Dynamic Ecosystems: A World of Change

Instructor: Madeline Goodwin
5-10 students
Suggested Age Ranges: 11-14, 13+
Meets: Wednesdays at 12:00 pm Pacific time



Our world is constantly changing. From the Arctic tundra to the African rainforests, each biome of our planet supports unique ecological communities. Climate change imperils many of these ecosystems, but there are still many wonders to explore. Diverse topography, oceanic and atmospheric currents, and soils support millions of different plants, animals, fungi, and other species. Some ecosystems developed virtually untouched by human societies, while others were actively shaped by the peoples who lived there.

In this class, we will go beyond defining different types of static ecosystems. Class discussions will cover food webs, systems interconnectivity, and the changing dynamics of the Earth’s biome. We will learn about how humans and ecosystems work together, how our biosphere is endangered by climate change and human development, mechanisms for ecological survival, and ways human actions can mitigate the effect of climate change on our shared planet.

Weekly assignments will explore evolutionary adaptations, inter-species relationships, and the groups taking action to preserve their natural landscape. A final project will have students diving deep into a regional ecological community of their choosing, exploring its native species, the threats being posed, and what actions are being taken to preserve it.

Pre­-requisites: A basic understanding of adaptation and evolution by natural selection; working knowledge of earth systems and plant and animal physiology; Intro to Planet Earth and Meet the Biosphere recommended.


Week 1: Introduction to the course
Week 2: The Arctic circle, polar ice caps, and warming temperatures
Week 3: Taiga, permafrost, and methane release
Week 4: Chaparral, drought, and wildfiresSaharaDesert
Week 5: Temperate forests and changing weather patterns
Week 6: Temperate grasslands, fire, and drought responses
Week 7: Tropical grasslands, drought, and desertification
Week 8: Deserts and temperature increases
Week 9: Tropical seasonal forests and atmospheric currents
Week 10: Tropical rainforests and the carbon cycleAustraliaRainForest
Week 11: Mountains and snow pack
Week 12: BREAK
Week 13: Catch-up/student Q&A
Week 14: Freshwater ecosystems and warming waters
Week 15: Saltwater ecosystems, sea level rise, and acidification
Week 16: Student presentations


Semester-long classes are $245 each. Members pay $230!
We accept charter school funds

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