Vernier Science Education - June  2024
 

Forums

Forums / Life Science / Ecology

Life Science

Ecology

Author Post
Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

About a month into the school year, my school has decided to hire another science teacher...good move because my classes were in the upper 40's/low 50's. However, in the process they decided to give me two bio sections after the year started. I'm kind of scrambling now to get my feet under me as I took over these classes last week....with about 4 days notice. We start off the year teaching about Ecology/Environmental science. I've taught biology in the past but that school did semester blocks and we didn't really cover this stuff. So i'm looking for resources, activities and things of that nature on topics like Water Cycle, Nitrogen cycle, carbon cycle...foob webs, chains etc. We're moving into that stuff next and I have some stuff..but I think its going to be lame and boring. Anyone have any thoughts. Since I'm asking for help I'll share. One thing I like to do, since I'm from Northern WI, is talk about the moose/wolf population on Isle Royale when we talk about Carrying capacity and stuff. here is a link to a cool site that shows how the population has fluctuated over the past 50 years or so..and gives some thoughts to the population changes. http://vicksta.com/wolf%20and%20moose%20graph7.html

Loren Nomura Loren Nomura 4055 Points

Here's a bunch of stuff to get you started hopefully. By the way, I personally think there should be a cap on the number of students in a class. In Hawaii we have this thing called a weighted student formula where the school gets around 8K dollars per student. I think some schools don't really use all of that money to the best of their ability, otherwise they'd be able to have class sizes of 8 or 9 students (since each teacher gets paid between 32K to 55K a year)! Anyway, sorry to hear about your situation. Sounds tough.

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28250 Points

Hi Chris -

You could do an 'Ecosystem in a Jar' project, see the NSTA Journal article, http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/sc07_044_08_56

We just set-up EcoJars in our High School Biology class with local sand, pond water, aquatic plants and snails for starters under grow lights. They look fantastic! Once their pH and Oxygen content test good we'll add some hearty fish (guppies, etc.).

You can integrate these EcoJars into lessons on a wide diversity of Ecology topics.

This 'Dream Ecosystem' project also looks interesting, see the NSTA Journal article, 'Avatar in the Science Classroom' http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/tst11_078_06_47
I'm thinking about trying it next week with my students.

Dorothy Ginnett

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Along Dorothy's train of thoughtful ideas, here's another Ecosystem in a jar article, Chris:
Tried and True: Investigating Ecosystems in a Biobottle.
There is another discussion thread on Environmental Science projects, activities and ideas, Chris. For example at that thread, Patty R. mentions a free downloadable book about biology and conservation;John H. provides a WebQuest where students assume the role of scientists examining different issues regarding our use of ocean resources, etc. You can access the wealth of ideas at: Life Science > Environmental Science.
Chris, I can only imagine the happiness/stress of your predicament!
Carolyn

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

Thanks for the ideas....I was searching youtube for succession videos and stumbled across the "Succession Song" my kids loved it. If you have youtube access at school, I'd recommend looking up parrmr, the person who posts these songs. He has 30-40 songs about different science topics all done to the tune of current pop songs...its pretty quite amazing. My kids have asked to listen to the succession song every day since I showed it to them the first time..even heard some of the singing it afterward.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Along Dorothy's train of thoughtful ideas, here's another Ecosystem in a jar article, Chris:
Tried and True: Investigating Ecosystems in a Biobottle.
There is another discussion thread on Environmental Science projects, activities and ideas, Chris. For example at that thread, Patty R. mentions a free downloadable book about biology and conservation;John H. provides a WebQuest where students assume the role of scientists examining different issues regarding our use of ocean resources, etc. You can access the wealth of ideas at: Life Science > Environmental Science.
Chris, I can only imagine the happiness/stress of your predicament!
Carolyn

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64765 Points

Hi Chris,

Wow, I am so glad that your classes are smaller, but you do have a very stressful situation. I have found Massengale's Biology Junction to be an amazingly helpful site. You can also do a keyword search on the Learning Center and you will find a large number of resources. If you have any nature centers near your school, they may have resources you can check out for use with your students.

Keep posting to the forums as you have questions or get to other units. There are a lot of very creative, experienced teachers that would love to help you and remember being in the same situation you are facing. We can brainstorm together.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

Thanks again for all of the information. I am going to have the students do an ecosystem in a bottle. I'm curious with the people who have done them before...what types of observations do you have them make on a daily basis? Here is the link to the one that I found online that I am going to have them do http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/downloads/Great%20Lakes%20A1%20_2.3.09_.pdf to me it appears that it should remain a closed system. If so, what type of quantitative or qualitative measurements should they be taking?

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64765 Points

Hi Chris, If you would like this to be a long term study (i.e. one month or the entire unit), I would just have the students make drawings or take picture if you have access to a digital camera. They could write down three observations about their system. When I have done activities like this in the past, I have used it as my bell work activity. At the end of the unit, they could see if any changes have occurred. Then you can let them decide if you want them to let it go for a longer period of time. My students and I make a hay infusion at the beginning of our protist unit. We make weekly wet mount slides of the infusion to see what species of protists "show up." I have them make drawings of their findings in their lab notebook. We also keep a list of the species that they have identified. This is another great activity because it requires them to use a dichotomous key.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

That sounds like a great activity..I just begged and was permitted to buy paramecium for a lab I like to do with them. Would you mind sharing your handout for the hay infusion activity? :)

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64765 Points

Yes, Chris, I would love to share the hay infusion activity with you. I'll post it during my plan at school tomorrow. If you have not ordered the Paramecium yet, you might also want to put some methyl cellulose (also called proto-slow) on your purchase order. It is very viscous liquid that slows down protist so your students can better observe them. I also thought of another activity that you could have your students do. You can add Congo Red indicator to a culture of yeast to stain it. Then you feed the colored yeast cells to Paramecium. You can observe the microorganisms feeding. As the yeast is digested, they change color (because the Paramecium's gut is more acidic).

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

That's the paramecium lab I like to do :)

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64765 Points

Chris,

If you have ordered the Paramecium/Congo Red kit, then the lab will come with it.
If you just ordered a Paramecium culture, let me know and I can get you the instructions.

To make a hay infusion is very simple. You need the following....

Large clean container like a 2 gallon fish bowl
Cheesecloth
Kitchen string or large rubber bands
Two handfuls of dry grass clippings or hay
Tap or distilled water
microscope
microscope slides and cover slips
Protist dichotomous key
Optional: methyl cellulose (for observing your specimens)

Place your dry grass or hay in your large container. Pour enough water into the container to cover the dry grass or hay. Cover the container with cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth in place with kitchen string. Let the culture sit a couple of days.
Then have your students make wet mount slides to observe what is growing in the culture. You can add a drop of methyl cellulose to the slide. Methyl cellulose will slow the protists down so your students can view their specimens more easily. Those protists can really swim quickly. Make observations at least once a week so that students can see the changes that occur in the system over time. You can also have the students use a dichotomous key to identify their protists. It is important to have your students wash their hands with soap and water after handling the hay infusion water. You may get protists that could make students ill if they ingest them.

Note: Your culture may go anaerobic. If it does, I just cover the container with clear plastic wrap (to keep in the smell) and let the students see how it changes. Some times it will go aerobic again, some times it won't. We still have the culture from last year's biology class. I am planning on keeping it and having this year's students compare their system with a year old culture.

Attachments

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

Thank you for that information...I just ordered the paramecium, we already had the congo red...so if you wouldn't mind sharing your write up for that I would appreciate it. I had one from the school I worked at a couple years ago, but sadly have lost that flash drive :(

Michelle Amorin Michelle Amorin 310 Points

Hi, Here are some of my resources. I'm having trouble trying to find a more fun activity to do on the biogeochemical cycles as well. Since I'm in Hawaii, it's hard for us to get supplies since we have no money and there are strict regulations on what we import. I'd love to do an experiment or demo but I can't seem to find something I can do.

Jennifer Perry Jennifer Perry 2250 Points

Loren, thanks for the ideas on the water cycle. Does Frank Delima know that he is on your test?? Does he have a water cycle skit? He visited all three of my daughter's classes back in the late 1980s-1990s. I envy all those 6th grade teachers. Chris, the way your students sing along in class, we have students repeat Frank Delima jokes in class. Anyway, all the water, nitrogen, and carbon- cycle activities are great. Thanks for sharing them.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

I purchased the movie "Fortuante Wilderness." It is a documentary regarding the moose/wolf population study on Isle Royale. It's so interesting and I showed it to my students and they really enjoyed it. I think its one of those videos that have truly shown a science career and I had so many kids asking me about that type of science that is being done in the world. I have attached the worksheet I came up with to go along with the video.

Attachments

Nicole Weber Nicole Lofgren 2880 Points

I am making up cycle dice (a paper dice with a word written on each side- clouds, ground water, surface water, plants, animal etc). Around the room those same words will be written on poster paper. Each station will have a certain color paper clip. They will all start off spread out among the differnt stations. Then they will role the di to see where to go next. At each station they pick up a paper clip and add it to their chain. When we have gone through several rounds of this I will ask them to explain their travels as a water droplet. What proccesses allowed to them travel where they did (water vapor to cloudes- condensation). Then I will ask them to compare their travels to other kids travels. Is it okay that they are different? Does the cycle have to flow in the same path every time? Hope that helps. This is my first time trying this activity (tomorrow).

Jennifer Perry Jennifer Perry 2250 Points

Sounds like a fun activity. How would you explain how water goes uphill from the ocean into a stream? Could this happen during high tide or storm waves or carried by marine life upstream (eels, salmon)? Then there are also tsunamis and hurricanes.

Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25635 Points

Hi Nicole, It sounds like the purpose of your activity is to show that the water cycle occurs but that individual drops of water take different pathways through the cycle. I think the kids will find the unique path that they took throughout the game interesting and will want to compare them to each other. Here is some information about your activity that might help you: http://www.montana.edu/wwwwet/journey.html The EPA has lots of games and activities related to the water cycle at http://water.epa.gov/learn/kids/drinkingwater/gamesandactivies.cfm Water cycle game: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/kids/flash/flash_watercycle.html Here's a couple of water cycle songs you might be able to use http://www.educationalrap.com/song/water-cycle.html http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okZBiy_IdBA Enjoy!

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Nicole said, 'I am making up cycle dice (a paper dice with a word written on each side- clouds, ground water, surface water, plants, animal etc)'.
That's a great activity that I have used, too, Nicole. Thanks for mentioning it. For anyone wanting the specific instructions, go to the Water, Water, Everywhere discussion thread. It is at the first post there (Look for The Incredible Journey). Thanks for the links to the songs, Patty. I am going to add them to my teaching notes for the next time I teach about the water cycle.

Morgan Fleetwood Morgan Fleetwood 60 Points

Hello all, I am currently a student at Indiana University. I have to make a lesson plan for one of my classes,my topic is ecosystems. For one of the activities I have the students go to http://www.explorelearning.com/ and complete a online experiment on food chains. The idea of the experiment is that the students can change the different population levels, graphs are shown. I wanted to incorporate as much inquiry as possible. What should I give to the students before they start the assignment, in terms of like a worksheet. This is for middle school by the way. Thanks!

Nicole Weber Nicole Lofgren 2880 Points

I create stations around the room (depending on the cycle)cloud, plant, animal, soil, etc. each station has a die i created and a set of one color of paper clip (different color per station) the students all start off randomly at the stations. they take a paper clip, roll the die and travel where the die tells them to, take the new paper clip and attach it to the first, and roll the die again. The do this for a couple of rounds (5 or 6). Then they create concept maps- where did they travel and how did they get there (evap, transp, etc). Then they compare their travels to others in the group and talk about why they are different if they are different. then I have them diagram in a picture their travels.

Douglas DeGennaro Douglas DeGennaro 160 Points

To demonstrate the water cycle you can use a hot plate to boil water have a ring stand with an O-ring clamp attached about two inches above the boiling beaker then place a watch glass on top of the o-ring and place an ice cube on top of the watch glass. The boiling water will condense on the bottom of the watch glass and fall back into the boiling water. Have students draw a picture of what is happening and create a written description. Then you can use this experience to have students answer the following question; If relatively small amounts of new water are produced (ice from space, etc) on Earth, why don't we ever run out? Ask student how water is able to move into the atmosphere?, why it falls down?, etc. These questions and their complexity as well as students level of understanding will vary greatly depending on previously learned material. Doug

Ronaldo Relador Ronaldo Relador 45315 Points

I'm here to search for engaging and fun activities on ecology and population. These are our current topics in Biology. Im enjoying reading everyone's comments and ideas. Thanks.

Lorrie Armfield Lorrie Armfield 51438 Points

Excellent resources. I, too, use stations in my classroom and my scholars rotate through the stations to complete a specific Advancement Via Individual Determination (A.V.I.D.) task. This is an great strategy to use for any topic, and can hook and hold the attention of even the most apprehensive of learners. As a middle school educator, we have not begun our biology unit as of yet (February 2012), but I will be sure to share my ideas once I start to build my lessons. Keep the wonderful ideas coming... I appreciate them! LA

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64765 Points

Many life science teachers start the year with an unit in ecology. I use some resources from the Schoolyard Science on Konza Prairie site. My students can submit a query to the KEEP and LTER databases and sort through years of data. I am thinking about partnering with my math teacher this year.

Have any of you considered using some of your ecology labs to help to teach the statistics portion in the common core math standards. Care to share how with the forum?

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers