The Cycle of Matter and Energy In Healthy Ecosystems, Unit Overview | EL Education Curriculum

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LS G5:M2:U1

The Cycle of Matter and Energy In Healthy Ecosystems, Unit Overview

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NGSS Standards

NGSS Standard 5-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems

NGSS Standard 5-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

5-LS1-1. Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

NGSS Standard 5-PS3-1 Energy

5-PS3-1. Use models to describe that energy in animals' food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.

PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

NGSS Standard 5-PS1-1 Matter and Its Interactions

5-PS1-1. Develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen.

PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • If you have a number of English Language Learners speaking the same native language, invite family members to come in and talk about student plans to improve the health of a local ecosystem.
  • If you have students who have lived or have family members who have lived near a temperate, boreal, or tropical forest ecosystem, invite them to give a first-hand account of the characteristics of these ecosystems.
  • Team up with another grade level and share your discoveries about forest ecosystems, food webs, photosynthesis, and/or the role of plants in moving matter and energy.
  • Join a citizen science group like NatureWatchers to find ways students can help the local environment and/or participate in the work of scientists.


  • Invite a biologist or botanist to come in to talk with the students about the role of plants in an ecosystem.
  • Invite a local zoologist to come in and talk about plants and animals in a local food web.
  • Invite a local physicist to come in and talk about the different types of energy and how they are used in our everyday life.
  • Invite a landscape architect or engineer to come in and talk about designing public spaces that can be a healthy ecosystem where multiple organisms get their needs met.
  • Contact your state's park service to learn more about the ecosystems in your area.


  • Visit a local national forest or park; find the one nearest you.
  • Visit a local zoo, nature center, aquarium, or botanical garden to observe the abiotic and biotic features of an ecosystem working together.
  • Go on virtual field trips by visiting online resources that are available through zoos, nature centers, aquariums, and botanical gardens.


  • If you choose to use the alternate performance task, invite students to implement their suggestion to improve a local ecosystem.
  • Invite students to volunteer to clean up a local forest, park, or wildlife area.
  • Invite students to create a poster, pamphlet, radio ad, and/or online video to educate the public on issues affecting the health of local ecosystems.

Extension Opportunities for students seeking more challenge:

  • In each lesson sequence, there are optional extensions.
  • If students complete the alternate performance task, they could collect and analyze data on their local schoolyard or another nearby public space. Arrange for students to present their suggestions and explanatory model to an audience that may be able to implement their plan (e.g., the school board, park and recreation board, or neighborhood association). See Lesson Sequence 11 for additional information and an optional assignment description.

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