Habitats: Using Venn Diagrams to Compare Two Ecosystems
Connections to the curriculum:
Geography, science, language arts
Connections to the Canadian National Standards for Geography:
Environment and Society
Two to three hours
• Computer with Internet access
• Two types of small candies to give to each student
• Blank outline map of the world
• Large sheets of paper
• Writing and drawing materials
Suggested Grade Level: 6 - 9
Many students believe that the Earth's only rain forests are found in the
tropics. On the contrary, temperate rain forests can be found along the coast of
North America's Pacific Northwest. The Pacific Northwest rain forests are as
endangered as their tropical cousins and they are smaller than the tropical rain
The following lesson helps students identify and describe differences between two
related ecosystems. By acquiring geographic information from a number of sources, and
by using that information to complete a Venn diagram—two overlapping ovals in
which one can chart the exclusive and shared characteristics of two ecosystems—students
will understand the distribution of temperate and tropical rain forests and the unique
characteristics of both.
- understand the distribution of two ecosystems on
a global scale;
- map the distribution of tropical and temperate rain
forests throughout the world; and
- use a Venn diagram to describe these ecosystems and
the differences between them.
- Acquiring Geographic Information
- Organizing Geographic Information
- Answering Geographic Questions
- Analyzing Geographic Information
From an early age, many students recognize that an ecosystem
is a community of interdependent plants and animals interacting
with the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. They
know that habitats provide homes for all the Earth's
flora and fauna, including humans. Many students struggle,
however, identifying and differentiating ecosystems,
because ecosystems range in size from a clump of grasses
to a steppe in northern Asia and can be nested within
each other in complex relationships.
Draw a large Venn diagram on the board or overhead.
(A Venn diagram is a set of two overlapping ovals.) Tell
students that you will use it to record similarities
and differences between two common items, writing the
common characteristics in the area where the ovals overlap,
and the characteristics specific to only one of the two
in the circle outside the overlapping area.
Distribute two different kinds of candy to each student.
Label each large circle with one candy name. Ask students
to quietly observe their candies and to think of similarities
and differences between them. After a minute or two,
ask for students' ideas, and record them on a chalkboard.
When all ideas have been expressed, enjoy the candy!
Divide students into pairs or small groups, and give each group a large sheet of paper and
a blank outline map of the world.
Explain to students that they will create a Venn diagram on the large sheet of paper and
use it to compare two ecosystems, tropical and temperate rain forests. They will gather the
information during Internet research in their small groups. [Note: If you do not have enough
computers with Internet access to accommodate the class, they may do individual research
at home or in the library, or look through magazines and books for the information.]
Ask students to draw large Venn diagrams on their papers, and label one circle "Tropical
Rain Forests" and the other "Temperate Rain Forests."
When students are ready, have them go to the following web sites to learn more about temperate
and tropical rain forests throughout the world:
Ecotrust - Inforain: About
Temperate Coastal Rain Forests
Earthlink - Rain
Canadian Geographic For Kids!
Geographic: GeoAction! - Habitats
First, students should mark the distribution of the world's temperate and tropical rain
forests on their blank outline maps, using two colors to differentiate the two. Then, ask
them to record in the appropriate sections of their diagrams their group's ideas about the
similarities and differences in the locations of the two types of rain forests.
Instruct groups to discuss what they find and make observations about similarities and differences
in terms of climate, native flora and fauna, economy, population, and threats. They should
record their ideas after they have discussed them as a group.
Conduct a large group discussion of the students' Venn diagrams. Draw a large diagram on
the board, asking each group to contribute one or two of their most interesting or creative
ideas. Ask students to name the most important differences between the tropical and temperate
rain forest ecosystems, based on their observations. Also, ask them to name the most striking
similarities. Why are these similarities or differences the most important? What effects
do they have on the ecosystems?
Ask students what they learned about the impact of humans on these two ecosystems. Why are
humans present in these environments? How are humans affecting Earth's rain forests? Are
the effects different in different regions?
Suggested Student Assessment
Give each student a pair of pictures, each depicting a different ecosystem. These ecosystems
could be large-scale (the North American prairie and the African savanna, for example)
or from the student's community (perhaps a stand of native trees and a local wetland).
After careful observation of the pictures, students should be able to create a Venn diagram
with at least five unique descriptors of each ecosystem and three that apply to both.
Extending the Lesson
Create a classroom Rain Forest Resource Center on the two types of rain forest ecosystems.
Materials could include related books and magazines, posters, slides, videos, and field
Have students make collages of rain forest ecosystems, using pictures from their illustration
collections, original drawings, and key words and phrases copied from their Venn diagrams.
Have students write an essay comparing the two types of rain forest ecosystems. (Preparing
Venn diagrams serves as the pre-essay activity.)
Habitats: Using Venn Diagrams to Compare Two Ecosystems (Adobe PDF document)