Biomes and Ecosystems


Biomes and Ecosystems explores the various types of environments that exist in the world. Students will learn the difference between a biome and an ecosystem and be able to describe their traits. They will also discover facts about some specific kinds of biomes, such as deserts and tundras.

In the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page, you will find several ideas for additional activities or alternatives that you can incorporate into the lesson. One idea is to plan a field trip to a nature reserve, body of water, or similar place at which students can identify different ecosystems.

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What our Biomes and Ecosystems lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Biomes and Ecosystems teaches students about the various types of both of these environments. Students will discover their unique characteristics and will be able to differentiate between the two. They will also learn facts about specific kinds of both types of settings. This lesson is for students in 5th grade and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand.

Options for Lesson

There are several suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page that you could incorporate into the lesson if you want to extend it or have time. One such suggestion is to plan a field trip to either a nature reserve, some kind of body of water, or similar place for students to experience various biomes and ecosystems within those biomes. You could assign students one biome to research and later present to the class that includes information and images. Another idea is to create an ecosystem in the classroom using a tank or other container filled with plants, water, fish, snails, and other living organisms. You could also display images of different types of biomes that students have to identify. One final idea is to extend the discussion on the impact that construction, pollution, and similar forces have on ecosystems.

Teacher Notes

This page provides an extra bit of information or guidance on what to expect from this lesson plan. It suggests that you teach this lesson at the same time as others that explore specific biomes or environments. You can use the blank lines to write out your thoughts as we you prepare the lesson for your students.


Individual, Population, Community

The Biomes and Ecosystems lesson plan includes five content pages. The lesson begins by explaining the difference between a biome and an ecosystem. To illustrate the point, it asks students to think of themselves as individuals who live in a house with their family members. Though each person lives in the same place and interacts with each other, they are not the same. Each person is only one part of a family, and an ecosystem is only one part of a biome. Multiple biomes create an even larger system—Earth! All living and nonliving things are pieces of an ecosystem, and all ecosystems are pieces of a biome.

There are different levels at which something can be a part of an ecosystem on Earth. These levels are individual, population, community, ecosystem, biome, and biosphere. The first—individual—includes any single species. These organism do not breed with organisms from other groups (apart from some plants, which do cross-breed). For example, humans only breed with other humans.

Next, population describes a larger group of the same individuals, or species, that may have different traits. They must live in the same geographic area to be considered part of the same population. An example of this is people who live in the same area but have different hair colors or eye colors. The next tier is community, which describes when different populations interact in a community. This includes organisms from different species. For example, rabbits live alongside other organisms like raccoons and birds in their communities.

Ecosystem, Biome, Biosphere

The fourth level is ecosystem. In an ecosystem, living things interact with other living and nonliving things. These different populations rely on each other and on the nonliving things in their environment, like when humans rely on the sun for light and energy. Biome is the fifth level. Many different ecosystems that share characteristics make up biomes. Living things must adapt to the conditions in their biome. Three biomes in the United States are desert, grassland, and forest.

There are five different biomes, three of which that can be found in the United States: desert, grassland, and forest. Finally, there’s the biosphere. The biosphere contains everything in all of the biomes, both living and nonliving, including animals, plants, microorganisms, and decaying and dead organisms. The lesson notes that while ecosystems are varied and can exist anywhere, biomes have more specific characteristics.

Ecosystems Everywhere

Next, students will learn more about ecosystems. They will learn that their homes are like ecosystems because they live with other living and nonliving things, like their families, pets, the objects in their house, and the house itself! They and their families rely on both each other and the nonliving things in their home for survival. Every individual thing in an ecosystem has a particular role, or niche. In the ecosystem of a pond, all of the living and nonliving things interact. And they need to interact in order to survive.

If an ecosystem changes, it can cause problems for some of the living organisms in that ecosystem. In the example of a tree trunk, the trunk may begin to decay, and moss may start to grow. Insects eat the moss, and larger animals eat the insects. If there’s a fire and the tree trunk burns, insects will die and all of the animals above it in the food chain will have to find their food somewhere else. Sometimes, if a living organism can’t adapt to the changes in its ecosystem, it can become extinct. Humans can contribute to this through pollution, construction, and deforestation.

Three Important Cycles

The lesson then delves into three important cycles that are a part of ecosystems: the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and the nitrogen cycle. In the water cycle, water moves continuously between the surface of the earth and the air. The water changes from liquid to gas through evaporation and from gas to liquid through condensation. Then it falls from the atmosphere to Earth as precipitation in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail. A plant’s leaves also lose excess water through a process called transpiration.

In the carbon cycle, carbon continuously changes among different living things. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with water to create sugars and other chemicals. Animals or other organisms eat these chemicals, which are now carbon-rich, and recycle them back into the atmosphere. Eventually, after million of years, this carbon that is trapped in dead materials becomes fossil fuels.

In the nitrogen cycle, bacteria converts nitrogen, which makes up about 78% of the air, into other compounds that plants and animals can use. Living organisms need nitrogen to survive, and they use it in various cells and processes, such as DNA and photosynthesis.

This section of the lesson concludes by stating that we have ecosystems everywhere. All of these various ecosystems are part of the major biomes on Earth, which students will learn more about in the next section.

Deserts, Grasslands, and Forests

Finally, students will learn about the five major categories of biomes on Earth: desert, grassland, forest, aquatic, and tundra. Biomes are large ecological areas on Earth. We categorize the different biomes according to their climate, geographic features, soils, and vegetation. Biomes can sometimes appear as an ecosystem because of the interactions between plants and animals, which is a feature of an ecosystem as well. We often see multiple ecosystems in a single biome.

The first type of biome is a desert. Deserts can be hot, dry, semi-arid, coastal, or cold. They cover 20% of the earth and receive little to no rainfall. We characterize them as having little vegetation, poor soil, and animals that burrow to avoid the heat but come out at night. The next type of biome is the grassland of which there are two types: savanna and temperate. Grasslands have moderate amounts of rainfall and large areas covered in grass. Savannas have thin-layered soil and large mammals like lions and giraffes. Temperate grasslands include prairies. They also have high temperatures in the summer but freezing temperatures in the winter.

Forests are another type of biome. They make up 30% of the earth and are important for climate control because they store carbon. Millions of organisms live in forests. The different types of forests include tropical rainforests, like the Amazon, temperate rainforests, and boreal forests. They are characterized by high temperatures and lots of rain, loose soil, many trees, and green leaves.

Aquatic and Tundra

The next biome is aquatic. All water bodies, whether freshwater or marine, are a part of the aquatic biome. Millions of animals live in this biome, and it’s the basis of the water cycle. Life in this biome depends on several factors, such as the presence of sunlight and the surrounding temperature.

The final biome this lesson covers is the tundra, which includes two types. One type is arctic, which is the area around the North Pol. The other is alpine, which encompasses places at the tops of mountains. We characterize this biome by its extremely cold temperatures and little rainfall. Very few plants can survive in these areas, as well as only some animals. This type of biome covers about a fifth of the earth’s surface.

Each different type of biome is important to the overall well-being of the earth. They each have a role to play. The aquatic biome is the source of the water cycle and is a part of climate formation all over the world. Other biomes provide food, release oxygen into the air, absorb carbon dioxide, and more. Biomes and ecosystems are both very important for all life on Earth.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in the Biomes and Ecosystems lesson plan:

  • Individual—any living organism of a single species
  • Population—a group of the same individuals that have different traits and live in the same geographic area
  • Community—the populations of different species that interact with each other in a geographic area
  • Ecosystem—a setting that includes a community of living things that interact with each other and with non-living things
  • Biome—a collection of ecosystems that share similar characteristics
  • Biosphere—the group of biomes that merge together to form a giant community of all living and non-living things; Earth
  • Niche—the role each living thing plays within an ecosystem
  • Evaporation—when liquid changes to gas and floats up into the atmosphere
  • Condensation—when gas changes into a liquid
  • Precipitation—when water falls from the atmosphere in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail
  • Transpiration—when excess water evaporates from a plant’s leaves


The Biomes and Ecosystems lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each of these worksheets helps students demonstrate what they learned and solidify their grasp of the concepts of the lesson. The guidelines on the classroom procedure page outline when to hand out each worksheet to the students.


The activity requires students to work with a partner and observe a specific area outdoors. Students will explore the area and list possible ecosystems of any size that exist there. The chart on the worksheet lists three prompts for them to fill out as they complete the assignment. After they finish filling out the table, students will answer three questions.


The practice worksheet splits into three sections. For the first section, students will review 12 descriptions and decide which level of an ecosystem the statements refer to. They will use each of the six levels twice. The second part requires students to fill in the blanks for eight sentences. There is no word bank for this section, so you may or may not allow your class to refer to the content pages. Finally, students will respond to a prompt about what they believe their niche is in the world.


Similar to the practice worksheet, the homework assignment has two sections. First, students will review 15 statements and decide whether each one represents a desert, grassland, forest, aquatic, or tundra biome. The second part requires students to decide whether each of five statements is true (T) or false (F).

Worksheet Answer Keys

The last couple pages of the lesson plan document are answer keys for the practice and homework worksheets. The correct answers are all in red to make it easy to compare them to students’ work. For the most part, students’ responses should mirror the answer keys exactly, with very little variation only on the final prompt of the practice worksheet. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


5th Grade, 6th Grade


Science, Video

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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