Exploring the relationships between living and non living components of a rainforest ecosystem.
When you step into amazing environments like the rainforest at Mt Field, you can’t help but bathe in the magic it naturally provides. What an amazing learning environment! We stood and breathed in the cool, lush green forest smells and smiled at all the beauty. Gosh nature is amazing!
This real life lesson was all about the boys observing an ecosystem and documenting their discoveries.
The points we concentrated on – What is an ecosystem? How do organisms adapt to their environment so they can survive?
An ecosystem is the dynamic interaction between living and nonliving things. Non living things are important resources for living things (plants and animals) and without them, they wouldn’t survive.
Non living resources in a rain forest include –
Sun – Plants need the sun so they can photosynthesize (that means make their own food) The sun also warms the environment to allow evaporation of water and aid decomposition. Late afternoon was a great time to observe the sun in this ecosystem. Besides the cool photos we could get of the sun flaring through the tree tops – the boys got to observe why there is limited plant life in the under story because the sun just couldn’t reach the forest floor because of the canopy.
Water – All living things are mostly made of water so we really need it to survive. From the little trickling creek to the raging water coming from Russell Falls, the boys got to see how the rain forest stays well hydrated due to an impressive supply of water in the rain forest. The misty rain was also present and provided a great film over the leaves which was a perfect demonstration in how the plants adapt to high moisture levels; more about that later…
Soil – Soil is essential. This microscopic habitat contains all sorts of minerals, organism and decaying matter that provides nutrients for all living things. The soil in a rain forest is called humus and it is some of the richest soil you can get. The boys found it fascinating to hold a piece of bark, or a stick in their hands and feel how easily it crumbled due to the decomposition process. They also came armed with hand held microscopes so they were able to see all sorts of cool things up close… I have to admit, I found it fascinating too. It’s a whole other world; within a world!
Air – plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and expel oxygen for us to breathe. All animals need oxygen. This is a “give and take” cycle that is mutually beneficial for an ecosystem to thrive. Saxon learnt how to help feed the plants! We breathed oxygen in together that the plants had made, then we blew out that air as carbon dioxide from our mouths and fed the plants. It was a fun way for Saxon to learn how the cycle works.
How do organisms adapt to their environment to help the ecosystem survive?
We decided to look at how plants adapt.
We noticed that the trees and plants can have Broad leaves with “drip tips” to help plants cope with high rainfall. They allow for quick run off to prevent growth of fungus and bacteria.
Vines have tendrils, spines or twining stems to help them climb up to reach the sunlight.
While we had many funny versions of this word being thrown around, the boys learnt about epiphytes. There were plenty of epiphytes in this rain forest! Just look at all the moss and lichen! The boys learnt that these types of plants don’t hurt the trees they grow on; they just used them for support.
The soil in a rain forest is full of nutrients; but the nutrients are near the surface. For a tree to gain access to this nutrients, their root system needs to stay close to the surface. Buttress roots provide support for these large trees so they don’t fall over!
Just check out this learning environment. When the boys finished their journaling and documenting the concepts and ideas they had observed in the rain forest, they were happy to chill out for a little while and draw / read / explore their surroundings. I would have loved a classroom like this when I was a kid!
Thanks for joining us and we look forward to seeing you on our next adventure!