Biodiversity and extinction
Biodiversity matters for a whole variety of reasons: ethically, emotionally, environmentally and economically. It is at the very foundation of our society and the basis of our economic success and wellbeing. - Natural England
The list provides a range of activities, lesson ideas, film clips, careers resources, background information, practical tips and suggested teaching strategies. At Key Stage Three, students should learn about:
- the importance of maintaining biodiversity and the use of gene banks to preserve hereditary material
- how changes in the environment may leave individuals within a species, and some entire species, less well adapted to compete successfully and reproduce, which in turn may lead to extinction.
The resources in this list offer a range of suggestions for exploring biodiversity, the effects of human activity and extinction, so that you can choose the style of activities that will most suit your class.
Visit the secondary science webpage to access all lists: www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/secondaryscience
Links and Resources
Teachers who are planning a field trip for the first time will appreciate this resource, with its clear descriptions of common sampling techniques and fascinating context.
The aim of the activities is to build up a picture of a location, explain the distribution of the different species found within it and gather data on abiotic factors such as soil conditions, temperature and light intensity.
This is useful for looking at how organisms affect, and are affected by, their environment, as the resource links to an exciting project which transformed 98 hectares of heavily polluted industrial land back into a place that could be used and enjoyed by both people and wildlife. The Avenue is now home to kingfishers, newts, snakes, toads and rare wildflowers.
The activities described are similar to those undertaken at the start of any remediation process to highlight the appropriate actions that may need to be taken to relocate species prior to a location being disturbed and the re-introduction of biodiversity.
It may also be worth speaking to the geography department about a combined field trip!
This resource is based around the careers video above and provides a set of questions for students to answer while they watch it.
It also describes activities to measure biodiversity. In a habitat with high diversity you will find many species, all abundant. With low diversity the same species will turn up again and again in random samples.
In the sequential comparison index activity, students record how often new species turn up in a random sample compared to the number of individuals found in the sample.
Don't let the title of this resource fool you - the bingo game is only the final activity which is used to reinforce learning from the main part of the lesson.
Following an introductory presentation, students use the worksheet provided to become familiar with the ARKive website and to research the conservation status of different species. They need to complete the sheet with details of the threats to each species or the reasons for it's extinction.
The activity could be extended by investigating the conservation of one species in detail, and could be made more relevant if you can find a local conservation project and invite them in to speak to the class about their work.
This activity spans two lessons with a homework task in between. Students look at the definitions of biodiversity, species, habitats, ecosystems and the relationships between them. They then research and produce a presentation on an endangered species, giving a clear case for one species to be saved from the brink of extinction.
This is a very popular resource where students work in medical teams and balance competing priorities for the conservation of an endangered species to devise a ‘treatment’ plan. Students learn the importance of biodiversity and species conservation, the fine balance of the ecosystem and how to measure competing priorities.
This two and a half minute film clip makes a thought-provoking introduction to a lesson on the impact of human activity on biodiversity and how we are causing the extinction of so many species. The clip ends with a question which asks children to find out why certain species have become endangered. You could use this to introduce the activity above.
This would make a good homework project to research the impact of human activity on a particular species.
Following a short presentation, students watch a film about the impact of plastic waste on the Laysan albatross. The homework activity is introduced by discussing the power of the film and the ways in which we can help reduce the impact of plastic waste.
The activity can be extended to link with art and design and technology by asking students to collect different kinds of plastic waste and discussing what can and cannot be recycled. They can then research and suggest whether alternative packaging options could be available for each product. The plastic waste could be made into a display or art installation to illustrate the impact of plastics on the environment.