The Living Systems Lab is a learning landscape and an experiential learning tool for students of all ages. We invite educators to contact us to figure out how we can fit a tour of the LSL into your curriculum. To help you plan a lesson or a tour, we have posted several curriculum frameworks below. Have more questions? Check out our prep guide below.
The lessons of the LSL can be applied to all classrooms. Click on the topics below to see how a tour of the LSL can be incorporated into your curriculum. Note that while the curriculum has been tailored to meet the MA Science and Technology/Engineering Teaching Standards for specific grade levels, we are happy to work with you to create a tour experience to meet your teaching goals.
Biodiversity – Students will see firsthand the effects of human activity on ecosystems and consider the connection between nature and human society. Specifically, students will consider biodiversity and ecosystem services provided by the Blackstone River, and how industrial and urban contamination affects them. Students will then experience a novel restoration project that demonstrates how biodiversity can improve ecosystem resiliency and restore a damaged landscape.
Topics Covered: biodiversity, ecosystem services, land use change, habitat degradation, protected areas management, pollution, ecological restoration, the Industrial Revolution, ecological design
Food Webs – Students will experience an engineered ecosystem in which various strands of the food web are showcased and their function explained. The Eco Machine effectively shows the role of fungi, bacteria and plants in the recycling and of nutrients and energy transfer, allowing student to visualize how these elements are stored and transferred. Students will consider the methods of energy transfer and see firsthand how the different components of an ecosystem contribute to healthy ecosystem function, and how humans can foster healthy ecosystem development in order to promote public health.
Topics covered: trophic levels, biomass and the building blocks of organisms, nutrient and energy flow, decomposers, herbivores, carnivores, autotrophs, pollution, food web dynamics and perturbations
Natural Cycles and Human Activity – Students review the water cycle in an outdoor environment, using the Fisherville Mill site to help identify how different factors will affect how water flows through the ecosystem. They will see the legacy of an industry that relied on both fossil fuels and renewable energy, and consider how these practices have affected the water cycle and other ecosystems in the area and globally. Finally, students will explore the Eco Machine and Canal Restorers and begin to consider how human engineered solutions may play a role in mitigating some of the water and weather related challenges that we face today.
Topics covered: water and the water cycle, runoff, erosion, human energy resources and their extraction, land use change, biodiversity loss, climate change and engineered environmental solutions
Structures and Cycles – students will experience an engineered ecosystem in which various strands of the food web are showcased. Student will see up close the ways in which fungi, plants and bacteria interact with their environment, the structures they use to obtain resources, and how they reproduce. The unique setup of the Eco Machine allows students to identify various stages of organismal life cycle, and discern how different biotic and abiotic factors affect organismal growth and reproduction.
Topics covered: plant, bacterial and fungal life cycles, resources needed for growth and development, how organisms interact with their environment to obtain resources