How does the structure of a plant or tree determine the type of soil it lives in? Or better yet, how does soil determine the adaptation a plant evolves over time? Fifth graders are looking for patterns in data to determine just this!
Last week, they looked at different types of Midwestern soils, and acknowledged that they each absorbed different amounts of water at different rates. Knowing this, this got students thinking about an important structure of all plants--their roots.
Using scaled representations, students used mathematics to determine a scaled version of prairie plants and woodland trees. What do you see?
From their observations, students uncovered that prairie plants have roots that are incredibly long compared to the height of their plant exposed above the soil's surface. This must mean that they live in drier soil and must reach deep within the soil to find the water they need. Woodland trees, however, don't have to travel so deep. The soil they live in is moistened as water falls off the crown of a tree, and the roots reach out as wide as the crown to gather the necessary water they need for survival. Interesting study!
Soil, which is part of the Earth's geosphere, is such an important part of an ecosystem. It supports many forms of life, including plants and the microscopic bacteria that decompose practically everything that's in an ecosystem. How does the type of soil that is in an ecosystem affect the types of plants that grow there? Do soils absorb water different? Do they release it differently?
Fifth graders had the opportunity to look and feel at three types of soils (topsoil, sand, and gravel) both when dry and wet. They then designed an investigation to measure how much water each of the soils could hold.
Their conclusions? That different soils hold different amounts of water, and that this would certainly affect how plants could survive in each of these soils.
When our guest scientist came to our classroom, we were lucky to interact with isopods (rolly-poly bugs) and see how they respond both in an outside of an ecosystem. We also had a chance to see plenty of pictures of the three major Midwestern Ecosytems and identify interactions between them. Check out some of the photos below!