Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students use a sample of damp decomposing organic material from a compost bin and sort the material to measure its species diversity.

Learning goals:

  • Investigate the species in a confined ecosystem.
  • Collect mathematical data about species diversity.
  • Choose appropriate scientific equipment to complete the investigation.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking, Numeracy.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.2.

Australian Curriculum content description:

Year 7 Science:

  • There are differences within and between groups of organisms; classification helps organise this diversity (ACSSU111)
  • Identify questions and problems that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on scientific knowledge (ACSIS124)
  • Collaboratively and individually plan and conduct a range of investigation types, including fieldwork and experiments, ensuring safety and ethical guidelines are followed (ACSIS125)

Year 8 Science:

  • Identify questions and problems that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on scientific knowledge (ACSIS139)
  • Collaboratively and individually plan and conduct a range of investigation types, including fieldwork and experiments, ensuring safety and ethical guidelines are followed (ACSIS140)

Syllabus OutcomesSC4-4WS, SC4-5WS, SC4-6WS, SC4-14LW

Topic: Biodiversity.

Time required: 60 mins

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – Obtain fresh compost from a kitchen green waste compost bin if the school does not have its own compost bin. Do not use commercial compost as it will not have the living creatures and dry compost can release dangerous bacterial spores in a closed environment.

Resources required: Availability of stereo microscopes, petrie dishes and other collecting material, disposable rubber gloves, fresh kitchen compost (do not use commercial compost as it will not have the living creatures and dry compost can release dangerous bacterial spores in a closed environment). Student Worksheet – one copy per student OR computers/tablets to access the online worksheet.

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities.

Homework and extension opportunities: Includes opportunities for extension.

Safety: Students should not work with dry compost material. Exposed dry composed material should never be kept indoors. Dry compost material, particularly commercial products can produce dangerous airborne bacteria.

Keywords: Compost, species diversity, ecosystem.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.

Worksheets

Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students investigate the species in a confined ecosystem, collect mathematical data about species diversity and choose appropriate scientific equipment to complete the investigation.

Teacher content information: A compost bin is an enclosed ecosystem. After some time the compost bin will host a range of common soil and leaf litter creatures, along with animals that are attracted to rotting fruit and other vegetable material, fungus and molds.

Species biodiversity can be studied mathematically. In a study on compost bins, a comparison could be made of species diversity over time, between compost bins content and seasonal change.

Hot tips:

  • Safety - Students should not work with dry compost material. Exposed dry composed material should never be kept indoors. Dry compost material, particularly commercial products can produce dangerous airborne bacteria.
  • This is a student-led activity. Students can wor
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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: What would happen to the compost in a compost bin if there were no critters in there?

Safety: Do not work with dry compost material. Exposed dry composed material should never be kept indoors. Dry compost material, particularly commercial products, can produce dangerous airborne bacteria. 

Aim: To identify how many species can be observe in a specimen from a compost bin.

Materials: Use appropriate scientific equipment and improvise using alternative equipment.

Method: Collect mathematical data that will help your group describe the biodiversity in the compost.  

Results Table: Sort the species into rough categories that include type of organism and size. Type of organisms include:

  • Insects and insect like creature with six legs
  • Insects with no legs – maggots and grubs
  • Spiders and mites with eight legs
  • Slaters and pill bugs
  • Millipedes and centipedes
  • Snails and slugs
  • Lizards
  • Fungus and molds.

Reflection Questions

1. How many different species have been

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