Lab 2: Drawing Connections

Part B: Draw a Simplified Diagram for Your Study Site

The different parts of the Earth system are connected by cyclic flows of energy, water, and important chemical elements like carbon and nitrogen. Each cycle consists of reservoirs (places where energy, water, and elements are stored), fluxes (the movement of matter from one reservoir to another), and processes that change the form of energy, water, and elements.

  • Reservoirs: clouds, oceans, soil, trees
  • Fluxes: precipitation, transpiration, ocean currents, wind, river flow
  • Processes: photosynthesis, condensation, decomposition, fire

Draw Your Diagram

Diagramming is a useful tool for developing an understanding of Earth as a system. Making a diagram will help you focus on the most important components, connections, and systems at your study site, that may be different from other study sites. Keep in mind that there is no one right way to make a diagram. Your style of diagramming may be very different from someone else's. What matters is that it is accurate and complete, and that it clearly communicates your ideas. Other students must be able to understand your ideas just by looking at your diagram.

Starting with the photograph you annotated in Part A, work with a partner or in a small group to create a simplified, more abstract diagram of your study site, showing how energy and matter flow between components. Be aware that as you put together this simplified diagram, you will need to make decisions about what is most important to show. This means that you are making decisions about what the essential reservoirs, fluxes, and processes at your study site are.

  1. On a blank sheet of paper, draw and label the four major components of the study site system (atmosphere, hydrosphere, pedosphere, and biosphere).
  2. Use arrows to represent the verbs you used in your annotated photograph. Draw one-headed arrows to indicate which direction each interaction is occurring. Show only one direction on each arrow.
  3. On the shaft of the arrow, indicate what is moving from one component to the other (such as rain moving from the atmosphere to the pedosphere).

Checking In

Use these questions to reflect on your diagram and to prepare for sharing your diagram with your classmates.
  • What have you learned about ways that the components of a study site interact as a system, that you feel confident about?
  • What are you having trouble understanding about the interactions among components of a study site?
  • What would you like to know more about?

Share Your Diagram

  1. Share your diagram with the rest of the class. As other groups present their diagrams, look for ways their diagrams are similar to or different from your group's diagram.
  2. Ask questions and provide constructive feedback on your classmates' diagrams. What was communicated clearly? What could be improved on?
  3. As a class, make a list of the most important features that should be included in a diagram of your local study site. Consider what people who are unfamiliar with the site would need to know to understand how the components of your study site are connected.
  4. Have one person volunteer to draw a new class diagram that incorporates all of the important features from the list you made. The diagram should be drawn on poster-sized paper and hung up in the classroom, so you can refer to it (and add on to it) as you continue through the Earth System Science module.

Stop and Think

1: What do you think are the characteristics of an effective study site diagram? Explain.

2: Draw a diagram of some other system (e.g., a sports team, a group of friends, a car engine, etc.). On your diagram, label the main parts or components of the system and ways those components interconnect.