Students take a census of an outdoor site, and look for organisms that perform different “jobs” in the biotic community. A biotic (or natural) community is made up of the various organisms that live and interact with one another in a particular environment. As in a human community, its members have different roles and depend on each other for survival. In this activity, students examine a study area to find out what organisms live there and the ecological jobs or niches they fill.
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With animation, interactivity, and sound effects, Starting with Soil demonstrates how plants and animals cooperate to make the soil we need to grow healthy food. Kids learn that soil starts with bare rock and discover how long it takes nature to make one inch of topsoil. (Spoiler alert: it takes 500 years!) Different chapters convey the importance of pollinators and the critical roles animals, the weather, microorganisms, and cover crops play in organic farming. Designed for students ages 7-9, Starting with Soil allows users to plant seeds, build a compost pile, drag a microscope over different organisms in soil to get a better look, and view the symbiosis at work when corn, beans, and squash are planted together.