Teacher Resources

Welcome

Welcome, teachers, to Mission: Biomes! This site was designed for teachers to use in classrooms as a supplementary, interdisciplinary unit. Mission: Biomes is especially appropriate for grades 3 through 8. It is designed to be interactive and self-correcting which will allow each student to work at his or her own pace. We encourage educators to preview the site before using it with students. We hope you enjoy your visit!

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Goals

  • Make science fun and interactive.
  • Encourage children to use the Internet as a learning tool.
  • Provide understandable information about world biomes while also providing opportunities for further research or more in-depth study.
  • Build on knowledge of world geography, math, social studies and science.
  • Provide teachers the opportunity to introduce research methods and procedures.
  • Provide for differentiated, individual learning.
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Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Define and describe biomes of the world.
  • Use the Internet as a research tool.
  • Interpret and draw conclusions from graphs.
  • Recognize patterns (not only mathematical, but also Earth's climatic patterns).
  • Compare biome and plant characteristics.
  • Summarize information and determine key points to apply to real-world situations.
  • Relate latitude to biomes and climate.
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National Science, Math, and Social Studies Standards

Science Content Standards

  • Content Standard A
    All students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understandings about scientific inquiry.
  • Content Standard C
    K-4: All students should develop understanding of the characteristics of organisms, the life cycles of organisms, and of organisms and environments.
    5-8: All students should develop understanding of populations and ecosystems and diversity and adaptations of organisms.
    9-12: All students should develop understanding of the interdependence of organisms, and of matter, energy, and organization in living systems.
  • Content Standard D
    K-4: All students should develop an understanding of properties of Earth materials, objects in the sky, and changes in Earth and sky.
    5-8: All students should develop an understanding of the structure of the Earth system and the Earth in the solar system.
    9-12: All students should develop an understanding of energy in the Earth system.
  • Content Standard E
    All students should develop understanding about science and technology.
  • Content Standard F
    K-4: All students should develop understanding of changes in environments.
    5-8: All students should develop understanding of populations, resources, and environments, and science and technology in society.
    9-12: All students should develop understanding of science and technology in local, national, and global challenges.
  • Content Standard G
    All students should develop understanding of science as a human endeavor.

Math Standards

  • Mathematics Communication
    K-4: Students can relate pictures and diagrams to mathematical ideas.
    5-8: Students can realize that representing, discussing, reading, writing, and listening to mathematics are a vital part of learning and using mathematics.
  • Mathematics as Reasoning
    K-4: Students can draw logical conclusions about mathematics. Students can use models, known facts, properties, and relationships to explain their thinking. Students can justify their answers and solution processes. Students can use patterns and relationships to analyze mathematical situations.
    5-8: Students can understand and apply reasoning processes, with special attention to reasoning with graphs. Students can validate their own reasoning. Students can appreciate the pervasive use and power of reasoning as a part of mathematics.
    9-12: Students can construct simple valid arguments.
  • Mathematical Connections
    K-4: Students can use mathematics in other curriculum areas.
    5-8: Students can apply mathematical thinking and modeling to solve problems that arise in other disciplines, such as science. Students can explore problems and describe results using graphical mathematical models or representations.
    9-12: Students can use and value the connections between mathematics and other disciplines.
  • Number Sense and Numeration
    K-4: Students can interpret the multiple uses of numbers encountered in the real world.
  • Algebra
    5-8: Students can analyze tables and graphs to identify properties and relationships.
  • Statistics
    K-4: Math curriculum should include experiences with data analysis so that students can construct, read, and interpret displays of data.
    5-8: Students can construct, read, and interpret tables, charts, and graphs. Students can make inferences and convincing arguments that are based on data analysis.
    9-12: Students can construct and draw inferences from charts, tables, and graphs that summarize data from real-world situations.

National Social Studies Content Standards

  • People, Places, and Environments
    Learners should use maps, globes, photographs, and graphs to generate, manipulate, and describe relationships among varying regional and global patterns of geographic phenomena such as landforms, climate, and natural resources.
    Learners should be challenged to speculate about and explain physical system changes, such as seasons, climate, and weather.
  • Individual Development and Identity
    Learners should work independently and cooperatively within groups and institutions to accomplish goals.
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How to Navigate this Site (for Beginners)

  • Click on pictures of biomes or plants to get to the information pages.
  • Click on underlined phrases to find further information or to go on to next step.
  • Metric Converter allows students to convert mm to inches and °C to °F.
  • Use the back button to return to previously seen information. Otherwise, use the links provided in the pages to continue.
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General Tips

  • When accessing information on the biomes, first you will come to a fact sheet, which is a quick reference about that biome and includes temperature and precipitation graphs for a city located in that biome.
  • To learn how you can enhance Mission: Biomes, see Extension Questions and Extension Ideas.
  • Tips specific to each mission are located in that mission's section.
  • The Web sites that are listed under the biome information pages are written mostly on a middle or high school level. You may want to tell your students to avoid frustration. One site that is very kid friendly is http://www.mbgnet.net/.
  • Since the graphs are an important piece, you may want to go over them with your students prior to the missions. You may want to print out graphs and make transparencies, then put them on an overhead to compare them. (For example, you can compare desert to tundra. Look for patterns between temperature and precipitation.) There are temperature and precipitation graphs for cities located in each biome. One set is embedded within the information pages. A different set is used in the Great Graph Match. You may want to point out that some of the graphs use different scales based on precipitation ranges for each city/biome. Some ideas for your discussion might be:
    • Why are the scales different?
    • Look for patterns or curves in the graphs.
    • What is the significance of the information on the graph?
    • What are the high and low values? Why are they high or low?
  • Encourage students to refer back to the biome information pages as they are working on the missions. The necessary links are on most pages for easy reference. This can also help a lost student!
  • Teaching options:
    • As you teach each biome, you may want to reference just the specific pages for that biome. Once you have studied all the biomes covered in Mission: Biomes you can complete the missions.
    • After you have completed a comprehensive study of all the biomes covered in Mission: Biomes, you can complete the missions.
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Missions

Great Graph Match

  • Discussion Points
    You may want to point out that some graphs use different scales based on the precipitation ranges for each city/biome. Some ideas for your discussion might be:
    • Why are the scales different?
    • Look for patterns or curves in the graphs.
    • What is the significance of the information on the graph?
    • What are the high and low values? Why are they high or low?
  • Prerequisite Knowledge
    Students should be able to read and interpret simple graphs and have some knowledge of biomes.
  • Mission Tips
    Graph sets were chosen for cities that represent each biome. The sets in the matching game are different from the ones in the biome information pages so that Great Graph Match can be used as an assessment tool.
    Graphs used in the biome pages are accessible through a link on the title page. Use the menu on the top as a shortcut to look up a specific biome or scroll down to view all the graphs.
    There are two versions of this mission:
    • Easy version — appropriate for grades 3-5, gives temperature and precipitation graphs for one city at a time, then gives two biome choices.
    • Advanced version — appropriate for grades 5 and up, presents all information simultaneously for students to match up the biomes with the correct graph sets.

    The computer assists the students in correcting their answers in both versions.
  • Extension Ideas
    Have the students compare graph sets from different cities in different hemispheres. They can see how the Northern Hemisphere temperatures differ from the Southern Hemisphere temperatures. For example, take Alice Springs, Australia or Middelburg, South Africa and note the direction of the curve in the graph. Compare it to a city in the Northern Hemisphere such as Centralia, Kansas or Yakutsk, Russia. Point out how the curves go in opposite directions.
    Explain how you chose your answers. (This could be a written response.)
    Why do you think the graphs vary so much?
    Find other cities that would be located in the different biomes. You can use the Internet, maps, and globes. Use a world map where the biomes are mapped out. Several resources that we used were:
    http://www.weatherbase.com/
    http://www.mapquest.com/
    http://www.mbgnet.net/

To Plant or Not to Plant?

  • Discussion Points
    Some plants can survive in several different biomes, but they won't thrive. The answers reflect this and while some matches may be close, it will not be the ideal answer.
    When considering whether a plant will grow in a given biome, it is important to consider whether it will receive enough sunlight. For example, something planted on the rainforest floor will not survive because the tree canopy will block the sunlight, which is important for photosynthesis. Once the plants' basic needs have been met, such as their physical environment, then the plants begin to compete with each other for sunlight.
  • Prerequisite Knowledge
    Students should:
    • Know a plant's life cycle and have an understanding of photosynthesis.
    • Have an understanding of what constitutes a biome. (This is explained on the homepage, but should be reinforced.)
  • Mission Tips
    This mission works best when the students have read the biome and plant information pages prior to planting in the biomes. Encourage students to refer back to the information as they are working on the mission and/or get stuck.
    Have the students make hypotheses about what will happen before they plant. Revisit their hypotheses after they complete the mission.
    There are two plants for the desert biome. This is because the creosote bush may be a difficult choice for younger students. We left both in to be a challenge to other students as well. You may want to point out that one biome will have two correct choices.
    The computer will assist students in correcting their answers with feedback.
  • Extension Questions
    Were there climatic patterns that emerged?
    What effects do the biomes' characteristics have on plant life cycles? (For example, some desert plants complete their whole life cycles in weeks.)
    Explain how you chose your answers. (This could be a written response.)
    What are some other factors that affect plant survival besides temperature and precipitation (fire, competition for light, canopy thickness and height, root systems, weather phenomena)?
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Extension Ideas for Biomes

Some students may be very interested in learning more about specific biomes. The links on the biome information pages provide more in-depth information. Here are some possible research questions to guide them.

  • Coniferous Forest: How is a conifer different from a broadleaf tree? Why?
  • Temperate Deciduous Forest: Why do the leaves lose their color?
  • Desert: Describe adaptations of desert plants.
  • Grassland: How is the height of the grass related to its root system?
  • Rainforest: Compare the layers in a tropical rainforest and the plants that live there. How is a temperate rainforest different from a tropical rainforest?
  • Shrubland: Why are fires so frequent in the shrublands? What adaptations do plants in shrublands have because of this?
  • Tundra: Why are the trees short in the Tundra?
  • Research other biome types not covered in Mission: Biomes. There are 14 recognized biomes on Earth.
  • Research animal life in each biome.

Hands-on Activities

  • Build a Desert
    Students will create a desert biome to keep in the classroom for observation using a terrarium.
  • Build a Rainforest
    Students will create a rainforest biome to keep in the classroom for observation using 2-liter bottles.
  • Designer Plant
    Students will create a plant that could survive in a specific biome. In designing their plants, they must consider what adaptations their plants must have to survive in that biome.
  • Designer Animal
    Students will create an animal that could survive in a specific biome. In designing their animals, they must consider what adaptations their animals must have to survive in that biome.
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Related Literature/Media

Books

Coniferous Forest
Taiga by April Pulley Sayre, 1994, Twenty-First Century Books, New York, NY.
Part of a series, very informative, more difficult reading level, few pictures.

Biomes of the World: Taiga by Elizabeth Kaplan, 1996, Benchmark Books, New York, NY.
Very informative.

The Tree in the Ancient Forest by Carol Reed-Jones, illustrated by Christopher Canyon, 1995, DAWN Publications, Nevada City, CA.
Describes interdependence of living things with a Douglas Fir as the central tree. Uses repetitive text to make point. Modeled on the Pacific Northwest forests.

Temperate Deciduous Forest
Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins, 1998, Scholastic Press, New York, NY.
Photographs of a variety of leaves, very basic, includes description and an easy classification system for leaves.

Temperate Deciduous Forest by April Pulley Sayre, 1994, Twenty-First Century Books, New York, NY.
Part of a series, very informative, more difficult reading level, few pictures.

A Tree in a Forest by Jan Thornhill, 1992, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, NY.
Presents the life story of a 200-year-old maple tree.

EcoZones Temperate Forest by Lynn M. Stone, 1989, Rourke Enterprises, Inc., Vero Beach, FL.
Examines the temperate forest as an ecological niche and describes the trees, plants, and animals supported there.

America's Forests by Frank Staub, 1999, Carolrhoda Books, Inc., Minneapolis, MN
Examines forests as an ecological niche, with good photographs and clear text, upper elementary level.

Desert
One Day in the Desert by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Fred Brenner, 1983, HarperCollins Publisher, New York, NY.
Narrative story about a child's life and journey in the desert biome, contains many desert facts about climate, plants and animals.

Endangered Desert Animals by Dave Taylor, 1993, Crabtree Publishing Co., New York, NY.
Begins with information about the desert biome, then proceeds with loads of information about desert animals.

Cactus by Peter Murray, 1996, The Child's World Inc., New York, NY.
Gives information about the desert and the plants that live there, great photographs.

Desert by April Pulley Sayre, 1994, Twenty-First Century Books, New York, NY.
Part of a series, very informative, more difficult reading level, few pictures.

Ecology Watch: Deserts by Clint Twist, 1991, Dillon Press, New York, NY.
Part of a series, great book with lots of information.

A Desert Scrapbook by Virginia Wright-Frierson, 1996, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.
Story written by author as she journeyed around the desert sketching what she saw, good drawings, lots of information on the animals and plants that live in the desert, not as informative about the climate itself.

Desert Life by Barbara Taylor, 1992, Dorling Kindersley, New York, NY.
Lots of good photographs.

The Gentle Desert by Laurence Pringle, 1977, MacMillian Publishing Co., New York, NY.
Older book with lots of great information on climate, plants and animals.

Deserts by Seymour Simon, 1990, Morrow Junior Books, New York, NY.
Lots of information, good photographs.

Desert Trip by Barbara S. Steiner, illustrated by Ronald Himler, 1996, Sierra Club Books for Children, San Francisco, CA.
Relates the experiences of a young girl and her mother as they backpack in the desert where the child learns about the plants, animals, birds, and rock formations.

Grassland
One Day in the Prairie by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Bob Marshall, 1986, HarperCollins Publisher, New York, NY.
Narrative story about a child's life and journey in the prairies, contains many grassland facts about climate, plants and animals.

Endangered Savannah Animals by Dave Taylor, 1993, Crabtree Publishing Co., New York, NY.
Begins with some general information about the savannah, then proceeds with lots of information about animals that live there.

Grasslands by April Pulley Sayre, 1994 ,Twenty-First Century Books, New York, NY.
Part of a series, very informative, more difficult reading level, few pictures.

Ecology Watch: Grasslands by Alan Collinson, 1992, Dillon Press, New York, NY.
Part of a series, includes information about savannas, prairies, steppes, and pampas, also gives information about the plants and animals in these grasslands.

What Do We Know About Grasslands? by Brian Knapp, 1991, Peter Bedrick Books, New York, NY.
Great book, includes temperature and precipitation graphs, explains the differences in grasslands.

Biomes of the World: Grasslands by Edward Ricciuti, 1996, Benchmark Books, New York, NY.
Part of a series, gives good information on grasslands.

Prairies by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, photographs by William Muñoz, 1996, Holiday House, New York, NY.
Great book, lots of great photos.

Chicaro, Wild Pony of the Pampa by Francis Kalnay, 1958, Walker Publishing Company, Inc., New York, NY.
Newbery Honor Book — Adventures of a boy and his pony on the Argentine Pampa.

Our World Grasslands by David Lambert, 1987, Silver Burdett Ginn, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Explores grasslands around the world, lots of photographs, upper elementary level.

EcoZones Prairies by Lynn M. Stone, 1989, Rourke Enterprises, Inc., Vero Beach, FL.
Examines prairies as an ecological niche and describes the trees, plants, and animals supported there.

Rainforest
Rainforest by Michael George, 1992, Creative Education, Minnesota.
Beautiful illustrations, great information.

Tropical Rainforest by April Pulley Sayre, 1994, Twenty-First Century Books, New York, NY.
Part of a series, very informative, more difficult reading level, few pictures.

Rainforest: Lush Tropical Paradise by Jenny Wood, 1991, Gareth Stevens Children's Book, Milwaukee.
Great book, shows canopy and map, very informative on plants and animals.

At Home in the Rainforest by Diane Willow, illustrated by Laura Jacques, 1991, Charlesbridge Publishing, Watertown, MA.

What Do We Know About Rainforests? by Brian Knapp, 1991, Peter Bedrick Books, New York, NY.
Part of a series, great information.

Exploring the Rain Forest by Mattias Klum and Hans Odoo, 1997, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., New York, NY.
Describes the variety, beauty, and interrelatedness of plant and animal life found in rainforests in Costa Rica, Brazil, Nigeria, and Borneo.

Nature's Green Umbrella, Tropical Rain Forests by Gail Gibbons, 1994, Morrow Junior Books, New York, NY.
Describes the climatic conditions of the rainforest as well as the different layers of plants and animals that comprise the ecosystem.

Rainforests and Reefs by Caitlin Maynard, Thane Maynard and Stan Rullman, 1996, Franklin Watts, New York, NY.
Journal of a 14-year-old who went to Belize and wrote about her experiences and observations, also includes many postcards, photos, and other writing samples.

Here is the Rainforest by Madeleine Dunply, illustrated by Michael Rothman, 1994, Hyperion Books for Children, New York, NY.
Repetitive poem about the rainforest and the plants and animals that live in the rainforest. Has good accurate information.

Forests and Jungles by Rae Bains, illustrated by Joel Snyder, 1985, Troll Associates, Mahwah, NJ.
Explores the rainforest biome, elementary level.

Tundra
Tundra by April Pulley Sayre, 1994, Twenty-First Century Books, New York, NY.
Part of a series, very informative, more difficult reading level, few pictures.

Above the Treeline by Ann Cooper, illustrated by Dorothy Emerling, 1996, Denver Museum of Natural History Press, CO.
Mostly about the animals that live in the tundra.

Biomes of the World: Tundra by Elizabeth Kaplan, 1996, Benchmark Books, New York, NY.
Lots of information, great pictures.

Arctic Tundra: Land with No Trees by Allan Fowler, 1996, Children's Press, New York, NY.
Very easy reading, but still informative.

Tundra by Donna Walsh Shepherd, 1996, Franklin Watts, New York, NY.

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, 1972, HarperCollins Publishing, New York, NY.
Newbery Medal Book. An Eskimo teenager is lost in the Artic tundra. She survives with the help of a wolf pack.

EcoZones Arctic Tundra by Lynn M. Stone, 1989, Rourke Enterprises, Inc., Vero Beach, FL.
Examines the Arctic tundra as an ecological niche and describes the trees, plants, and animals supported there.

Snow Bear by Jean Craighead George, paintings by Wendell Minor, 1999, Hyperion Books for Children, New York, NY.
Picture book about a little girl and a polar bear cub, with references to the tundra biome.

Other
What is a Biome? by Bobbie Kalman, 1998, Crabtree Publishing, New York, NY.
Great resource and quick reference for many biomes.

Videos

Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen:
MSB in the Rainforest
MSB Goes to Seed

National Geographic Really Wild Animals series:
Totally Tropical Rain Forest
Amazing North America
Swinging Safari

CD-ROM

National Geographic Earth 2U, Exploring Geography

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Mission: Biomes

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