Most days I get to take the kids to their various after school activities. We ride in my old truck, the three of us crammed onto the single bench seat for the twenty or thirty minutes it takes to get where ever we are going. The radio doesn't work, so the kids can either listen to my singing (J tells me I'm really good at singing badly), or we can talk. They usually, somewhat grudgingly, take the second option.
When we had our first discussion about the food chain I left them with a challenge. It went something like this: Find the rule that describes where food comes from and what happens to the waste that is true for a tree in our yard, a frog, a lion, a shark, a bee, and a bird. I gave them a couple of days to think about this. Yesterday, while I had them trapped in the truck for 30 min. we discussed it. R (third grade) said they get their food from their environment. J (5th grade) said they get it from their niche in their environment. We tried to narrow it down a bit further. For example, the environmental niche for the maple tree we planted in can be found lots of places in the temperate zone, but that's not where our tree gets it's food. Eventually, we all agreed that all living things get their food,water, and energy from their home and deposit all their waste there too. This waste is used by other creatures whose homes overlap. This is the cycle that supports all life on this planet.
Then I asked about humans. Where do we get our food and what do we do with our waste?
Today J is taking a unit test about ecosystems. I'm sure she will give some answers the teacher wasn't expecting. Sometimes it is scary to be a parent teaching your children challenging ideas.