Hemlock Hill: An Evolving Ecosystem

Hemlock Hill: An Evolving Ecosystem

Grades 4-6

This two hour program complements the Boston Public School fifth grade life science study of Ecosystems by transporting students to a local forest within the urban environment. Here students can explore the organisms that populate this forest, including diverse plants, animals, and fungi.  They learn the roles that organisms play in energy transfer, and how changes in an ecosystem affect organisms.

An Arboretum educator visits the classroom prior to the field study to review the components of an ecosystem, how organisms are classified, what organisms students might expect to find in a local forest, and introduces the students to two trees that dominate the forest they will study.


       Boys look at bug box    IMAG4712

During the field study students start by looking for the diversity of plants on Hemlock Hill.  Later, using hand lenses, probes, and bug boxes, pairs of students search under logs and in leaf litter for soil-dwelling invertebrates to capture and observe.  During the program students make detailed drawings of the organisms they encounter, and classify them as producers, consumers, or decomposers.

Using a field journal style worksheet, students are encouraged to add notes describing the environment surrounding the organism, labels the body parts, and include either alternate perspectives or magnified views of the organism.  They also search for evidence of consumers and add their discoveries via a checklist. Guides facilitate study of the organisms by sharing digital microscopes and tablets, enabling deeper observation of  living things.

As a culminating activity, students display all the organisms on a chart that represents the biodiversity of Hemlock Hill.

When the students return to the classroom, they create a food web representing how each organism obtains the energy it needs to survive.

If you are a Boston Public School teacher and would like to register for a program, email Nancy Sableski or call 617.384.5239.

MA Science Standards correlations:

  • 4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that animals and plants have internal and external structures that support their survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
  • 5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among producers, consumers, decomposers, and the air, water, and soil in the environment to (a) show that plants produce sugars and plant materials, (b) show that animals can eat plants and/or other animals for food, and (c) show that some organisms, including fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms and recycle some materials back to the air and soil.