1. Teaching Ideas

Lifecycles, Ecosystems and Impact

What important messages are conveyed through these texts?

How might picture books help us uncover and inquire into different concepts?

What are ecosystems?

What is a lifecycle?

We read the text Salmon Stream by Carol Reed-Jones illustrated by Michael S. Maydak. This wonderful picture book tells the story of a the life cycle of salmon. Against staggering odds the eggs hatch and grow, travel to the ocean, and eventually struggle upstream to their birthplace again, to spawn a new generation.

While reading the story we discussed the concepts lifecycle, connection, causation, food chain and interdependence. The students wondered:

  • why they needed a fish ladder
  • why the salmon change colour
  • if both the male and female salmon change colour
  • why the salmon wait till the rains came to travel
  • what a homing urge was 
  • why the salmon were bruised when they returned to the stream
  • why only a few salmon made their way back to spawn
  • why a yolk sac was useful 

After discussing the text, the students used pictures and words to capture their thinking. They shared their own ideas about the different concepts, thinking deeply about the lifecycle of the salmon. 

Salmon Stream

Next, we read the story The Wolves are Back by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor. This picture book tells the story of how, over a century, wolves were persecuted in the United States and nearly became extinct. The students stopped at every page, discussing the impact the wolves and the different animals had on each other. They noticed how the ecosystem thrived when there was balance. 

While reading the story, we brought attention to the different concept words change, causation and responsibility. We discussed change over time, cause and effect (impact) and our responsibility towards the different environments around us. 

We used picture cards to help us see the connection each living thing had with another. The students discussed the food chain (grass -> elk -> wolf) , interdependence (<->), growth, lifecycle and impact

They stumbled upon new words and attempted to uncover what they meant by tapping into their prior knowledge, breaking words up into smaller words to look for clues, and looking for clues in the beautiful illustrations.  

Then, the students created their own graphic organiser using the app Popplet. They used the pictures and information they had gathered to discuss the connections they made and explain the concepts they had uncovered. 

We continue to wonder about other ecosystems.
– How are they different from one another?
– What animals live and thrive in these habitats?
– What is our responsibility in protecting these ecosystems?
– Why is this important?

Next, we read the story ‘Where’s the Elephant?‘ by Barroux. This picture book is about a game of hide-and-seek that takes on a new dimension as a growing city encroaches on the jungle the animals call home.

The students spoke in detail about the pictures, and the messages conveyed through them. They shared the feelings the story evoked and why they fest that way.
– I feel sad because the animals have no home.
– I am worried that the jungle near my home in Germany would be cut down like that.

The students used shared their thoughts on ‘EXIT Tickets’ a the end of the read aloud.

This powerful text helped the students discuss concepts about change, impact, habitats and responsibility.


  • Eunseong “Protect the environment.” (Responsibility)
  • Seungje “Don’t destroy nature because bad things can happen.” (Causation)
  • Chanwoong “If you cut down the trees then plant the same amount of trees.” (Responsibility)
  • Carlotta “Cutting trees destroys animals’ homes.” (Causation/Impact)
  • Reggie “If you cut down trees then the species of animals might die out.” (Extinction)  

After listening to the story, we noted the different things that we found interesting, important, or insightful. We used the Thinking Routine ‘CSI‘ to help us distil the essence of ideas non-verbally.

  • Colour – we chose a colour that we felt best represents or captures the essence of a key idea.
  • Symbol – we chose a symbol that we felt best represents or captures the essence of a key idea.
  • Image – we chose an image that we felt best represents or captures the essence of a key idea.

The students shared their ‘CSI’ with peers and discussed the key ideas that resonated with them.

Our journey continues… 

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