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5 Ways to Make Biomes a More Approachable Topic

Akanksha Saxena
Teaching with Labster

Introduction: Biomes

We often wonder what a marvel this world is. How different types of organisms come together in a close association taking and giving things and services for their mutual survival. Life without these ecological services and mutualism sounds like an impossible situation. When we closely take a look at how certain types of associations and living beings are specifically dominant in an area, an idea of ‘biome’ comes up! Yes, biomes are defined as a closely knit community structure where plants, animals, microbes, fungi, etc co-exist in their natural dynamics. Very often these living organisms of the area share a set of common characteristic features that are peculiar and meticulously defined to suit their existence in that area. 

So, when we utter the word “desert”, we have an image in our head of how the plants with thick skin and prickles would be. Or when we talk about “marine locales”, we imagine animals with streamlined bodies. These associations of the bodily structures with specific biomes gather a lot of interest and curiosity from people from all age groups.

Despite being fascinating, students in schools and colleges find this subject to be hard. With a lot of facts and information at hand in the age of Google, students often lose track of how and what to learn about biomes. Since this topic requires one to ruminate and find the logic behind facts, teachers often find it challenging to plan and deliver insightful lectures.

We, at Labster, understand the complexities of this subject. This article can provide some help as it attempts to identify the major issues encountered by students whilst studying this topic. It also lists practical solutions that teachers and educators can incorporate in their next class. By the end, we’ll convince you why a virtual lab simulation will prove useful not only for your students but also for you as an educator to deliver concepts more efficiently.

Why can Biomes be tricky to teach or learn?

There are 3 reasons why students dread and get confused about the topic of Biomes. Acknowledging these blocks is the first step toward making the topic more approachable. 

1. It feels conjectural and not helpful to learn

Since topics in Ecology are best understood when field trips are the core methodology of teaching, theoretical delivery of ideas about biomes, ecosystems, habitats, biodiversity, abiotic factor influencing biogeography, geology and many more in a classroom set-up tend to become monotonous and non-conducive for students. For students, remembering facts and figures about different plants, animals, and microbes of each biome becomes a taxing activity. The challenging terminology only makes things worse!

2. Difficulty relating to the modern consumerist world

Students find the idea and importance of biomes quite difficult to understand in a consumer-centric world. They often wonder how learning about different biomes, their inhabitants, associations between those inhabitants, etc., can be related to any job in the future. They also fail to comprehend how this knowledge base will help them solve academic research problems. With a lot to learn and remember in Ecology, students end up struggling with the subject due to the lack of practical applicability.

3. The lack of sufficient visual tools

Since the biological world is very diverse, learning about different biomes and ecosystems should be interesting for students. But due to the lack of visual tools, teachers aren’t able to demonstrate the subject’s breadth to its full potential. In such a situation, students aren’t left with many options to understand biodiversity in a fun-filled way. Rather, they feel forced to cram details with zero understanding and rationale. 

5 ways to make Biomes a more approachable topic to understand

To address the issues encountered while teaching this topic, educators can engage the under-listed solutions in their classes. These can decode many different aspects of biomes. Not only can they make teaching easier for educators like you, but they will also make lessons clearer and easier to assimilate for your students.

1. Explain with examples

Since the topic of biomes is mostly theoretical with no practical lab handling, the incorporation of examples that shed light on the instrumental aspects of each biome can make the topics easier to comprehend for students. We list some of how you can endeavor on this journey. There is a range of unique biomes on the planet. Introducing each one of them might not be possible for you in the stipulated time frame of an Ecology class, but you can quote some captivating examples which can help students remember concepts with clarity. We list a few of them for our ease.

Biomes 3

Figure: A snippet from the Biome simulation by Labster showing different biomes of the world. It is available for School and University/College classes.

  • The Atacama Desert is a desert biome and one of the driest places on the planet. Having said that, you can expect your students to ‘logically associate’ the abiotic factors of this dry biome with the type of biological life it will harbor. With meager water resources at disposal, plants and animals of this biome have adapted well to function optimally with a frugal existence. It also houses several extremophilic bacteria and archaea species that can inhabit extreme locales where no floral or faunal life is possible.

  • The Arctic tundra is a tundra biome and one of the coldest places on the planet. This can help your students understand why biological life is so rare and fine-tuned to adapt well to bone-chilling climatic conditions. This will also help you explain the relationship between “climatic factors” and the “biodiversity” of a biome.

You can further take examples of other biomes (grassland biomes, forest biomes) and relate different terminologies to make the topic interesting. 

2. Step out of the class and take more field trips

Taking more field trips is always recommended while teaching Ecology topics. It is a more engaging and fun-filled way of delivering ideas and information. When students observe the phenomenon of adaptation and habitats, the concepts can become clearer and surely stick in their long-term memory. Even to explain the ecological community structures where different biological organisms live harmoniously, the experience must be taken firsthand by students. Taking them on hikes and treks where they can taste the thrill of field biology can be useful beyond imagination. 

3. Explain the difference between confusing terminologies

Plainly stating terminologies like biomes, ecosystem, ecological community, population, biodiversity, species, taxa, etc. in your ecology class might hurt the aims and objectives of the subject. Help bring essence to each of these terminologies so that students can connect the dots and land on the exact meaning without cramming the bookish definitions.

  • Telling the difference between Biome and Ecosystem

  • Telling the difference between Habitat and Community

  • Telling the difference between Species, Taxa, and Population

  • Telling how different abiotic factors (climatic factors, geology, availability of resources like water, food, etc) affects the community structure and eventually the biodiversity of a biome

In such a way, connecting dots between different terminologies can help educators deliver quality and effective lessons on the topic of biomes.

4. Develop rational and critical thinking using situation-based teaching

To make this topic (biome) and related ones clearer to your students, they must think rationally and conclude them. For this objective, teachers and educators are advised to carry out situation-based activities in their classes. By providing a sliding option in limiting factors like food availability, water availability, atmospheric moisture content, predator-prey interactions, ecological niches, etc, you can make your students design their biomes and explain why they placed each living organism under a defined set of limiting factors. You can use the Ecological Niche simulation from Labster to explain its concept.

If designing such an activity seems like a time-taking task for your next class, you can use the Biome simulation from Labster which provides a similar option. With a virtual Biome Generator, your students can adjust different limiting factors and parameters to build their biomes. Such a task will convey smart ideas without making the subject dull.

explore biomes virtual lab 2

Figure: A snippet from the Biome simulation by Labster where your students can learn the concept of Biome. It is available for School and University/College classes.

5. Use virtual lab simulations

Since field trips can’t be taken every day and with a dearth of visualization tools at hand, the subject of biomes can turn both boring and complex for students. Rather than struggling with how to deliver the lecture more efficiently, we at Labster encourage modern-day educators to make the most of the Biome simulation. It takes your students into a virtual world where they can understand how biomes are constituted, how different abiotic factors determine what type of biological life a biome can sustain, and much more. We further simplify the biome-generating activity where your students can play with the different parameters as they like. They can see how their choices influence the final result (biome). And the best part, since it’s a virtual game, no mistake is unfixable. They can start over again and generate another biome using different parameters. 

With virtual laboratory simulations from Labster, teachers can make more insightful points as students are rendered with better visual options where they can follow the different concepts in a free-flowing manner. 

Your students don’t have to struggle anymore as our interactive Biome simulation along with gamification elements will save the day for you. By using this way of active and immersive teaching, our virtual learning platform takes an advent in the field of Science to make the upcoming scientists thorough with the “basics of their respective subjects”. 

Figure: Snippet from the Biome simulation by Labster showing how different parameters can be played within the small activity of ‘Biome generation’. It is available for School and University/College classes.

Explore biomes virtual lab

You can learn more about the Biome simulation here or get in touch to find out how you can start using virtual labs with your students.

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