Option 1: For a visual way to model water absorption by roots, try the following: Explain that, for many species of trees, the diameter of the spread of the tree’s roots is roughly equal to the tree’s height. Have students measure themselves and then make a circle (using chalk or string) with a diameter equal to their height. Play “Every Tree for Itself” with each student standing in the center of his or her circle. Tell the students they can gather water squares only within their circle of roots.
Option 2: Students design a variation to the game that represents what a forester could do to help the entire population of trees. For example, what they could do to prevent overcrowding, damage from wildfire, or another disturbance that would affect the flow of energy in the forest ecosystem?
Option 3: Read Nature’s Patchwork Quilt by Mary Miché (see Additional Resources). Choose a particular ecosystem, and give each student a paper square on which they illustrate an organism that lives in that ecosystem and how it contributes to it. Put all the students’ squares together to form a quilt representing that ecosystem.
Option 4: To help deepen students’ understanding of a particular forest ecosystem, read Life in the Boreal Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Gennady Spirin or A Walk in the Deciduous Forest by Rebecca L. Johnson and Phyllis V. Saroff in the Additional Resources.
See Additional Resources for more ideas to enrich this activity.