Predator-prey systems have surprising qualities. You might think that reducing predators would help the prey, but that’s not always true. We can see this in our online model of a 3-way ecology (some microbials really act like this). Also, there are three variants of the common side-blotched lizard that co-exist competitively in a 3-way ecology, much like a collective rock-paper-scissors.
The most familiar predator-prey models are 2-way, like lynx-rabbit, wolf-sheep. Let’s look at some hidden patterns in a wolf-elk ecology. Taking a bird’s-eye view, we will discover elk and wolves take turns rising and falling in number, and the hidden role of grass in this elk-wolf ecology. You can dive into a predator-prey system with this computer model of wolves and elk. (Here is a much scaled-down version of that model of wolves and elk in Scratch). You can modify these models as you wish. These are predator-prey systems with grass added to make the ecosystem a little bit more realistic and interesting.
The predator-prey models are examples of system models. The New Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emphasize system modeling as a crucial skill, and include ecosystem dynamics as an important example. Systems modeling incorporates science and math, but does not focus on isolated scientific facts or rote learning of math. Systems modeling emphasizes how parts interact to create a working whole, and shows how a whole complex system is more than the mere sum of its parts. This naturally integrates science and math as well as system modeling to meet STEM, STEAM (if you engage the art projects in our subscription box), Common Core, and NGSS objectives.
Use the eight page booklet included in your subscription box to learn more about the models.
If you would like a fully bound longer version of the lessons, this is available on Amazon and Kindle. These lessons give you and your child or student a bird’s-eye view of predator-prey ecosystem models. The lessons refer to this computer model of wolves and elk. Here is a version of that model of wolves and elk in Scratch. Included is an outdoor wondering exercise, which stimulating critical thinking and a sense of awe. We aim to help you and your student soar to new perspectives and better appreciate the awesome interactions in our world.