Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Decomposition Mission

Decomposition is a fascinating and complex process. This activity gives learners an opportunity to build an understanding of decomposition that is grounded in real-world examples and lays the foundation for concepts related to matter and energy transfer in ecosystems. First, learners study the process of decomposition through observation and discussion as they create a sequence of decomposing wood and leaves. Then, learners consider the difference between physical decomposition and chemical decomposition and discuss forces that contribute to decomposition. Learners search for and discuss evidence of decomposers, make model diagrams to develop their ideas about the process of decomposition, and discuss the role of decomposition in the cycling of matter. Finally, learners are invited to recognize the evidence and impact of decomposition in the ecosystems they will explore in the future.

Students will:
  • Explore, observe, and compare samples of decomposing materials and use reasoning to
    determine the level of decomposition among them.
  • Work collaboratively in pairs to develop and discuss models of decomposition.
  • Search for decomposers and evidence of decomposers.
  • Investigate and discuss decomposition as the process of breaking down dead organisms and their waste materials into smaller and simpler forms of matter.
  • Create a model diagram for the process of decomposition.
  • Discuss the role decomposers play in making matter available to living plants.

Special Acknowledgements
We want to acknowledge Justice Outside for reviewing this session and supporting us to develop more equitable, inclusive, and culturally relevant instructional materials. Read more about our collaboration with Justice Outside.

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