yes. However, we must sequence our science units to teach this last. That way, our integrated approach will make sense.”

Once again, Mrs. Washington reached in her teacher bag. After rummaging around a bit, she found the materials for Earth’s spheres. Quickly, she chose a page.

Then, once again, she began rummaging. She finally pulled out a set of markers – held together with a rubber band. Without further ado, she began working on the worksheet in front of her.

“In this activity, kids receive a scientific situation.” She read it aloud: “A plant uses water for photosynthesis.”

“Then they have to identify which sphere caused the interaction.” Her hand paused over geosphere for a moment, but then she moved to hydrosphere and circled it. “That made me think. At first, I thought the water came from the earth. Then I realized it was actually in groundwater, or the hydrosphere.

“Third, they circle the sphere that’s affected. That’s easy.” She quickly circled biosphere.

“Finally, they use words, pictures, and arrows to explain.” Mrs. Washington used the brown marker to draw the ground. Then she made a bunch of blue dots underground and labeled them groundwater. Next, she drew a plant with the green marker.

“Alrighty,” she said, still writing and drawing. “Water enters the roots. Hence, it moves from the hydrosphere (which in this case is sort of located in the geosphere) to the biosphere. When photosynthesis occurs, carbon dioxide moves into the atmosphere.”

She paused. “That’s enough for now. However, I could go on and on. Chain reactions. I get it. And our kids will too.”

Kids analyze events to determine whether it was caused by the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, or atmosphere. Then they tell which sphere was affected and explain with pictures and words.

Enjoy Teaching the Biosphere

Both teachers sat back in their chairs and sighed. Then those satisfied teacher smiles spread across their faces. “You know,” said Mrs. Washington, “I love it when a good plan comes together.”

“Not only that,” her teammate replied. “When I understand the progression, I feel confident. And when I feel confident, I enjoy teaching even more.”

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