Food availability is limited in some regions of the world for many reasons, such as access to natural resources (sunlight, space, water, soil). Due to urbanization, access to fresh fruit and vegetables in urban areas is becoming more limited. How do we feed our communities and ensure food sustainably in an urban landscape?

In this inquiry-based activity, students will design and build a model of a greenhouse using mirrors and/or lenses that can be used to grow food all year. They will use their knowledge of optics to make their greenhouse more efficient (i.e., optimal temperature for plant growth).

*This activity can be used as a Course Culminating Activity as it allows students to demonstrate their proficiency in the following areas:

    Cells and Tissues (plants and plant growth)
    Chemical Reactions (pH of soil and acid-base reactions)
    Light and Optics (reflection and refraction through mirrors and lenses)
    Climate Change (influence of CO2 and temperature upon growth of plants)

How can we use optics to maximize food production?

Reflection, refraction, pH, CO2, temperature, mirrors, lenses, plant growth


This activity is part of STAO’s Connex Inquiry Resource Series

Click here to go to the complete resource

Characteristics of Soil Activity


In this activity, students will observe a variety of soil types and describe the characteristics of these soils.  Soil is made up of air, water, recycling organisms, rock particles, and humus.  Different types of soils are defined by the different proportions of humus and rock particles they contain.  Humus is formed from the decomposition produced by recycling organisms.  The three types of rock particles are sand, silt, and clay.

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Soil? It’s Alive!

Soil in hand

When we study ecosystems, we sometimes forget about the first metre of soil that supports just about everything above it as well as the rich life that is in the soil. Animal decomposers such as worms, beetles, and other insects as well as microbial life such as bacteria and fungi are busy at life. Such wonder under our feet!

Soils for different ecosystems provide the abiotic component of the system. Soils are generally heterogeneous mixtures that can be separated physically by using water and heat. There are numerous opportunities to demonstrate particle theory within these mixtures/separations and it makes a very nice way to explicitly link several strands together! Students should have prior knowledge that solubility is a property of substances, that the amount of solubility varies between substances, and that salt readily dissolves in water.

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