This article in NSTA’s February 2016 issue of “The Science Teacher” describes how “cover boards” can be used to create microhabitats, models of ecosystems, that allow students to investigate interactions under different and/or changing environmental conditions. A “cover board” is any piece of square or rectangular plywood, plexiglass, flooring tile, or other material that can be placed flat on the ground. Cover boards attract, but do not harm or trap, small- and medium-sized animals in forested, grassy, or wetland habitats. The author uses the 5E instructional model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate) to describe a suggested field research project. However, the actual design of the project is left open for students to decide. Safety precautions are provided that may be needed for exploring wooded or wild-growth areas to protect students from injury. Students engage in science and engineering practices such as asking questions, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics and computational thinking, constructing explanations, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. Teacher instructional information, suggested research questions, a student data sheet, and ways for students to display and communicate their findings with their peers are all provided. Internet links include four different biodiversity indexes.
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