Science Help--Environment vs. Ecosystem

Discussion in 'General Education' started by amakaye, Oct 3, 2009.

  1. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Oct 3, 2009

    My science text says to make sure students can differentiate between environment and ecosystem, and suggests having them make a chart of similarities and differencies if they are struggling. However, I'm confused and having a hard time telling the difference between the terms.

    These are some sentences from the book:
    "An environment is everything that surrounds a living thing. The nonliving parts of an environment support the living things in the environment."
    "An ecosystem is all the living and nonliving things in an environment."
    "In an environment, living and nonliving parts act on each other or interact. These interacting parts make up an ecosystem. The living parts of an ecosystem depend on nonliving parts."

    Is it just me, or are all of these saying the same thing? Am I missing something because of the 3rd grade level? What is the difference between these two vocabulary words? Help!!!! :dizzy:
     
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  3. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    I just don't know what to say . . .
     
  4. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Oct 3, 2009

    The environment is the entire thing. The ecosystem is everything that lives in it. This is from the scientist sitting on the other side of the couch.
     
  5. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    That textbook would confuse me too.
     
  6. RainStorm

    RainStorm Aficionado

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    Oct 3, 2009

    Ama,
    Basically, this concept is WAY above the heads of typical 3rd graders, but here is an easy analogy.

    Think geography. An environment is like our country -- the USA. An ecosystem is like a state. Everything in the state is also part of the country, but everything in the county is not part of the state. Our country is comprised of many states. An environment is comprised of many ecosystems.

    Scientifically speaking, an ecosystem is a "biotic community." That means each thing in an ecosystem interacts or needs each other. They tend to be part of each other's food chain or food web, or used as shelter or in the food gathering process. Ecosystems are made up of both living and nonliving things.

    An environment is often comprised of many ecosystems. Those ecosytems do not tend to interact (at least, not under normal circumstances.) Perhaps some, on the borders between ecosystems, but not to a great extent. Again, this is a tough concept that adult scientists have a hard time defining. Expecting a 3rd grader to "get it" -- well, I think we are all expected to teach things that are a bit age-inappropriate, so I won't comment further.

    That is the simpliest way I can think of to describe it.
     
  7. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    Rainstorm, I think that is great description!
     
  8. scienceteach82

    scienceteach82 Cohort

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    Hmm...that is a tough one, and RainStorm did a nice job of explaining it.

    A forest could be the environment with the ecosystem of whatever lives in the trees...fish in a stream...maggots in a dead animal...etc...

    biotic factors are living
    abiotic factors are non-living

    you can use many examples for those concepts if you have to teach them
     
  9. tgim

    tgim Habitué

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    How timely - I have these tests in my bag to grade this weekend, and my kids also struggled with this on the study guide. Rainstorm, I am going to use your description when going over the test. Thanks!
    One of my students brought in a paper plate she had made w/ diminishing circles on it. The outer one was environment, then ecosystem, then community, and populations and habitat. It was illustrated at each level. We used this as a study tool, too. I kept it w/ her permission and put it in my file and will have my students do one like it next year.
     
  10. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Thanks RainStorm; that's what I was thinking. I agree that it's awfully confusing for 3rd graders, especially because we also teach them about how inter-connected everything is (and how removing one factor can change the balance--which was what our last reading story was about).

    For my own clarification: Ecosystems would then overlap, right? If we were talking about a forest, the fish in the stream would be a part of the eagle's ecosystem and the bear's, but those two animals would not necessarily be part of each other's? Or would they all be one ecosystem because if there are too many bears eating the fish, there aren't as many for the eagles? Thanks for helping me wrap my head around this, guys!
     
  11. dale.louise

    dale.louise New Member

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    Oct 5, 2009

    Help--Environment vs. Ecosystem

    Obviously it helps !
     
  12. m1trLG2

    m1trLG2 Companion

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    My textbook says, "An ecosystem is all living and nonliving things that affect one another.".... I guess I thought perhaps an environment was kind of like the "thing" or "structure" and an ecosystem is the "action" or how everything works together. Like the difference between a snap shot and a movie. An environment is a snapshot, or a list of things required... an ecosystem is the movie, or how everything is actually working together?

    I don't know, I think the components of each are similar if not the same, but the implication is different. In my opinion environment tells me what is... an ecosystem describes interaction. Just my humble opinion though.

    It probably doesn't help that the Science books that are being used in the school I'm at now are the same ones I used in fourth grade some 16 years ago. Time to meet with the times and the advancements in how things should be taught... but that's another story.
     
  13. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    I know this thread is really old, but...

    The way I learned it in college was that there was a heirarchy of individual --> population (of many individuals) --> community (of populations of many species) --> ecosystem (of communities and non-living things). I would use the word environment to describe the surroundings of a particular organism. Within the same ecosystem, the fish in the stream has a different environment than the bird in the tree. Scientists don't use the word "biome", but an ecosystem is more or less equivalent to a biome. Here's a website that may help: http://www.fi.edu/tfi/units/life/habitat/habitat.html

    And yes, that textbook is horribly confusing, especially if one of their goals is to show how environment and ecosystem are different!
     
  14. PowerTeacher

    PowerTeacher Comrade

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    Each individual organism is a member of a species. Species that interact with one another are communities, communities that share the same abiotic factors, things that have never been alive, like the amount of light, the weather/climate, soil, water sources and so on are an ecosystem.

    Ecosystems that share the same abiotic factors, like the amount of light, the weather/climate, soil, water sources and so on, but not the same biotic factors are an environment.

    Example: A piece of grass grows in a meadow. A mouse comes out at night and eats the grass, the mouse gets eaten by a snake, the snake get eaten by an owl.

    Next morning, same meadow, in the top of a tree a bug hatches out, it flies off a limb, and is eaten by a songbird, and the songbird is then eaten by a hawk.

    Both these groups are parts of different ecosystems, the way they live and die never overlap, but part of the same environment, because the share the same abiotic factors.

    Does that help?
     
  15. mantis

    mantis New Member

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    Nov 11, 2012

    As someone writing a glossary for environmental terms in my masters, I am sympathetic to your confusion. I think we have come up with many terms in environmental studies that are so similar they are within shades of each other. For ecosystem and environment, it might help to tell your students that environment is like what you can see in a snapshot of an area, but an ecosystem is the same area in a movie. (Just to help them picture it.) An environment is the climate, physical and chemical structure, biotic factors (animals, plants, soils) that will ultimately determine the survival of the life forms within it. That same environment would more likely be called an ecosystem in a discussion concerning how one of those factors operated on another. Picture the "cycles" within an ecosystem. Not just a place, an "ecosystem" has the connotation of action within it. Mars may have no life at all (thus, no ecosystems), but there is still an environment. Ecosystems must have life to have the interactions involved with natural cycles. Habitats are "home turf" of an organism within an ecosystem. Niches are the roles an organism plays within its habitat, or more largely, within its Ecosystem. And if you listed everyliving and non-living factor making up that ecosystem (virtually impossible to do), you would have described the environment in which that organism lives. The terms are nearly used interchangeably, it seems at first glance. But there is that nuance, that an environment can be discussed as a static entity, whereas there is nothing static about an ecosystem. Two views of the same picture, perhaps. Hope this is helpful.
     
  16. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Nov 11, 2012

    In simple 3rd grade terms, an environment is about the area. It's geographical and descriptive. An ecosystem is about interactions - between the living and non-living things in that area.
     
  17. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Nov 11, 2012

    Yeah, surprised this is a standard for third graders.

    I would describe it this way to 8 year olds.

    An ecosystem is kind of like a community. Everyone in your neighborhood who knows and works and lives with each other would be a type of ecosystem. It is built on the relationships between organisms like the relationships between you and your friends, your parents, siblings, and even the others who live in your town.

    An environment would be like the place you live in. The environment that you live in includes the supermarket, the school, the houses of you and your friends, the park, etc.

    Try to describe it along those lines.

    Edit: Whoops, I believe this has been a thread necro. This thread is more than a year old.
     

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