Florida's Everglades: The River of Grass

WGBH Educational Foundation
Type Category
Instructional Materials Assessment Materials
Informative Text , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Instructor Guide/Manual
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This lesson utilizes a video clip of a visit to the Everglades, short articles for students to read, a series of slides and a suggested project for students to complete. Students sign up for a pbsteacherline.org account (no email required) to save their notes. As they go through the lesson, they read, watch videos, and answer questions in order to investigate the Florida Everglades ecosystem. Students investigate the biodiversity in the varying ecosystems and the human impact on this biome. Students compare the Florida Everglades to their local ecosystem. An included writing prompt helps students explain patterns of interactions between organisms and ecosystems. An eight page teacher’s guide is included in support materials under "For Teachers". This guide provides lesson goals, key literacy strategies, essential background information, questions for determining students’ prior knowledge, suggestions for ways to support students as they complete the lesson and a variety of assessment ideas. This lesson is grade appropriate.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on predicting consistent patterns of interactions in different ecosystems in terms of the relationships among and between organisms and abiotic components of ecosystems. Examples of types of interactions could include competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson focuses on comparing the ecosystem of the Florida Everglades and the students’ local ecosystem. Questions are included so that students think about their local ecosystem. To completely address this Performance Expectation students would need to look at multiple ecosystems and compare and contrast interactions among organisms. Suggestions for teachers to emphasizes patterns of interactions between organisms in different ecosystems include: stopping to discuss Slide 4 so that students are comparing the two differing ecosystems; utilizing the “My Environment Chart” on Slide 4 to reinforce the relationship between biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem; and requiring students to use writing prompt #2 on the Final Assignment in order to ensure that they are meeting the “predict” portion of the Performance Expectation. Writing prompt #2 should also be edited to direct students to compare the Everglades ecosystem to a local ecosystem. Students may also need additional support to be able to make predictions.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In order to ensure that students are both predicting and explaining relationships, teachers need to be sure students are using writing prompt #2; particularly the section that states “Describe something that might happen to this environment if one or more of its elements changes.” Students should also use an example of change from researching how other ecosystems have responded to an element of change. An additional resource that could be useful to compare quantitative changes between populations is the graphing activity: Deer Predation or Starvation found at http://science-class.net/archive/science-class/Lessons/Ecology/Relationships/Deer_predation.pdf

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Teachers should discuss biodiversity with the class and emphasize the vocabulary related to biodiversity. When completing the concept map activity, students need to draw connections between the sub categories on the concept map and the interaction to emphasize relationships. Teachers need to review with students the parts of the reading that demonstrate predatory relationships. The predatory interactions could be emphasized by utilizing the additional resource described in practice above.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
When reviewing the “My Environment Chart” on slide 4 with students, teachers need to be sure to discuss the interconnection of ecosystem parts with the class. Also, teachers need to encourage students to take detailed notes in the boxes so that they can reference this information later.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The activity explicitly requires students to construct an explanation predicting patterns across ecosystems. However, the patterns of interaction between biotic factors are implicitly described. The overall activity more accurately addresses the section of the Disciplinary Core Idea that states “interactions of organisms with their environments, both living and nonliving, are shared.” To better align with three dimensions individual students or pairs of students might chose an ecosystem to research and based upon that research develop a relevant question such as, “what impact does the decline of the prairie dog population have on the short grass prairie?” and make a poster to share with the class of their findings.

  • Instructional Supports: The teacher’s guide is well-written with suggestions for leading students through the activity either independently, in pairs, or as a whole class. It is suggested that the students go outside to observe their local environment and a class walk to a nearby nature area or park would enhance this lesson. The concept mapping includes an effective graphic for students to identify the physical features, living things and habitat to construct their concept map. This format could be used to have students identify other ecosystems in addition to the two for this lesson. However, the rubric should be revised to better align to the writing standards in the Common Core State Standards which requires students to use a variety of informational resources in order to organize their ideas when constructing a written explanation. The Value of Wetlands is another PBS resource that http://sdpb.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/lsps07.sci.life.eco.wetlands/the-value-of-wetlands/ This resource emphasizes the decline of the wetlands due to human population increase. Students could be encouraged to research other ecosystems and share their results by making posters of impacts of changes. Another possible follow up enrichment activity to use what students have learned about ecosystems is the National Forest Service lesson: http://www.naturalinquirer.org/UserFiles/File/ESLessonPlan.pdf entitled Ecosystems Services. This optional internet lesson described in optional Internet Lesson Plans number 1-8 on pages 4 and 5 of the teacher resources. Students could analyze the ecosystem services of their own neighborhood.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Students’ progress can be stored (as long as they create and account) within this site and feedback is provided for several components of the lesson. Students demonstrate understanding in multiple ways (notes, matching, comparing, writing, constructing a concept map). Assignments are well aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards. The “Match It” component and the three multiple choice questions provide students with feedback based on student responses. However, there is no feedback on notes the students take or on the “Compare It” slide. Teachers will need to assess these responses, preferably prior to the final assignment and review note-taking strategies with students. Reflection questions for self-assessment by the students are also included.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The components in this activity work flawlessly. The “Match It” component and the three multiple choice questions provide students with feedback based on responses. However, there is no feedback on notes the students take or on the “Compare It” slide. Teachers will still need to assess these responses (preferably prior to the final assignment) and review note-taking strategies with students.