Lab 3: A Bird's Eye View: Exploring Your Region

Part A: Comparing Your Study Site to One in Another Region

The basic components and interconnections among them are the same at nearly all local study sites: water, chemicals (such as carbon), and energy (such as heat) move among the four major components of the system (atmosphere, hydrosphere, pedosphere, and biosphere). However, the amounts of water, chemicals, and energy in each component of the system, and the rate at which they move between the different components vary a lot among different regions of the Earth. Therefore, diagrams of different sites may emphasize different components and interconnections.

One example of differences might be seen in diagrams of study sites in dry vs. wet regions. In a dry region where it may rain only one season of the year, students might emphasize erosion by wind and water in their diagrams. However, in a wet region where it rains or snows throughout the year, the students might emphasize more of the water cycle, showing evaporation, cloud cover and precipitation in their diagrams.

Another example of differences might be seen in diagrams of study sites in a tropical rain forest vs. a temperate forest. Students diagramming a rain forest site may emphasize the plants and their role as a storage place for nutrients, whereas students diagramming a temperate forest may emphasize the soil as a storage place for nutrients.

  1. Examine the four sample study site diagrams below (click on a thumbnail to open the full size image in a new window).

    Savanna Study Site Rainforest Study Site Marine/Coastal Study Site Continental Mid-Latitudes Study Site

  2. Working with a partner or small group, look for similarities and differences between your class study site diagram to one of the four sample study site diagrams.

Checking In

  • What is the name and location of the diagram you studied?
  • What similarities and differences in style did you find when you compared the sample study site diagram with yours? Was it more or less abstract (i.e., use realistic drawings or symbols)? Was it complicated or simple (i.e., very decorative or very plain)?
  • Did you find the sample study site diagram to be clear and easy to understand? Why or why not?

Stop and Think

Look at both the sample study site diagram and your own class diagram. Compare the components and interconnections among those components that appear in each diagram.

1: Does the sample study site diagram emphasize aspects of the study site that are different from the aspects emphasized in your diagram? Which aspects?

2: Why does your diagram emphasize different interconnections and components of the Earth system than the example study site diagram? Explain.