Teaching Science

Biology Resources

At the moment this is a placeholder page. I’ll be adding ecology resources from the old grade 10 course as I get them converted.

Copyright on all materials on this site is retained by the authors. You are granted a limited license to reproduce these resources for classroom use, provided the copyright notices are not removed. Charging a fee for these resources, or distributing them in any way outside your classroom, is prohibited.

Understanding Ecosystems

E.O. Wilson's Life on Earth

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Updated October 1, 2015
On June 30, 2014, the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation released the ground-breaking new high school biology textbook E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth. We believe that education is the most important tool we have to face the challenges confronting our living planet. Life on Earth was created to instruct and inspire students, the future stewards of Earth.

Life on Earth is an iBooks Textbook consisting of 41 chapters in 7 separate units and can be downloaded for free from the iBooks Store. The text provides a complete, original, standards-based, media-rich curriculum to give high school students a deep understanding of all of the central topics of introductory biology.

To create Life on Earth, the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation brought together a team consisting of educators, writers, multimedia artists, 3D animators trained in science and cinema, and textbook professionals, led by naturalist Edward O. Wilson. The editorial team, headed by Morgan Ryan, worked in full partnership with the Boston-based scientific graphics company Digizyme, Inc, headed by Gaël McGill, PhD, with the goal of creating a cultural landmark—a portal that will introduce students to the grandest story there is, the story of life on Earth, from molecules to ecosystems, from the origin of life to the modern awareness that we control the environment we live in.

Digital textbooks are poised to transform education. The richness and immediacy of vibrant multimedia lessons will transform how students learn and how instructors teach. Our textbook development team is thrilled by the things we are able to deliver that were never possible before. We navigate inside a virtual cell. We take students by helicopter to the Gorongosa landscape in Africa to explain the succession of plants and animals over time.

Today’s high school biology students will be tomorrow’s biochemists, explorers, environmental policy makers, park rangers, and informed citizens.
E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth was created to prepare them for their work.

Life on Earth is a gift from the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation for students, families, and concerned individuals. It is available now for free in 151 countries and has already been adopted in many classrooms. Our goal for 2014–2015 is to promote its use in classrooms everywhere. If you share our goals for educational and environmental awareness, please support the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and join us in promoting a culture of stewardship in which people are inspired to conserve and protect our biological inheritance.
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Added June 13, 2017

Minute Earth: Why Poor Places Are More Diverse

A short three minute video explaining why poorer soils allow more biodiversity. A good way to spice up a lesson on biodiversity.

Behavioural Ecology

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Updated March 19, 2015
In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

What factors influence where and what an animal chooses to eat? Why do some animals mate for life whilst others are promiscuous? Behavioural ecologists approach questions like these using Darwin's theory of natural selection, along with ideas drawn from game theory and the economics of consumer choice.

Scientists had always been interested in why animals behave as they do, but before behavioural ecology this area of zoology never got much beyond a collection of interesting anecdotes. Behavioural ecology gave researchers techniques for constructing rigorous mathematical models of how animals act under different circumstances, and for predicting how they will react if circumstances change. Behavioural ecology emerged as a branch of zoology in the second half of the 20th century and proponents say it revolutionized our understanding of animals in their environments.

Phylo — DIY Collectable Card Game

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Updated July 9, 2016


Phylo is a project that began as a reaction to the following nugget of information: Kids know more about Pokemon creatures than they do about real creatures*. We think there’s something wrong with that. Apparently, so do many others.


Phylo is: (1) a card game that makes use of the wonderful, complex, and inspiring things that inform the notion of biodiversity; (2) an exercise in crowd sourcing, open access, and open game development; and (3) FREAKIN’ AWESOME!


The phylo project is the product of the kind and (frankly) amazing contributions of many many individuals who have given art, science expertise, gaming advice, programming chops, and more. A card usually begins its life by someone submitting art to a Flickr pool, but you can also develop new games, help out with programming, or providing general feedback by leaving comments on the blog or forum.


You can start quickly by printing yourself a deck and checking out a set of rules. Alternatively, you can just collect and print the cards by going to the card section and “select”ing the ones you like. We’re starting to amass a wide variety of different decks, some of which are high quality and available for purchase!

This is a really cool-looking project, spearheaded by David Ng at the UBC Office of Learning Technologies. Check out the web site (http://phylogame.org) for a history of the project, printable card decks, and more information on the project.

Natural Ecosystems and Stewardship


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Added April 7, 2017
PhyloBoreal is an ecosystem card game about the boreal forest. Players use their cards to build and cause disturbances to a communal food web. The winner is the player who gains the most species points by creating a stable and diverse food web.

PhyloBoreal is a customized version of a card game called Phylo developed at the University of British Columbia. PhyloBoreal was designed by yours truly, Elly and Jonathan, because we think the boreal forest is a landscape of incredible beauty, importance, and diversity. We hope you will too!

The price of this game covers only the cost required to produce each deck—no profit is made. Please consider donating, or at least signing the petition at Boreal Birds Need Half [
www.borealbirds.org] to help protect the boreal forest!

The artwork on these cards is top-notch, and as much of Ontario is covered by boreal forest this game could easily find a place in the ecology unit.

I’ve listed this under Natural Ecosystems and Stewardship because the special action cards in PhyoBoreal include stewardship, as well as exploitation.

Tribes Cards

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Updated March 29, 2015
Tribes is a neat little game published by Steve Jackson Games. In it, the players each take the role of a palaeolithic tribesperson. They can be male or female, and a hunter, gatherer, or crafter. The winner of the game is the player with the most surviving adult children.

Back when ecology was part of the grade 10 curriculum, I would run a Tribes game over a semester with my gifted students, taking 5 minutes per period to handle each turn, and doing all the dice-rolling and book-keeping outside of class time. I used these cards and little envelopes to simplify accounting: students could trade what they wanted during the five-minute turn, and wrote a short note with their actions for the next season. I resolved all their actions between classes, and added food obtained and tools made, as well as took out food eaten.

It worked well with gifted 15-year-olds. I think it would need some simplification for younger students.

What are the links to ecology? In addition to hunting grounds getting hunted out and needing time to recover, the tribe itself is part of the ecosystem, and students can experience the stresses of overpopulation, migration, and boom-bust cycles.


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Updated May 15, 2016
Increasing industrialization of both the Alberta Tar Sands and Ontario's Ring of Fire, coupled with a longer fire season brought on by global climate change, are a potential disaster-in-waiting. City students have very little 'feel' for how fast a forest fire can spread. This simulation can help.

As the crew looks out the windows of the twin otter, a smoke column stands out as the only interruption in a sea of spruce. Candling flames jump into the sky as individual trees burst into combustion. The plane slows down to circle the fire and crepe paper is tossed out to test the wind. Then the smokejumpers, each clothed in kevlar and packing 35 pounds of gear, jump through the door and parachute 1500 feet to a postage stamp opening in the stand. Polaskis begin to dig into the thick duff layer and in a few hours a trench is dug around a fire the size of a football field. As the fire subsides into smoldering pockets, the jumpers take their first break. Now it's Miller time.

Smokejumpers is a solitaire game simulating fire fighting efforts. The player assumes the role of a fire boss and must decide the most effective way of fighting a forest fire - both in terms of tactics used and value lost. Fire growth is governed by the game system, with wind and fuel moisture content as the driving forces. The goal of the player is to contain the fire while keeping costs low and still be able to get home in time for supper.

The four 11 x 17" maps represent typical forested areas of predominantly coniferous (evergreen) stands. The maps are geomorphic so they can be joined in combinations to create larger playing areas. The 240 die-cut, back-printed counters represent fires (active and soldering), fire fighting resosurces (crews, helicopters and other equipment), and containment lines.

Smokejumpers is an intriguing simulation. The rules are based on the actual models used by the Canadian Forest Service, where Dr. Anderson is a research scientist.

Ecosystems by Design

Food Forest

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Added April 21, 2017
Food Forest is a unique, fun deck of cards that can be used to play games based on natural, organic gardening. Food Forest games help adults and children understand how plants interact - both in a garden and in the wild. Players learn about companion planting, the layers of a forest, beneficial insects, and principles of permanent agriculture, or Permaculture.

This deck comes with instructions for two games that can be played with the cards. More games can be found online, and you can even design your own! This deck is also an inspiring tool for designing your own food forest.

This is an excellent fit for the ecology unit. Although the plants are those found in New England, that’s similar enough to Ontario for many of our students — and there are blank cards so you can add local plants if you want.

The game is available in both hard copy and print-and-play versions.
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Added June 13, 2017

Minute Earth: How To (Literally) Save Earth

Farming erodes soil 50 times faster than it forms. We can change that, but will we?

This short three minute video from MinuteEarth looks at soil formation and degradation, especially the effects of farming practices on soil, and suggests a few sustainable farming techniques that would help.
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Added June 13, 2017

Minute Earth: How to Build a Better City

This short two minute video from MinuteEarth takes a quick look at urban design, and how North American cities are not as ecologically friendly as European ones.