ALEX Learning Activity


Decomposers: More Than Meets the Eye

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Julie Rhodes
System:Hartselle City
School:Hartselle City
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1943
Decomposers: More Than Meets the Eye
Digital Tool/Resource:
Decomposers Hyperdoc
Web Address – URL:

This Hyperdoc activity helps students understand the role of decomposers in the food chain and in the creation of soil. Students will create their own illustration modeling this process. Students will use the Hyperdoc to watch, view, and interact with information regarding these important decomposers. The students will watch an educational video clip about decomposers and answer a reflection question about their role in the food chain. Students will read and study an infographic on decomposers and draw conclusions about their role in plant growth. Students will explore an interactive website to learn how different composers affect soil creation and create a model of this process. This lesson aligns with 5th grade Alabama Science Course of Study.

This activity was created as a result of the DLCS COS Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 5
11 ) Create a model to illustrate the transfer of matter among producers; consumers, including scavengers and decomposers; and the environment.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L4.3: Organisms interact and are interdependent in various ways, including providing food and shelter to one another. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs are met. Some interactions are beneficial; others are detrimental to the organism and other organisms.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Crosscutting Concepts: Systems and System Models
Disciplinary Core Idea: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Construct and use models to illustrate the transfer of matter among producers; consumers, including scavengers and decomposers; and the environment.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Model
  • Transfer
  • Matter
  • Producer
  • Consumer
  • Decomposer
  • Environment
Students know:
  • The food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants.
  • Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants.
  • Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as "decomposers."
  • Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil.
  • Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met.
  • A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life.
  • Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem.
  • Matter cycles between the air and soil and among plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die. Organisms obtain gases, and water, from the environment, and release waste matter (gas, liquid, or solid) back into the environment.
Students are able to:
  • Develop a model to describe a phenomenon that includes the movement of matter within an ecosystem, identifying the relevant components such as matter, plants, animals, decomposers, and environment.
  • Describe the relationships among components that are relevant for describing the phenomenon, including the relationships in the system between organisms that consume other organisms, including the following:
    • Animals that consume other animals.
    • Animals that consume plants.
    • Organisms that consume dead plants and animals.
    • The movement of matter between organisms during consumption.
  • Use the model to describe the following:
    • The cycling of matter in the system between plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
    • How interactions in the system of plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment allow multiple species to meet their needs.
    • That newly introduced species can affect the balance of interactions in a system (e.g., a new animal that has no predators consumes much of another organism's food within the ecosystem).
    • That changing an aspect (e.g., organisms or environment) of the ecosystem will affect other aspects of the ecosystem.
Students understand that:
  • A system can be described in terms of its components, like producers, consumers, and the environment, and their interactions, like the cycling of matter.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Dynamics of Ecosystems

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.5.11- Using a given model, identify a missing part of a simple food chain.

Digital Literacy and Computer Science
DLIT (2018)
Grade: 5
R5) Locate and curate information from digital sources to answer research questions.

Unpacked Content
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
Students will:
  • locate information from digital sources to answer research questions.
  • curate information to present or share with others.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • curate
  • keyword
  • search engine
  • database
Students know:
  • information to research questions can be obtained from digital sources.
  • resources to organize information.
  • resources to present or share with others.
Students are able to:
  • create a list of keywords or phrases to enter into a search engine and/or database such as Alabama Virtual Library.
  • use advanced search techniques to search by file type, dates, and specific domains.
  • organize information.
  • share information by creating a digital resource.
Students understand that:
  • information can be located from a digital source to answer research questions.
  • information can be organzied and shared by creating a digital resource.
Learning Objectives:

The learner should:

identify the role decomposers play in breaking down organic material.

recognize decomposers as recycling materials back into the soil.

describe how decomposers affect food chains.

create a drawing modeling the process by which decomposers create soil.

locate information from digital sources to answer research questions.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

Students will use the Hyperdoc to learn more about the important role decomposers play in food chains and in nature.


1. The teacher will create an assignment that shares the Hyperdoc link with students. This can be done through Google Classroom or by sharing the Google Doc. 

2. If using Google Classroom, set up the assignment so that it creates a copy of the document for each student. This allows each student to type directly on their own document.

3. The teacher will provide students with devices such as Chromebooks, PCs, tablets, etc. that are internet enabled. Students will need headphones for the audio portions of the Hyperdoc.

4. Students will access the sites provided on the Hyperdoc and submit their answers to the activities as directed by the teacher. 

5. Activity One: Watch the video and submit an answer under the question about why decomposers are important to the food chain. The teacher should require answers in complete sentences with evidence from the video to support the answer.

6. Activity Two: Read and reflect on the infographic related to decomposers. Students will answer the reflection question about decomposers and plant growth in the space beneath the question. Again, the teacher should require answers typed in complete sentences with evidence from the infographic to support the answer.

7. Activity Three: Students play the interactive game "Break it Down" which demonstrates how decomposers help create soil. Using the insert drawing feature in Google Docs, students will insert an original drawing showing a model of how one of the decomposers from the game helps create soil.

8. When students have completed all three activities on the Hyperdoc, they will submit the completed document to the teacher for review.

Assessment Strategies:

Evaluate this activity by assessing the answers submitted by each students Hyperdoc. If the teacher is using Google Classroom or Google Docs, then they should create an assignment that makes a copy of the Hyperdoc for each student. Students will type answers and insert their drawing of the decomposer creating soil model directly onto the document and submit it to the teacher. 

The focus of this lesson is the model that shows students understand the process by which decomposers create soil. The teacher will evaluate each answer based accuracy of information, evidence, and grammar. The model should accurately show the steps that are involved in the chosen decomposer breaking down organic matter to create new soil.

Advanced Preparation:

The teacher may want to share the Hyperdoc through an online classroom management system such as Google Classroom. Alternatively, the teacher could share the link address. Students and teacher will need access to Internet-enabled devices in order to access the links on the Hyperdoc.

Variation Tips (optional):

If the teacher does not use an online learning system such as Google Classroom or Edmodo, they can use the Hyperdoc to access the links. The teacher can share the web address of the document and students can write the answers in a science journal. They can draw the model of decomposers creating soil in the journal.

Notes or Recommendations (optional):
  Keywords and Search Tags  
Keywords and Search Tags: