Students will develop research questions that will help them develop an ecosystem profile (species/conditions etc.) of a local pond. Their results will be compared with data from the McMurdo Dry Valley Lakes in Antarctica. Discussions about climate and energy dynamics will be conducted as conclusions are drawn. A map and key for the local pond (species/locations/conditions) will be created. This is largely a student-driven project.
- Students will learn to develop questions that can be researched within available time and resource constraints.
- A "Profile" of the local pond conditions will be developed.
- Students will develop an experiment that allows them to investigate their question (examples are: Does the level of light affect the types of organisms that will be found at a particular depth in the water? What light levels exist at different depths in the pond? Is there any correlation between light levels and temperature? Is there more Carbon Dioxide in the water in areas where there are more plants?)
- Students will work collaboratively to go through the process of the "scientific method" and will report their findings to the larger group.
- Students will practice giving peer feedback, creating scientific posters, and making presentations to an audience.
- Students will develop an understanding of the biological diversity and conditions in a local pond and compare their results to an Antarctic Pond.
- Prepare all available probe-ware (make sure batteries are charged, etc) and be sure it is compatible with the available computers. Obviously, the more technology that is available, the smoother this runs, but it can be done with quite a limited supply of equipment!
- A review of basic ecosystem structure is helpful (producers, consumers, decomposers, light energy, photosynthesis, populations, communities, etc.)
- A review (or introduction) about types of research questions, what makes a "good" question, how to write an appropriate research question, etc. is quite helpful. This is meant to be an experimental investigation – not a research project!
- Once students have a basic understanding of ecosystem dynamics, take them to a local pond and allow them some time to explore the area.
- Explain to the students that they will be working in small groups to develop and implement an experimental research question about this pond.
- Review with students what types of resources are available to them (what probes, microscopes, collection tools, etc.).
- Have students get into groups – either teacher selected or student selected (up to the teacher!) – Groups of 3 work best, but 4 is also typically effective.
- Give the group time to meet and come up with some ideas about what they might like to research.
- Back in class – have class brainstorm a list of possible topics/questions.
- By the next day, each group should be able to decide what their research question will be.
- Have them do pre-field preparations/work prior to returning to the field (they should develop their final question, null and alternative hypotheses, materials list, procedure, etc.)
- Once plans are in place, allow students time to get to the pond to conduct their investigations. The time necessary here varies – it depends on types of questions and the amount of time that can be reasonably allowed.
- Once all the data is collected, students work in class (and at home) to make graphs of the data, analyze the data, make conclusions, and prepare their final reports and presentations.
- Students show their created posters as they make their presentations.
- Dichotomous keys can be developed for flora and fauna in the area.
- Pond maps can be created – aerial maps, depths, conditions at different depths, etc.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an excellent curriculum (BirdSleuth) developed for helping students with scientific inquiry. Their curriculum is referenced to research about birds, but the process is totally applicable to any research interests. The web site (and free resources!) for BirdSleuth: Investigating Evidence is: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/birdsleuth/inquiry-resources
- Students are evaluated both individually and as a group (see rubric attached). Each student is given an individual grade based on individual contributions to the project.
- Student contracts are also drawn up at the beginning of the project so that it is clear who is responsible for which piece on the final report/poster/presentation.
- The "scientific method" is a huge focus of this lesson; students will be able to explain the general process (and how it often spirals) of scientific investigations.
- Students will be assessed through tests/quizzes on ecosystem dynamics.
Robin Ellwood, rellwood [at] sau50.org
From the NH State Standards, it also addresses the following standards:
LS1.1.1 ~ CLASSIFICATION- Recognize that similarities among organisms are found in anatomical features and patterns of development, and explain how these can be used to infer the degree of relatedness among organisms. LS1.1.2 ~ Describe or compare how different organisms have mechanisms that work in a coordinated way to obtain energy, grow, move, respond, provide defense, enable reproduction, or maintain internal balance (e.g., cells, tissues, organs and systems). LS1.2.2 ~ Define a population and describe the factors that can affect it. LS1.2.5 ~ Using data and observations about the biodiversity of an ecosystem make predictions or draw conclusions about how the diversity contributes to the stability of the ecosystem. LS2.0 ~ Energy flows and matter recycles through an ecosystem. LS2.1.1 ~ ENVIRONMENT- Explain how changes in environmental conditions can affect the survival of individual organisms and an entire species. LS2.1.2 ~ Explain that in all environments, organisms with similar needs may compete with one another for resources, including food, space, water, air, and shelter, and that in any particular environment the growth and survival of organisms depend on the physical conditions. LS2.1.3 ~ Using data and observations, predict outcomes when abiotic/biotic factors are changed in an ecosystem. LS2.1.5 ~ Given a scenario, trace the flow of energy through an ecosystem, beginning with the sun, through organisms in the food web, and into the environment (includes photosynthesis and respiration). LS2.3.1 ~ RECYCLING OF MATERIALS- Identify autotrophs as producers who may use photosynthesis, and describe this as the basis of the food web. LS2.3.6 ~ Given an ecosystem, trace how matter cycles among and between organisms and the physical environment (includes water, oxygen, food web, decomposition, recycling but not carbon cycle or nitrogen cycle). LS3.2.3 ~ Use a model, classification system, or dichotomous key to illustrate, compare, or interpret possible relationships among groups of organisms (e.g., internal and external structures, anatomical features) LS3.3.2 ~ Recognize that in any given environment the growth and survival of organisms depend on the physical conditions that exist, and explain that in all environments, organisms with similar needs may compete with one another for resources, including food, space, water, air, and shelter. LS3.3.3 ~ Explain how individual organisms with certain traits are more likely than others to survive and have offspring. LS5.0 ~ The growth of scientific knowledge in Life Science has been advanced through the development of technology and is used (alone or in combination with other sciences) to identify, understand and solve local and global issues. LS5.2.1 ~ TOOLS- 1. Recognizes and provide examples of how technology has enhanced the study of life sciences, as in the development of advanced diagnosing equipment improving medicine. SPS1.1.1 ~ MAKING OBSERVATIONS AND ASKING QUESTIONS.- Use appropriate tools to accurately collect and record both qualitative and quantitative data gathered through observations. (i.e. temperature probes, electronic balances, spring scales, microscopes, stop watches, etc) SPS1.1.3 ~ Investigate similarities and differences noted when making observations. SPS1.1.4 ~ Construct and use a dichotomous key to classify a given set of objects or organisms. SPS1.1.6 ~ Rephrase questions so that they can be tested or investigated using scientific methodologies. SPS1.2.1 ~ DESIGNING SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS- Identify the manipulated, responding and controlled variables in an experiment. SPS1.2.2 ~ Design a controlled experiment, identifying and controlling the major variables. SPS1.2.3 ~ Identify flaws or omissions in the design of simple experiments. SPS1.3.1 ~ CONDUCTING SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS- Use appropriate laboratory techniques to carry out student- or teacher-developed procedures or experiments. SPS1.3.2 ~ Use appropriate tools to gather data as part of an investigation (i.e., ruler, meter stick, thermometer, spring scale, graduated cylinder, calipers, balance, probes, microscopes, etc.) SPS1.4.1 ~ REPRESENTING AND UNDERSTANDING RESULTS OF INVESTIGATIONS- Use appropriate tools - including computer hardware and software - to collect, organize, represent, analyze and explain data. SPS1.4.2 ~ Identify sources of error in experiments SPS1.4.3 ~ Draw appropriate conclusions regarding the scientific question under investigation, based on the data collected. SPS1.5.1 ~ EVALUATING SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATIONS- Determine if the results of an experiment support or refute the scientific idea tested. SPS1.5.2 ~ Evaluate whether the information and data collected allows an evaluation of the scientific idea under investigation. SPS1.5.3 ~ Determine what additional information would be helpful in answering the scientific question. SPS3.1.1 ~ COLLABORATION IN SCIENTIFIC ENDEAVORS- Work effectively within a cooperative group setting, accepting and executing assigned roles and responsibilities. SPS3.1.2 ~ Work collectively within a group toward a common goal. SPS3.1.3 ~ Demonstrate respect of one another’s abilities and contributions to the group. SPS3.1.4 ~ Demonstrate an understanding of the ethics involved in scientific inquiry. SPS3.2.1 ~ COMMON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES, NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION- Locate and collect reliable information about the environment and environmental topics using a variety of methods and sources. SPS3.2.2 ~ Judge the weaknesses and strengths of the information they are using. SPS3.2.3 ~ Explore the uses and limitations of models. SPS3.2.4 ~ Synthesize observations and findings into coherent explanations about natural resources and the environment. SPS3.3.1 ~ SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY; TECHNOLOGICAL DESIGN AND APPLICATION- Design a product or solution to a problem.SPS4.1.2 ~ Collect real-time observations and data, synthesizing and building upon existing information (e.g., online databases, NOAA, EPA, USGS) to solve problems. SPS4.1.3 ~ Use appropriate tools to analyze and synthesize information (e.g., diagrams, flow charts, frequency tables, bar graphs, line graphs, stem-and-leaf plots) to draw conclusions and implications based on investigations of an issue or question. SPS4.2.1 ~ COMMUNICATION SKILLS- Use a wide range of tools and a variety of oral, written, and graphic formats to share information and results from observations and investigations. SPS4.3.1 ~ CRITICAL THINKING AND SYSTEMS THINKING- Execute steps of scientific inquiry to engage in the problem-solving and decision making processes. SPS4.3.3 ~ Make sketches, graphs, and diagrams to explain ideas and to demonstrate the interconnections between systems.