Ecology Unit


This massive ecology unit has all of the notes, labs, activities, practices, projects, and tests you need to teach ecology in your biology class.

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This no-prep paper AND digital paperless product is all of the notes, labs, activities, practices, projects, and tests you need to teach an ecology unit in your biology class. Content covered includes introduction to ecology, organization of life, geochemical cycles, population growth patterns, human impact on the environment, ecological succession, and relationships and interactions of organisms. Links to video lectures are also included for each set of PowerPoint lecture notes. Everything is provided for two levels – CP and Honors. Not only that, but the student packets come in a paperless digital version that can be used in Google Drive™ and/or Microsoft OneDrive™. This is perfect for the teacher who is in a 1:1 classroom, for someone who is hoping to integrate more educational technology to move towards becoming a paperless classroom, or if you are currently teaching via distance learning. Because it is all-inclusive, it is especially useful for new teachers, maternity leave, and flipped classrooms!

Note: This is Unit 7 in my Biology Curriculum Full Year Bundle. You can buy this unit for 20% off if you purchase it as a part of the full year bundle.

What content is in this unit?

  • Characteristics of life
  • Ecological organization
  • Dichotomous keys and classification of life
  • Biogeochemical cycles: water, carbon, and nitrogen
  • Population ecology, including population growth patterns and limiting factors
  • Human impact on the environment
  • Ecological succession – both primary and secondary
  • Relationships between organisms: predation, competition, and symbiosis
Note: I do NOT cover trophic levels, food chains, or food webs in this unit. I cover those topics in my Energy Flow unit. I have found over the years that my students really understand photosynthesis and cellular respiration so much better when they learn it alongside the context of the flow of energy on the macroscopic level through trophic levels and food chains. You can read more about the rationale behind my scope and sequence here.

What standards are covered?

When writing each of my biology units, I wrote them within the scope of the *NGSS high school life science standards.  Each unit incorporates DCIs, crosscutting concepts, and the science and engineering practices.  The following DCIs are specifically covered in this unit:
  • HS-LS2-1: Use mathematical and/or computational representations (graphs, charts, histograms, and population changes gathered from simulations or historical data sets) to support explanations of factors that affect carrying capacity of ecosystems at different scales.
  • HS-LS2-2: Use mathematical representations (finding the average, determining trends, and using graphical comparisons of multiple sets of data) to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
  • HS-LS2-3: Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for the cycling of matter and flow of energy in aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
  • HS-LS2-4: Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem.
  • HS-LS2-5: Develop a model (simulations and mathematical models) to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
  • HS-LS2-6: Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
  • HS-LS2-7: Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
  • HS-LS2-8: Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to survive and reproduce.
  • HS-LS4-6: Create or revise a simulation to test a solution to mitigate adverse impacts of human activity on biodiversity.
Note: If you aren’t sure how your state standards compare to the NGSS, shoot me an email at with a PDF or link to your state standards for Biology and I will be happy to review them for you prior to you making a purchase!

What prior knowledge is necessary for students to have before using this unit?

This is the seventh and final unit I teach in Biology, so I would expect students to have prior knowledge on topics covered in my Biology Basics unit (including experimental design, lab safety and equipment, chemistry of life, water properties, and macromolecules), my Cells unit (including cell organelles, cell transport, and cell division), my Energy Flow unit (including enzymes, ATP, trophic pyramids, photosynthesis, and cellular respiration), my Genetics unit (including DNA and RNA structure, DNA replication, protein synthesis, and meiosis), my Heredity unit (including Mendelian genetics, complex inheritance patterns, pedigrees, mutations, and genetic engineering) and my Evolution unit (including the principles of natural selection, patterns of macroevolution, evidence of evolution, and phylogenetic trees).  All of the tests that I write are cumulative and include questions from topics I’ve previously taught on throughout the year, based on the order in which I teach them. Each unit test builds on the previous.  All of the cumulative questions are at the end of the tests, and I include editable versions of the tests so that you can easily take this section out, if you so desire.

What is included?

I strongly encourage you to download the preview for this product.  It is 19 pages and will give you the best idea of what all is included.  In short: 
  • 50 pages of teacher implementation notes + editable unit plans for 33 days of lesson plans (including both 50-minute and 90-minute block pacing guides)
  • Two packets (one 53-page PDF packet for CP and one 54-page PDF for Honors with all student handouts for the entire unit) that include:
    • Unit outline with objectives and vocabulary terms for each concept covered for students to use to make their own study guides from
    • Notes outlines for each of the six main concepts in Cornell Note format – now including completely filled in AND fill in the blank versions!
    • Lab Stations: Safety and Equipment (+ editable version)
    • Inquiry Activity: What is Life?
    • Activity: Biome Research Advertisement
    • Activity: Candy Cladogram and Dichotomous Key
    • 3 activities for the water cycle, carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle from my Geochemical Cycles Mini-Unit
    • Inquiry-Based Lab Investigation: Ecosystem in a Bottle
    • Activity: Stop the Spread!
    • Research and Report: Human Impact on the Environment activity
    • Project: Human Impact
    • Stations: Exploring Ecological Succession
    • Lab Activity: Predation
    • 5 pages of practice handouts
  • Access to ALL of the materials in the student packet in a digital paperless format that can be used in Google Drive™ and/or Microsoft OneDrive™
  • 6 fully animated PowerPoints of notes (over 80 slides – differentiated for CP and Honors)
  • Links to YouTube video lectures for each of the PowerPoint notes – perfect for absent students or flipped classrooms!
  • 1 quiz on the biogeochemical cycles + editable version
  • 8 end of unit tests (an Honors version and a CP/College Prep/on-grade level version) with a combination of multiple choice, matching, and open response questions, a 2-page answer sheet for students, versions A and B with varied question order to reduce cheating, and an editable version so you can customize for your students’ needs
    • Test #1 covers intro. to ecology, geochemical cycles, and population growth patterns
    • Test #2 covers human impact, ecological succession, and relationships between organisms
  • Detailed answer keys for ALL of the student assessments including the packets, quiz, and tests
  • 2 BONUS extension resources to dive deeper into the diversity of life, if desired: Diversity of Life Project and the Animal Kingdom Project

What types of files are included?

When you download this product you will receive a zip file with 5 folders of files.  Most of the documents in this product are secured PDFs, meaning you can print them but not edit or copy/paste the text. The paperless digital student packets will be accessed via a Google Drive™ link in a PDF file that students can type into but not change the essential content of. Editable versions (Word docs) are only included for the unit plans, quizzes, tests and some aspects of the activities for you to customize for your classroom. The PowerPoint lecture notes also have editable text.  This is to protect the copyright and intellectual property of my own work, plus the work of many dedicated clip artists and photographers whose graphics I purchased for commercial use to be included in this product. If you have questions about this, please don’t hesitate to email me with them prior to purchasing!

What materials are needed in addition to the resources provided?

A list of materials is in the preview document.  Click here to open it.  I wrote every unit in this curriculum for a science teacher with minimal materials and budget, so the majority of the supplies needed can be purchased on Amazon or at Walmart!

How many class periods will it take to teach this unit in its entirety?

This unit covers 33 50-minute class periods or 20 90-minute block class periods. However, if you don’t have that much time available you can cut out some of the activities, have students do one of the projects at home, or use the YouTube lecture videos that come with the unit to implement a flipped classroom style.

How is this resource distance learning compatible?

This resource already comes with all of the student handouts in a packet format that can be used on paper (PDF to print) or digitally in a paperless version for Google Drive™ and/or Microsoft OneDrive™. All of the PowerPoint notes also come with a lecture video to help your students learn from afar.  You can see all of my lecture videos on my YouTube channel here, and you can check out a free sample of a paperless digital packet so you can see what the formatting and usability is like prior to purchasing.  Please don’t hesitate to email me at if you have questions so we can figure out if this is a good fit for you and your students.

*NOTE* I did not specifically write this biology curriculum for distance learning or homeschool biology settings, but this entire curriculum can still be used in a modified format, and all will be fully usable when we are one day back in our classrooms! I include a document with tips for using the resources in a virtual teaching and/or homeschool setting to help you. If you have questions about which resources may or may not work from home, shoot me an email and we can discuss!

What is so great about the digital student packets that are included?

  • You can go PAPERLESS in your classroom if you want – no more dreaded mornings at the copy machine!
  • You still get all of the organization of my packet strategy, just now in digital format too!
  • Students will be able to access their packets ANYWHERE. No more, “I forgot my binder so I couldn’t do (fill in the blank)”
  • Students can print their filled in packets or an extra blank copy easily from home
  • You can now have a mixed classroom with some students paperless and others not. You can also start with just doing a few units digitally and others on paper. Whatever works best for you and your students. The point here is that you now have OPTIONS!
  • You have increased flexibility for students to easily learn and be connected outside the walls of your classroom.
  • A built in opportunity to help students grow in their digital literacy.

Why use a “packet” instead of an interactive notebook?

I started creating packets for my students over six years ago, and I love them so much more than interactive notebooks. While interactive notebooks are great resources that work for many teachers, I have found the packet strategy to be a more appropriate tool for using in the secondary classroom setting with my students. I love using the packet for many reasons:

  1. I only have to make copies one time each unit instead of copying handouts every day. Even though it takes a while to copy the packets for each student, it saves so much time on a day to day basis. (Also I’ve often recruited seniors to be my “Teacher’s Aide” and have trained them to copy all of my packets for me. I haven’t seen a copier in YEARS and it’s glorious!) You can also now go DIGITAL and PAPERLESS with the Google Drive™ version of the packet, if you prefer!
  2. It puts responsibility back on the students to maintain their A&P binder with their packet, while also aiding them in practicing organization skills. It has been incredibly effective for my lower level students especially. Even though it is a lot of papers to receive at once, I can watch them put it in their binder and leave it there, rather than having to hang on to numerous individual papers passed out each day. It has really eliminated the need for a textbook too, so students really only have to remember to bring ONE thing to class – their binder with their packet!
  3. It makes it so easy to be absent last minute. If you or your child gets sick, sub plans are a breeze. You don’t have to send your teacher neighbor to make copies for you – because your students already have everything they need. You just have to tell the sub which pages the students need to work on for the day. It was especially helpful for my long-term substitute when I was on maternity leave!
  4. The structure of the packet provides a more helpful method than interactive notebooks in preparing students for college – which should be one of our goals as high school teachers. The packet helps students learn how to structure notes (one of the reasons why I love teaching them how to write Cornell notes) and how to stay organized.
  5. They are a time saver in so many ways – no more time wasted regularly passing out handouts or having to cut and paste things into a notebook.
  6. Students do a better job keeping up with returned graded work because every page is numbered, so they can put graded assignments right back into the packet where it came from, setting them up to more likely refer back to graded work as they study.
  7. You no longer need a filing cabinet – you can keep all of your curriculum and keys organized in binders!

Why should I use this product in my classroom?

Designing curriculum for an entire unit that is engaging, activity-based, and standard-aligned can be exhausting. I’ve spent over 4 years creating this curriculum and have had amazing results. I had a 96% pass rate on the State standardized End-of-Course exam for Non-Honors students and a 100% pass rate for honors students. This was at a South Carolina Public School with over 50% of the students being below the poverty line. My average score on the EOC (all 200+ students combined that I taught over 2 years) was a 90%. I believe this success is due to multiple factors, but I attribute a lot of it to the packet curriculum I have designed, and the fact that all of my tests are cumulative (which you will see if you purchase further units!) Honestly, I could go on and on about the packet as a resource and why I love it so much, but I think you will find as you use it that you will fall in love with it too. Last but not least, this product comes with links to video lectures for each set of notes. This resource + all of the detailed lesson plans makes this product perfect for teachers new to this subject, going on maternity leave for a long-term sub, or using a flipped classroom strategy.

Interested in other biology resources?

What if I have a question?

Email me at I’d love to answer any questions you have!

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You may:
  • Use this item for your own classroom, students, or for your own personal use.
  • Buy additional licenses for others to use this product at a discount by visiting your TpT “My Purchases” page.
  • Review this product to recommend others buy it in blog posts, at professional development workshops, or other venues as long as credit is given to my store with a direct link to my store/product.
You may not:
  • Upload this product to any unsecured website or server that other teachers can access for free.
  • Give this product to others without the purchase of an additional license for them (this includes emailing, printing copies, or sharing through a website, cloud or other network.)
  • Copy or modify any part of this document to offer others for free or for sale.
  • Use the resources for commercial use, such as teaching a course on Outschool or a similar platform using these resources.

*Note: NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.

Additional information

Grade level

9th, 10th

Number of class periods

32 50-minute classes or 21 90-minute classes