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Vermilion Parish Schools
Activity 9:  Factors That Limit Plant and Animal Populations
(SI GLEs: 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 12, 20, 26, 33, 36; SE GLEs: 36, 37, 38)

Materials List: seeds for germination, potting soil, plant pots or containers, clear container, access to a computer program to create a simple graph, science learning logs

Following instruction on limiting factors and carrying capacity, use a local area to identify limiting factors in the area that might affect both plant and animal populations. Compare and contrast how biotic and abiotic factors could affect carrying capacity and limiting factors in a local ecosystem. Provide students illustrations or graphs showing how overpopulation can affect carrying capacity of the ecosystem. These references are found in most student textbooks.  Have students identify places in the selected area in which carrying capacity has affected a populationís growth. Instruct students to record their findings in their science learning logs (view literacy strategy descriptions) and share through class discussion.  Science learning logs are student created booklets used to record information as it relates to the text

Have students design an experiment to determine how a particular limiting factor, such as  water, the amount of light, or soil conditions, affect the germination of seeds.  The procedure should have multiple trials and should explain why this is important in an investigation. Allow each small group of students to select the variable (limiting factor) they wish to investigate. Instruct students to record a hypothesis for the outcomes of their experiment and determine what dependent variables they will measure or describe. Have students include the use of controls, identification of variables, and step-by-step procedures with appropriate data collection, analysis, and a written conclusion. Using the collected data, require students to create graphs or charts to help interpret and explain their results. If technology is available, graphs or charts should be electronically created and analyzed.

On completion of their experiment, have students evaluate their design and results and steps for improvement.

To help students identify factors that limit the growth of a population, discuss carrying capacity as it relates to a specific ecosystem.

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