Saturday, April 21, 2018

Embedding Science Standards into Wetlands and River Studies

Our students are embarking on an environmental exploration of rivers and wetlands habitat with the support of Audubon's Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Program.

As I prepare for these explorations, I took a look at how we will integrate this work with the Massachusetts Science Technology and Engineering (STE) standards and practices, and this is what I came up with.

  • "Observe and potentially create a model that demonstrates the cycling of water through a watershed through evaporation, precipitation, absorption, surface runoff, and condensation." We will look carefully at this via video introductions, creation of hand-made models, and during our nature walks in the local habitat and elsewhere.
  • "Describe and graph the relative amounts of salt water in the ocean; fresh water in lakes, rivers, and groundwater, and fresh water frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps to provide evidence about the availability of fresh water in Earth's biosphere." We will make these graphs and look for information related to this topic that describes the habitat the students go to school in, a habitat that includes multiple wetlands areas, rivers, lakes and other waterways. 
  • "Obtain and combine information about ways communities reduce human impact on the Earth's resources and environment by changing an agricultural, industrial, or community practice or process. . .including treating sewage, reducing the amounts of materials used, capturing polluting emissions from factories or power plants, and preventing runoff from agricultural activities." We will likely seek out local environmental/landscape experts to discuss this topic with our students as a start.
  • "Test a simple system designed to filter particulates out of water and propose one change to the design to improve it." Students will notice that typical water bottles do not filter out particulates and result in clean water. They will use the engineering design process to create water bottles that also filter out particulates and cleanse water. Students will understand that "technology is any modification of the natural or designed world done to fulfill human needs or wants." Students will sketch design diagrams demonstrating how "each part of a product or device relates to other parts in the product or device."
  • "Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among producers, consumers, decomposers, and the air, water, and soil in the environment to (a) show that plants produce sugars and plant materials, (b) show that animals can eat plants and/or other animals for food, and (c) show that some organisms, including fungi and bacteria break down dead organisms and recycle some materials back to the air. . . emphasis is on how matter moves through the ecosystem." Students will look for evidence of this during our nature walks and collect evidence via photography, drawings, and notes in their Junior River Ranger booklets.
  • "Students will look at two designs for composting to determine which is most likely to encourage the decomposition of materials." Students will compare the classroom worm-composting to the school-wide container composting efforts and to natural composting that occurs. Students might create their own mini composting designs and compare those as well. 
  • Students will create maps of the nature habitats that we explore, and those maps will illustrate "simple landforms." Students will notice rock layers to notice change over time. 
  • Flow charts of food/energy cycles.
  • "Students will construct an argument with evidence that in a particular environment some organisms survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive." Students will speculate about what plants and animals exist in the habitats we explore, and then during the exploration they will notice which species seem to survive well and why. Students will identify "variations. . . .that provide advantages. . . .survival and reproduction." Students will observe changes in the habitat and determine how those changes may have affected living species and the landforms.
  • Students will collect and interpret data.
  • Students will head start frogs, toads, and plant. They will detail the life cycle of these organisms in their Junior River Ranger books. Students will look for evidence of animal/plant life cycles during their naturalist expeditions. 
Science Practices
  • Design and build a simple design problem: create a mini composter, create a water filter. Determine success criteria, note constraints on material and time. 
  • Design a model to test cause and effect relationships.
  • Create graphical representations to demonstrate life cycles of plants and animals as well as wave features and particulate models of matter to describe phase changes.
  • Collect data and make predictions about what would happen if the variable changes - (physical science exploration of matter)
  • Measure and graph weights of substances before and after a chemical reaction (properties of matter- conservation of matter: physical science)
  • Use graphs and data to understand where water is and how much is available in the local habitat.
  • Use evidence to demonstrate how variation among individuals can provide advantages to survival and reproduction. 
  • Test and refine over time water filters, plant packets, solar ovens, composters.
  • Obtain and summarize information about the local habitat climate as well as renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.