Flow of Matter and Energy in Ecosystems

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SciPacks are self-directed online learning experiences for teachers to enhance their understanding of a particular scientific concept and its related pedagogical implications for student learning. Unlimited expert content help via email and a final assessment both facilitate and document teacher learning.

The Flow of Matter and Energy in Ecosystems SciPack explores the systemic interplay and flow of matter and energy throughout ecosystems, populations and organisms. Energy from the sun is the direct or indirect source of energy for nearly all organisms, it can flow only in one direction through ecosystems: from the sun to producers, to consumers, and finally to decomposers. Unlike the unidirectional transformation of energy, matter cycles among ecosystem components. One key ecosystem function, the cycling of carbon from non-living to living components and back, serves as a primary example in this SciPack for how all nutrients cycle on Earth. Webs and pyramids are used to model and communicate about the transfer of energy and cycling of matter within an ecosystem, representing how the total living biomass stays roughly constant—cycling materials from old to new life—accompanied by an irreversible flow of energy from captured sunlight into dissipated heat.

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Reviews (16)
  • on Sat May 18, 2019 11:50 AM

I enjoyed completing this SciPack, as it was a great refresher on energy flow in our ecosystems. This is the first SciPack I have completed, and I will keep this as a resource in the future. I especially enjoyed the break down of content and learning objectives at the end, making this relevant to teachers of multiple ages.

Megan  (Versailles, OH)
Megan (Versailles, OH)

  • on Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:07 PM

I believe the Scipack is a great method to review or relearn the content that is required of you to teach. Even though the assignment took 10 hours to complete, it is still good timing if you consider the amount of learning you are doing. Especially compared to how long it would take you to learn or review the same information in a classroom. I think that if the time becomes available to me, I would like to complete a few more Scipacks just to give me more confidence over different content areas, especially since it will be my job to pass that knowledge on to a whole classroom. The Scipack had a lot of information on it and I truly feel like I got a lot out of that assignment. However, the test itself was a little frustrating only because it was formatted as “check all that apply.” This was frustrating to me because I was very confident in my answer choices, but I began to question if another option might also fit in with the question. Therefore, I risked getting a whole answer wrong even though I still knew a few solid answers for it. Overall, I believe the Scipacks were a beneficial assignment for the class.

Staci Dildine
Staci Dildine

  • on Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:30 PM

The structure of the SciPacks really help me understand the underlying concepts that surround each topic. I had a lot of fear of science before learning about the NSTA Learning Center, and Initially, I was unsure of how well I'd grasp scientific concepts in a self-paced, online format. However, the carefully sequenced topics, interactive activities and simulations, in addition to the voice-over explanations work well together to help deepen my understanding in the content area. Especially valuable are the pedagogical implications and common student misconceptions. I feel a lot more knowledgeable about a subject after using a SciPack, and I highly recommend the Flow of Matter and Energy in Ecosystems SciPack to anyone needing to learn more about this topic.

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:01 PM

This sci pack provides you a great demonstration of how the systems of the Earth are interdependent. Be ready to see the bigger picture and have to rethink how you teach.

Susan German  (Hallsville, MO)
Susan German (Hallsville, MO)

  • on Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:15 PM

This is a great SciPack full of information and resources for food webs and carbon cycle. It's not an easy one and I second guessed myself on some of the questions. This really helped me understand the carbon cycle a lot more. Great resource!

Jessica Minton  (Collierville, TN)
Jessica Minton (Collierville, TN)

  • on Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:45 PM

I used the Interactive Striking a Solar Balance in my class today in the Flow of Energy and Matter in Ecosystems and found the students riveted to the presentation on the first day back to class after the Winter Holiday. It is so difficult to get the students engaged after a two week vacation and this resource absolutely hit a homer. Great job!

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Mon Oct 08, 2012 12:19 PM

This SciPack is helpful in understanding the connections in ecosystems, particularly the flow of matter and energy. While challenging, the SciPack is full of great information and interactives for learning and for review.

Wendy Ruchti  (Pocatello, ID)
Wendy Ruchti (Pocatello, ID)

  • on Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:51 PM

The Flow of Matter and Energy in Ecosystems scipack was a very informative resource!! Although I address these standards/benchmarks every year with my 7th graders, I learned a ton more about not only the content but also became more interested in developing lessons that highlight matter and its flow in ecosystems within my Life Science course. I really enjoyed this scipack...filled with information that was easy to understand.

Rochelle Tamiya
Rochelle Tamiya

  • on Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:24 PM

I've always dreaded the Ecology Unit because of having to teach the once "boring" concept of matter. However, upon completion of this scipack, I was eager and excited to learn that it was the missing link to my food chains/food web and energy pyramid lessons!! The content of this scipack made what seemed to me a boring concept come alive! This scipack got my creative juices flowing with the great interactives and ideas that were shared as I was completing the unit online. Don't let the title fool you...this scipack is not only filled with great, helpful information that is VERY useful in the classroom, but it has also changed my perception of the content! I purely enjoyed this fact, I scored the highest on this scipack's the end of the unit test compared to others!!

Rochelle Tamiya
Rochelle Tamiya

  • on Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:27 PM

This is an excellent resource that does a nice job of describing how all matter and energy can be accounted for as they move through an ecosystem. From explaining the relationship between the amount of sunlight available and its impact on ecosystems, to the describing how life on Earth is being affected by increasing levels of atmospheric carbon, this resource actively engages the viewer from start to finish.

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Mon May 20, 2019 2:25 PM

This is the second SciPack I have completed, and I found it to be a great refresher on matter and energy flow in our ecosystems. I did find that the assessment seemed to be a bit trickier than the first SciPack I completed. I really enjoyed the break down of content and learning objectives at the end, making this relevant to teachers of multiple ages and grades. I will definitely be keeping this as a resource and referencing it in the future.

Makensy Stump
Makensy Stump

  • on Mon May 05, 2014 1:12 AM

I loved the information and all that I learned from this scipack. I found it really vast and informative. But the frustrating part was the evaluation at the end which seemed to be really tricky. The answers are not straightforward.


  • on Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:08 PM

This SciPack provided a nice overview of ecological concepts of the cycles of matter and energy flow through an ecosystem. It serves as a nice refresher. Like some of the other life science scipacks, it doesn't delve too deeply however.

Rebecca F  (Elizabeth, WV)
Rebecca F (Elizabeth, WV)

  • on Sat Oct 27, 2012 6:58 PM

Most of the material was very good but some of the questions on the assessment did not clearly match the information present or required multiple choices where a direction of the "Best" answer was the prompt. The last question indicated multiple answers could exist but only allowed one choice.

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:00 PM

This is my 15th SciPack and I have to say that this assessment was very tricky and not as straight forward as the others. Even though I went through each lesson while listening, reading the material, and taking notes, it took me three tries to pass even though I have passed all of the others on the first try. This SciPack brought me to a dark place.

Lizabeth  (Walnut Grove, CA)
Lizabeth (Walnut Grove, CA)

  • on Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:08 PM

The assessment for this one is trying to be tricky and not very straight forward. Some of the questions are check all that apply even though it does not state it.

James  (El Paso, TX)
James (El Paso, TX)

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