Middle School

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View the 2023 EPSCoR Lesson Plans developed by the SD Discovery Center. 

Soil Biology Respiration

Middle School/High School. 
Even though soil is literally under our feet, it is easy to overlook as one of the Earth's interconnected systems. Soil is not just mineral matter weathered from parent material or deposited from erosion, nor even just decayed organic matter. Rather, soil is a habitat teeming with mega, macro and microscopic organisms, many of which act in symbiosis with the plant communities that soil physically supports. These organisms breathe and eat, releasing carbon dioxide which is stored in the soil. When the soil is disturbed, it releases the carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

This process is part of the  larger global carbon cycle

In this activity, students will discover that soil emits carbon dioxide using a simple color change test kit and develop an explanation for where that carbon dioxide comes from (hint: it has to do with respiration of below-the-surface organisms). Students will then apply their knowledge about soil and carbon dioxide in a carbon cycle mapping game, where they will see that soil CO2 is just one part of a larger, interconnected carbon cycle. 

Get access to this lesson here.

Breathing Earth

High School
Breathing Earth explores the hidden food web in soil and focuses on the cycling of matter and energy in that system. Students investigate the respiration rate of carbon dioxide in soil as an indicator of soil health as well as investigating soil moisture, temperature and other nutrients. Students may design their own investigations using the techniques learned in the kit. 

Get access to this lesson here.

The SD Discovery Center has teamed up with SD EPSCoR to develop curriculum enhancement resources for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) teachers in middle- and high-school. The STEM module database has free curriculum modules that are based on scientific research occurring in South Dakota’s higher education institutions and that are aligned with the South Dakota Science Standards.

The curriculum modules were developed by a team of South Dakota STEM teacher leaders and have been tested in their classrooms. The modules provide lesson plans, activities, multi-media content, and the opportunity for you and your students to connect to the research scientists who are doing this work for in-person or virtual visits.