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Tropical Ecology Institute


Producers, Composers, and Decomposers

Grade Level: 3-5

Author: Steve Houser, Charlotte, NC


When learning information, especially for a test, many people tend to choose one of three ways to master their learning.  This activity explores Sternberg's Theory of Intelligences as students learn about the ecological roles of the Belizean rainforest.


Drawing paper, colored pencils, notebook paper, pencils.


  • The learner will build an understanding of the interdependence between plants and animals.
  • Determine the function of organisms within the population of the ecosystem:  producers, consumers, and decomposers.


Review ecosystem roles (consumer, producer, decomposer) and examples of each.

Divide the room into three learning areas, representing different learning styles:

  • Analytical approach- Writing information on note cards, typing information on the computer, or jotting information on paper.
  • Creative approach- Using one's imagination,  such as make drawings, a song, or a creative story.
  • Practical approach- Relating information to a similar a situation in your world (such as the Amazon River is similar to the highways in the US).

Students go to the part of the room that they think suits their style of learning the best.

In their respective areas, students are instructed to perform the following tasks:

  • Analytical approach- Make a chart listing examples of the three types of organisms that are in the Belizean rainforest. on computer, or on paper to help them remember the information.
  • Creative approach- Write a story that includes the three types of organisms.  Or make a labeled drawing that includes the three types of organisms in the Belizean rain forest.
  • Practical approach- In your world, give two examples of each of the three types of organisms found in the Belizean rain forest. Give the setting as to where they would be found in the forest.

After adequate time to work on this task, students are to share their work in a three square format:

  • First, all students of the same category or “area” share their work with each other.
  • Second, new groups form containing at least one person from from each of the three areas. Each person shares his/her work (using his/her own approach) with the others in that group.


Students can be queried to see if they:

  • Know three types of organisms in the Belizean rain forest ecosystem.
  • Understand that populations of organisms can be categorized by the function they serve in the ecosystem: producers, consumers, or decomposers.
  • Recognize that these three categories of organisms exist in the Belizean rain forest ecosystem.

Mastery of learning will also be evident on end of ecosystems unit test, teacher observation, and students' completed projects.

Resources/Further Information:

Triarchic Theory (Sternberg)


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