Activity 4: Ecosystem Role Play
Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A chime
Preparation for Activity
- Lead this activity in a large, open space, preferably outdoors.
Description of Activity
Children learn about balance as an attribute of ecosystems. They learn why balance matters to the different species that live in an ecosystem together.
Gather in the space you have prepared. Explain that a forest is an ecosystem, a group of living beings that live together in balance. Ask the children what animals or plants live in a forest and affirm the appropriate answers.
Invite the children to stand at least arms' width apart, close their eyes, and imagine they are in a forest. Say:
Imagine you are a tree. You have roots that go deep down into the ground to hold you up and help you stay balanced. Your arms are your branches. The sun shines down on you and the rain falls on you. When I sound the chime, open your eyes and act like a tree. When I sound it again, freeze in place.
Ring the chime. (As children role play at being trees, you may need to remind them that trees do not talk.) After a minute or two, ring it again. When everyone has frozen, ask the children what would happen if there were too many trees in a forest. For example, there could be too much shade and other plants would not be able to grow. Next, ask participants what would happen if the trees started dying and there weren't enough trees. Possibilities could include animals losing their homes or shelter or not having enough fruit or nuts to eat. Point out that having just the right amount of trees is when nature is balanced.
Ask children to close their eyes again. Say:
Now you are a bird. You build your nests in trees. You eat insects and berries. You love to fly in the sky and you sing a beautiful song. When I ring the chime, open your eyes and act like a bird. When I ring it again, freeze in place.
Ring the chime. After one or two minutes, ring it again. When everyone is frozen in place, ask the children what would happen if there were too many birds in a forest. For example, they might eat all the berries and there wouldn't be enough for other creatures. Or, they might eat all the insects. Next, ask participants what would happen if the birds started dying and there weren't enough birds. Possibilities could include too many insects since there wouldn't be birds eating them, or not enough food for mammals that eat birds or eggs.
Have the children close their eyes again. Say:
Now you are a squirrel. You build nests in trees and love to run and jump on tree branches. Your favorite food is acorns. When I ring the chime, open your eyes and pretend you are a squirrel. When I ring it again, freeze in your place.
Ring the chime. After one or two minutes, ring it again. When everyone has frozen, ask the participants what would happen if there were too many squirrels in the forest. For example, they might take up all of the space in the trees and there wouldn't be enough room for bird nests. Or, they might eat all the acorns and other animals that eat acorns would not get enough. Next, ask participants what would happen if the squirrels started dying and there weren't enough squirrels in the forest. For example, maybe too many trees would grow because there wouldn't be enough squirrels eating acorns, or maybe animals that eat squirrels would not have enough food.
Divide the group so there are equal numbers of each type of living beings: trees, birds, and squirrels. Tell the children to act like their living being when you ring the chime and to freeze when you ring it a second time.
Ring the chime. After one or two minutes, ring it again. Process the activity with questions such as:
- I wonder what other creatures or plants might live in our forest.
- What about people? Are we part of a forest ecosystem? [Even though we may not live in a forest, people may visit a forest. Most of us use things that come from a forest-wood made from trees, medicine made from forest plants, food made from forest animals.]
- I wonder how balance is important in a forest.
- I wonder what happens to animals and plants when there are too many people in an ecosystem.
- I wonder what people can do to help forests and other ecosystems, like deserts, oceans, or wetlands stay balanced.
- I wonder why balance is important in the web of life.