Ecological Interactions and Biodiversity of Kelp Forestsby Lauren Fieberg of Sage Hill School
Grade Level K-4
Kelp forests play a vital role of the health of our global oceans. These fragile biodiverse
ecosystems provide the ideal ecosystem to look at ecological interactions among
organisms, trophic structure, nutrient cycling, and overall ecosystem dynamics. Often times
students who live near the coast get to experience the rock intertidal zone, but rarely do
students get a chance to explore and understand what lies beneath the vastness of the
ocean. This lesson will allow students to explore the kelp forest using basic concepts in
ecology without having ever left the classroom.
â— Engage in meaningful activities focus around kelp forest ecology and the role of
kelp forests in maintaining the health of our local and global oceans
Kelp forests provide an important role in the health our global
oceans. They are found pole to pole in nutrientÂrich waters with
water temperatures typically 20Â°C or less. Their dependence on
light for photosynthesis restricts them to shallow coastal zones no
greater than 40m in depth, an area often referred to as the subtidal
zone. These kelp forests rapidly grow, sometimes gaining up to
30cm per day, and provide a rich biodiverse ecosystem for some of
the 800 species that call it home. Each species occupies itâ€™s own
specific niche, or role within the environment. The balance of these
interactions is what keeps the kelp forest healthy and in balance
with the surrounding ocean environment. With more and more
human exploitation of our ocean resources, our kelp forests and the
species that reside within them have become threatened. To
maintain their existence humans have resorted to restoration efforts.
1. Drawing comparisons between structure of kelp and that of a plant
2. Looking at Energy flow and interactions within the kelp---students research one
organism and create/add it to the kelp forest they created---students are asked to
think about how many organisms would lose their habitat if the kelp didnâ€™t exist,
or if specific species didnâ€™t exist.
1. Q. What is a kelp forest and why is it important for ocean health?
â— Have students think pair share
â— Whole class share out
â— Read overview and background provided
2. Q. How does kelp get energy to grow?
â— Discuss photosynthesis briefly
3. Review or introduce the following terms:
â— Ecological Interaction (within species, among different species),
â— Ecological Niche/Role
â— Food Web
II. Presentation (20 MIN)
â— Modeling, visuals,
â— Scaffolding- such as
4. Read the background provided on kelp forests.
5. Watch the film: The Kelp Lady (10 min)
6. Compare the kelp forest to a local ecosystem such as a forest or savannah
and discuss biodiversity.
IV. Practice &
Application (20-30 MIN)
â— Meaningful Activities
7.Exploring structure and function of kelp: Have students complete the plants
vs. kelp worksheet provided.
â— Have them make observations about the structure of plant portion
firstâ€”labeling: leaves, roots, stem.
â— Walk them through the kelp part labeling kelp: stipe, blade, holdfast, and
â— When they are finished labeling have them draw a dotted line between
similar structures on plant and kelp: (holdfast-roots; blade-leaf; stipe-stem).
Go over the correct answers at end.
8. Create a kelp forest: Give each student a piece of construction paper and
based on their kelp diagram cut out a blade of kelp. If you are worried about
size and shape uniformity you can provide a template. Attach all blades to
string to create a large length(s) of kelp. Eventually stringing this to the ceiling.
9. Looking at Energy flow and interactions within the kelp: students research
one organism and create using construction paper and markers/add it to the
kelp forest they created---students are asked to think about how many
organisms would loose there habitat if the kelp didnâ€™t exist, or if specific
species didnâ€™t exist.
10. Class discussion regarding the role of kelp and the role of individual
organisms within the kelp forest
11. Feedback to students
12. Assess student
10. Provide any feedback needed.
Q. Were students able to successfully create their kelp forest?
Q. Did students gain knowledge about the differences and similarities between
the structure of kelp and the structure of plants?
Q. Did students gain insight into the diversity of the kelp forest ecosystem?
Closure (5 MIN)
13. Review key vocabulary
16. Revisit Essential Question
11. Review the essential questions and vocabulary.
12. Install kelp forest and keep in the classroom for review.
13. Have students share out about local Eco Heros in their lives similar to Nancy
Caruso in the film (for a longer assignment students could produce a video, art
piece, or short story)