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Ecosystems Change Over Time Lesson

Lesson plan for virtual field trip video on ecosystem change over time, including floods, fires, and more.

Abiotic Factors- Ecosystems Change Over Time

Lesson Plan

Ecosystem Change Lesson Plan (PDF)


  • Submitted by:  Vince Case & Steven Henley
  • Content Area:  Science, grades 4-5
  • Materials Needed: paper and pencil
  • Handouts Attached:  None
  • Standard Addressed:  NGSS 5-LS2  Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy & Dynamics; 5-PS3-1  Energy; 5-ESS2-1  Earth’s Systems (see attached NGSS standards sheet for full information);
  • Skill to be Maintained:  Discovering how ecosystems change over time as a result of interactions with abiotic factors and natural forces in the environment
  • Essential Question:  How do ecosystems change over time?
  • Academic Vocabulary/Word Wall words:  adaptation, erosion, seasonal-cyclical changes, weather/climate, geologic time

Basic Lesson Description and Procedure:

  1. Students watch the video at the SMNHC.
  2. Students review abiotic & biotic parts of the ecosystem.
  3. Students understand how abiotic factors and natural forces impact and change ecosystems over time.
  4. Students learn that these changes can happen quickly, over a very long period, and/or over and over again in cycles or seasonally.
  5. Students discover how fire can quickly change ecosystems and learn about the fire adaptations of ponderosa pine trees.
  6. Students learn about seasonal flooding in the Rio Grande bosque.
  7. Students observe erosion in the Sandia Mountains.
  8. Students begin to understand the difference between weather & climate.
  9. Students observe rocks, think about how they are formed, and understand how fossils are formed.
  10. Students learn how scientists know that ecosystems change over time through careful observations and data collection.
  11. Students create an observation log and choose at least three different things to observe over time (e.g., daily weather, cloud cover, precipitation, a plant growing in their yard, etc.).

Observation activity:

With permission of a grown-up, go outside, collect as many leaves as possible from trees, the ground, indoor plants, etc.

Lesson Conclusion/Potential Practice at Home:

Students share their leaf booklets and discoveries with family and others they live with.


Just about any grade level can do this lesson and activity

Creating an Observation Log & Beginning to use it Outdoor-Follow-up Activity


  1. Using a piece of paper (lined would be best), create 4 columns.
  2. Label the first column “Time & Date”.
  3. Label the second column “Observation 1 – Weather”
  4. Label the third column “Observation 2” & choose a second thing to observe.
  5. Label the fourth column “Observation 3” & choose a third thing to observe.
  6. Make observations daily for at least 10 days, preferably 2 weeks, and record your observations.  See examples in video.
  7. After you are finished making your observations, analyze your data by asking and answering the questions “what has changed over time in my three observations? What has stayed the same? How do I know?”
  8. Write about your observations and your analysis using information from the data you collected in your observation log.