Ecosystems are a science topic that is revisited throughout many grades. The specific concept of a Keystone species within an ecosystem was introduced by Ecologist Robert Paine in the the 1960's. Named after the keystone in an arch, a keystone species role in an ecosystem is that it holds the system together. If you took this species out of the ecosystem the entire ecosystem would be very different or might not exist. Being able to identify and save these keystones species will help save all the other species within that ecosystem.
There is an abundance of lesson plans and resources that already exist to teach about ecosystems to elementary and middle school students. Instead of reinventing these lessons I will provide you with links to some of my favorite resources.
Walt Disney World is a great place to teach about Keystone Species and has recreated several different ecosystems with the parks. In my next blog post I will provided specific resources to use at home prior to a trip to Walt Disney World to investigate a keystone species that lives within reach of your backyard. Then we will look at opportunities to study keystone species in the other ecosystems represented at Walt Disney World.