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Soil Nutrient Cycling

Grade Level: 6-8

Introduction: A vast array of organisms live on and in soils.  These organisms have a number of roles in the ecosystem, including a critical role in nutrient cycling.  These organisms include insects, worms, bacteria, and fungi.  An incredible diversity of plants is supported by these soil communities. Students will examine several examples of nutrient cycling in the tropical montane cloud forest ecosystem.

Objectives: Students will be able to: (1) define “decomposition” and “nutrient cycling” and use them in appropriate contexts, (2) explain the role of nutrient cycling and identify nutrient cyclers, (3) learn basic plant nutrients and relate specific nutrients (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus) to the organisms involved in cycling them.

National Science Standards: Populations and ecosystems (C); structure and function in living systems (C); diversity and adaptations of organisms (C); structure of the earth system (D).

Time: 60 minutes (10 minutes for Opening, 5 minutes to read handout introduction, 10 minutes to complete “Detritus” and “Decomposition” sections, 5 minutes to read and discuss “Nutrients” section,  25 minutes for “Nutrient Cyclers” section , 5 minutes for closing)


Lesson Plan: PDF | DOC

Worksheets: PDF | DOC

Assessment: PDF | DOC

Related Plans:

  1. Soil Basics: Function and Variation
  2. Nutrient Cycling
  3. Microhabitats: The Habitat of the Rotting Log
  4. Water and Decomposition
  5. Plant Rooting Strategies


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