Standards Aligned:
The Garden as an Ecosystem
Place of Learning: 
45 minutes
Grade Level: 
In this lesson, students begin to explore the garden as an ecosystem. They learn that the principle of interdependence defines any ecosystem, and they look for examples of this principle at play in the garden. They also define, differentiate, and identify examples of biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) factors in the garden ecosystem. They start to speculate on how these factors might affect one another and the crops. Understanding how the garden functions as an ecosystem will be a critical component for them developing and justifying their planting proposals in the final project.
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  • Interdependence: the dependence of two or more people, organisms, or things on oneanother.
  • Ecosystem: A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.
  • Abiotic factor: a nonliving condition or thing, such as climate or habitat, that influences an ecosystem or the organisms in it.
  • Biotic factor: a living thing, such as a plant or animal, that influences an ecosystem.
  • Biodiversity: the variety of life and living things.
Teaching Notes: 
  • The “READ” and “DISCUSS” sections of this lesson plan can be used as talking points or a script to introduce activities.
  • Some of the language used in this lesson may be new to your students. See this resource for strategies that help with vocabulary acquisition.
  • If you are teaching this lesson in the garden, we suggest completing the activities as a whole glass or in small groups. The garden is a great place for discussion-based lessons.
  • Students will likely have different levels of background information and knowledge on the ecological principles discussed in this lesson. The most important component of this lesson however, is the practice of observation. You may want to take a little bit of extra time this day to really encourage students to be as detailed as possible with their observations. Their firsthand observations will form the backbone of their entire planning process for this unit.
  • In Garden Observation Activity 2, students are asked to develop basic hypotheses and conclusions based on their observations and prior knowledge.
  • Depending on your students’ comfort level with creating diagrams and models, the MODEL activity at the end of this lesson may be something you want to add extra scaffolding for. Encourage students to cite their observations from Garden Observation Activity 2 and the content of the subsequent Discussion in order to identify which factors they want to include in the model. It’s not important that this model be accurate , instead, this activity is meant to give students an opportunity to synthesize their first layer of learning on the interconnections they can observe in the garden. These are concepts they will return to over and over again in the following lessons.
  • This is the second of a 12-lesson series in which students will explore the basic ecological principle of interdependence through the lens of common organic farming practices.