Ecosystems: A Living Network
Part of the Florida Geographic Alliance's collection of lesson plans.



Grade Level: 9

Time: 40 minutes


Man-Land Relationships


This lesson is based upon the Man-Land relationship theme that students see developing early in the course. It is part of the concept of balanced/non-balanced changes in ecosystems as related to human activity. The students have been exposed to and recognize that living things (including humans) need air, energy (food), water, and soil (space). They have explored air, energy and water. Soil/land use is the general topic and waste disposal is the specific. They have participated in a field-based activity that has shown them how surrounding counties handle their waste disposal.




  1. Prepare by
    1. Reviewing the field-based activity perceptions.
    2. Questioning the students on their own contributions to the problem.
  2. Perform "Trashology" experiment.
    1. Student volunteer(s) bring in 1 day's trash (not garbage).
    2. Sorter volunteers are appointed and given badges that designate their categories (glass, metal, paper, and plastic). Another volunteer mans the scale (the weight watcher) and one acts as a recorder.
    3. Each sorter assembles and carries to the weight watcher, their specific category.
    4. The weight watcher obtains the total mass of each category and informs the recorder, who writes the figure down on a "Trashology" form.
    5. All students obtain the daily figures for each category and use the appropriate math to figure the weekly, monthly and yearly amounts.
    6. Students prepare a relationship graph based on the original measurements (daily figure).
    7. Students categorize items as renewable or non-renewable.
    8. The students are debriefed with questions that relate to:
      1. personal consumption
      2. packaging methods
      3. personal waste disposal methods and costs
      4. public disposal methods and costs
      5. alternative strategies, both personal and public
      6. effects on current and future population centers.


  1. All students participate in the "Ecosystem Group Gathering" (EEG).
  2. All students are assigned a title, by sequence, Air, Energy, Water or Soil.
  3. All students will stand and form a tight circle, front to back.
  4. All students slowly sit down on the knees of the person behind them and then stand up again.
  5. The instructor selects a category to remove from the circle.
  6. Without closing ranks, the remaining students attempt step 4 again.
  7. If successful, another category leaves the circle (see step 5).
  8. Upon collapse of the environment, ask the students why it collapsed. Answers should indicate that all parts must be present for survival.

Trashology Exercise


             Paper       Plastic        Glass       Metal
  Mass:     ______       ______         ______      ______

  What period of time does the trash you are examining represent? _________

  At the rate represented above, how much would this family accumulate in
  1 week?
             Paper       Plastic        Glass       Metal
  Mass:     ______       ______         ______      ______

  How much would be accumulated in 1 month?
             Paper       Plastic        Glass       Metal
  Mass:     ______       ______         ______      ______

  How much would accumulate in 1 year?
             Paper       Plastic        Glass       Metal
  Mass:     ______       ______         ______      ______

  Make a graph that shows the relationship between the masses of each of 
  the original measurements.

  List all the items that come from renewable and non-renewable resources.

Part of the Florida Geographic Alliance's collection of lesson plans.