Activity 3.5: Tracing Energy Through an Ecosystem (30 min)

Target Student Performance

Students trace changes in energy and energy flow through carbon pools in ecosystems.

Resources Provided


Set up a computer and projector for 3.5 Tracing Energy PPT. You will also need to remind students about the movement of twist ties in Activity 3.2 Carbon Dice Game to solicit their initial ideas about energy flow in an ecosystem. Print out one copy of 3.5 Tracing Energy Worksheet for each student.


1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.

Show slide 2 of the 3.5 Tracing Energy PPT.


Use 3.5 Assessing the Tracing Energy Worksheet to get a sense of students’ ideas and explanations about tracing energy. At this point, students should trace energy correctly through an ecosystem. Pay close attention to how students describe the movement and transformation of energy: in their explanations, do they ever break the “rule” by suggesting that energy is created or destroyed? Make sure to review the rule: energy lasts forever!


For this activity, you will need to revisit some materials from previous activities: Activity 3.2 The Carbon Dice Game.


Have student work in strategic groups to complete the 3.5 Tracing Energy Worksheet.

Extending the Learning

Have students discuss the difference between the way we talk about energy in an ecosystem (as light energy, chemical energy, and heat energy) and the way we talk about energy in casual conversations.