The Life Science Module represents three additional hours per week of instruction during the eight to nine weeks covered by Module 2 of our Grades 3–5 Language Arts Curriculum. Although the Life Science Modules can stand alone, each one connects with and complements Module 2 of the grade-level language arts module lessons. For the complete materials list or to learn more about how the Life Science Modules are aligned with the Language Arts curriculum, read the K-5 Language Arts Guidance Document found on the Tools page.
In the Grade 5 Life Science Module, students study the cycle of energy and matter in an ecosystem as they construct and refine criteria for a healthy ecosystem.
The module begins with an anchoring phenomenon. Students view pictures of a forest ecosystem and are asked, “Is this a healthy ecosystem?” and more broadly, “How do we assess and improve the health of an ecosystem?” Students are introduced to several criteria for a healthy ecosystem, including that the health of an ecosystem can be assessed by looking at the movement of matter and energy within the ecosystem.
Then students build background knowledge about matter and energy. Through a series of demonstrations, close readings, and an original investigation, students learn about the basic properties of matter and how plants, through the process of photosynthesis, start the cycle of matter in an ecosystem. This means that plants take matter chiefly from the water and air and convert it into plant matter that is rich in energy. Then as animals eat plants and each other, the matter is cycled through their bodies. Finally, when animals die, decomposers return the matter back to the soil as nutrients to help plants grow.
Students then turn their attention to energy and—through a series of demonstrations and close readings—learn that energy is neither created nor destroyed but flows through an ecosystem by being transferred from plants to animals.
After acquiring the background knowledge about matter and energy, students turn their attention to the interaction of abiotic and biotic features in an ecosystem. By studying the abiotic (nonliving things like sunlight, water, and air) and biotic features (living things like plants and animals) of an ecosystem, students can see more concretely the cycle of matter and the flow of energy within an ecosystem. They become experts on one of three forest ecosystems (tropical, boreal, or temperate) and create a model that explains how the abiotic and biotic components of their expert ecosystem interact and move the matter and energy within the system.
Next, students look more specifically at the biotic (or living) features of an ecosystem, applying their knowledge about matter and energy to food webs. They learn that energy is passed along a food chain as plants collect and convert solar energy into usable chemical energy. As animals eat plants and other animals eat those animals, a food chain is formed and energy is transferred up the food chain. As the different food chains of an ecosystem intersect, they form a food web. This flow of energy is important to the health of an ecosystem. Students then revise their explanatory model to show the flow of energy within their expert forest ecosystem.
Finally, students learn about biodiversity and how multiple organisms and a complete and complex food web can help an ecosystem be balanced and stable. Balance and stability are important criteria for a healthy ecosystem. They study the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park; and they study invasive species to see how a change in one aspect of an ecosystem can affect the interaction of biotic and abiotic features and the overall stability and balance of an ecosystem.
Throughout the module, students engage in the Science and Engineering Practices (things that scientists and engineers do) by making explanatory models, constructing explanations, and engaging in arguments. Students also consistently discuss Crosscutting Concepts (concepts that link across various scientific disciplines), especially matter and energy and systems, to deepen their understanding of content. Routinely, they track their learning in a student science notebook and practice articulating their understanding in Scientists Meetings.
This Grade 5 Life Science module was designed to work in concert with EL Education’s Language Arts Grade 5 Module 2, although it can stand alone. The content of the Language Arts module complements the student learning about forest ecosystems in the Life Science Module. One of the forest ecosystems studied in the Life Science Module is the rainforest. In both the Language Arts and Life Science modules, students engage in similar protocols and do close reading.
Download this module to access the full NGSS Standards descriptions, the Week-at-a-Glance charts, and Letter Home.