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•   Wear your face covering in City of McAllen buildings
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Our staff works hard to protect you…
•   Undergoes a health screen per shift
•   Has protective equipment (counter shields, masks & more)
•   Frequently sanitizes the buildings
•   Makes hand sanitizer visible and available
•   Displays best health practice signage as a reminder to all
•   Follows the state phased guidelines for individuals and public gatherings

4th & 5th

Ecosystems Investigations

Topic- Ecosystems, Food Webs, Producer/Consumer/De-composer, Carbon Cycle

Background/Summary- This lesson takes children beyond the superficial things they see in nature and looks "behind the scenes" at the relationships that keep nature balanced. Their attention will be focused on nature's COMPLEXITY, and the connectedness in ECOSYSTEMS. The field trip includes:

  • An AQUATIC INVESTIGATION of Ruby Pond, including an introduction to basic abiotic factors and hands-on investigation /pond sampling for macro and micro invertebrates.
  • A FIELD WALK into the forest to focus on producers and consumers (with an introduction to the vocabulary of an ecosystem, and the CARBON CYCLE, prior to the walk).
  • A choice of lab activities: an OWL PELLET DISSECTION that focuses on food chains, or a ROCK AND MINERAL show.

Grade Level- 4th/5th (also appropriate for higher grade levels).


  • OUTDOOR: Tail walk (45 minutes); Aquatic Study (1 hour)
  • INDOOR: Carbon Cycle Lesson (Discovery Center)- (15 minutes) Owl Pellet Dissection or Rock & Mineral Show (40 minutes)

Location- Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen 600 Sunset Dr.

Contact- Education Supervisor, Victor De Leon, (956) 681-3370

Duration- 3 hours 9:00 am- Noon or 11:30am to 2:30pm Four 34-45 minute pod (depending on arrival time)

Suggested- 3 class groups. (Schools with 4 or 5 class groups will be provided a re-structured lesson plan.)

Conditions- Must have a minimum of 10 students. Every 10 students must be accompanied by one adult chaperone.

Reservation- Required in Advance. Dates are confirmed once payment (or P.O.) and reservation form are received.

Activities/Objectives- Students will spend one hour in each of the following lesson:


  • Introduction to the term ECOSYSTEM, and what is meant by an ABIOTIC versus BIOTIC factor in the an ecosystem.
  • ABIOTIC INVESTIGATION: temperature. pH, dissolved oxygen
  • BIOTIC INVESTIGATION: pond sampling with nets to collect macro and micro-invertebrates. Students will have access to magnifiers and microscopes.
  • Focus will be: Is this a healthy pond?


  • Introduction to the CARBON CYCLE- student will see a demonstration of how carbon moves from CO2 in the air into a PRODUCER that converts it to a simple sugar glucose, that is then passed through all the animals in the ecosystem.
  • Point emphasis: All plants are PRODUCERS. All animals are CONSUMERS.
  • PRODUCER/CONSUMER TRAIL WALK: Students will be given a PRODUCER/CONSUMER booklet and explore the thorn scrub on a trail.
  • Binoculars will be provided.



  • OWL PELLET DISSECTION- Students will be introduced to the concept of a FOOD CHAIN, and the term SECONDARY CONSUMER. In pairs, students will investigate the bones they dissect from an owl pellet to determine what animal the owl had eaten.
  • ALTERNATE: ROCK AND MINERAL SHOW- Students will learn about the layers of rocks found beneath the surface of the earth (i.e. Sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous) with examples of each. Then they will learn the difference between ROCKS and MINERALS, MINERAL and METALS, and see a variety of different minerals in the rock collection.

Key Terms-

Ecosystems- A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment

Food Chain- A series of organisms each dependent on the lower level as a source of food

Producer- plants that are able to photosynthesize to make food

Consumer- ANIMALS that must depend on eating a producer or other consumer to get its food

Decomposer- Organisms that break down dead plants or animals, returning their nutrients to the soil or air

Carnivore- Animals that eat other animals

Herbivore- Animals that eat plants

Omnivore- Animals that eat both plants and animals

Predator- An animal that must capture and eat another animal for food

Prey- An animal that is eaten by another

Carbon Cycle- The movement of carbon from the air as a gas (CO2), into plants, then animals, then back into the air

Invertebrates- Animals without backbones

Micro invertebrates-Animals without backbones that can only be seen with a microscope

pH- The level of free hydrogens in a solution, that determines if it is acidic (below7), neutral (7), or alkaline (above 7)

Dissolved Oxygen- The amount of oxygen molecules suspended in water, and available for plants and animals

Mole & Shrew- Small animals often eaten by owls

Modifications- During rain or inclement weather:

  • The Aquatic lesson will continue, with students making brief trips to the pond to collect (using umbrellas if needed), and the investigation moving inside to the Discovery Hall. Samples of creatures taken by previous classes will be available for students to observe under microscopes, inside.
  • The Trail Walk will continue using umbrellas. An alternative movie is available if needed that shows ecosystem activity.


  • Draw 12 things that can be found in a FOREST or POND ecosystem.
  • Is the following pond healthy of unhealthy: It is almost covered by lily pads, it has a pH of 5, low dissolved oxygen, and a large number of one kind of invertebrate- mosquito larva.
  • Draw a diagram showing a food web.
  • Describe what is in SOIL.

Contact Us
Quinta Mazatlan

600 Sunset Drive
McAllen, TX 78504

(956) 681-3370

Send us an Email.