The EcoCasting Project is a set of hands-on inquiry activities focused on ecosystems, food webs, bioaccumulation, and invasive species designed for use in environmental science and biology classes in grades 9-12. The curriculum is aligned to Illinois state standards, the College Readiness Standards, and the National Science Education Standards. It addresses the following objectives:

  •  Using ecological models to investigate food web complexity
  •  Investigating PCB toxins and how they move through an ecosystem
  •  Investigating invasive species and how they disrupt ecosystems and change bioaccumulation patterns

EcoCasting is comprised of four major investigations, which may be done as stand-alone lessons or as parts of a larger unit.

Foodweb Model

The Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP) at Northwestern University has created these materials to help students learn about the scientific observations, measurement techniques, and computer models used in an ongoing National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ecological Forecasting project. This curriculum is based on research conducted in Calumet Harbor, Illinois, where a NOAA team is developing more precise food web models to better predict PCB toxin levels in Great Lakes fish.

More information on the scientific research cited in EcoCasting can be found in Chemical Amplification in an Invaded Food Web: Seasonality And Ontogeny In A High-Biomass, Low-Diversity Ecosystem published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Volume 27, No. 10.


Download the whole curriculum here:

Complete Curriculum  (all files updated July 29, 2011)

Student guides only 

To download individual investigations, see the Curriculum page. Note: The documents are formatted for double-sided printing; if you print them single-sided there will be extra blank pages.

Have you already taught EcoCasting? We welcome your feedback on the lessons. Please take a few moments to complete a short online survey by clicking here.