Dec 142012

Because they cannot move, plants have developed a diverse range of strategies to spread their genetic material: from producing tasty fruits to entice birds and mammals to encasing seeds in structures that can be carried off by the wind. Small mammals, like squirrels and mice, can be both beneficial and destructive for plant seeds – they serve as dispersal agents, moving seeds far from parent plants and into beneficial habitats, or as predators, consuming seeds before they have had a chance to germinate. Using squirrels as a study system, we will explore importance of squirrel behavior human disturbance influencing seed dispersal.

In this lesson, we discuss dispersal and predation as major forces determining the fate of a seed. We will conduct an experiment where we measure squirrel removal of seeds from a seed trap to determine their activity in a variety of habitats – including forest and open field. Using this data, we will go through the scientific method, from hypothesis generation to conclusion. Students will be introduced to Project Squirrel, a citizen science database where students can submit and explore data on squirrel behavior.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:
  • Understand how traits of a seed help it to disperse in its environment
  • Discuss the tradeoffs between remaining need the parent plant or dispersing too far away
  • Discuss the tradeoffs between attracting seed dispersers and being susceptible to seed predators
  • Generate a hypothesis and prediction, and understand how the experimental design addresses their hypothesis
  • Collect data from an experiment and put into a table
  • Convert a data table into a figure and draw conclusions


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellows Liz Schultheis, Tomomi Suwa, and Jakob Nalley

 Posted by on December 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm  Lessons
Oct 032012

Students simulate bass populations with and without fishing pressure, gather data from the simulation, analyze it by making graphs, and draw conclusions about what maintains variation in personality type and how fishing could cause evolutionary change in personality in populations that are fished.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • List the three requirements for evolution by natural selection
    • Phenotypic variation in a trait exists within a population
    • The phenotypes must be heritable
    • Some phenotypes have higher fitness than others
  • Determine whether evolution happened in a given situation and how it happened.
  • Explain potential ecological and evolutionary effects of not using natural resources in a sustainable manner


 Posted by on October 3, 2012 at 7:26 pm  Lessons
Oct 032012

Evolution is one of the most fundamental concepts in biology.  The process of evolution by natural selection has produced some of the most spectacular traits found in living organisms.  In this lesson students will explore the concept of evolution by natural selection using mimicry as an example.  Mimicry refers to a similarity between more than one species for the purpose of protection.  For example, a non-poisonous species may closely resemble a poisonous species, and this resemblance protects the non-poisonous species from predators.  In this session, students will play a scavenger hunt game using Easter eggs to demonstrate the benefits of mimicry and the conditions under which mimicry can evolve.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand the process of evolution by natural selection and be able to identify/explain its three components
  • Understand that populations evolve, not individuals
  • Understand that evolution occurs across generations, not within a generation
  • Understand the concept of mimicry and how it can evolve
  • Relate patterns to theory
  • Use evidence and reason to form a conclusion


 Posted by on October 3, 2012 at 6:59 pm  Lessons
Oct 032012

In this lesson, students will learn about survival, reproduction, selection, adaptation, and evolution all while playing hands-on games and constructing their knowledge through experience. Students get to be birds and compete against their classmates to eat the most seeds. This activity demonstrates how small beaks are better at getting small seeds, whereas large beaks are better at getting large seeds. Next, students become part of a bird population with a variety of beak sizes. Depending on the weather, big, small, or medium seeds are common that year. Students observe how populations change over time based on the environment. Students explain why the population changes over time, and they also make predictions about what will happen to the population in future years.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe how physical characteristics of an organism affect what it can eat, which then impacts its survival and reproduction
  • Explain why a population might change over time based on the environment
  • Make predictions about how a population might change over time based on the environment
  • Draw graphs from game outcomes, summarize patterns, and interpret what is happening to the population over time
  • Compare game outcomes and explain why populations look different depending on the environmental conditions they experienced over time


Lesson plan written and created by GK-12 Fellow Alycia Lackey, 2012

 Posted by on October 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm  Lessons
Apr 302012

Many invasive species do not start to invade as soon as they are introduced into a new area; there is a “lag time” in most invasions where scientists predict they are evolving to their new habitat and waiting for beneficial genes to arrive, either through mutation or further introductions of new individuals from their native range. Through an interactive game, students will learn how evolution might create an invasive species. The game demonstrates the basic components of evolution (variation and selection) and how they can cause an introduced species to become invasive and outcompete native species.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to understand the basic concepts of evolution and biological invasions including:

  • Evolution by natural selection
  • Three factors required for evolution by natural selection to occur  (variation in trait, fitness differences, inheritance)
  • Source of variation (mutation, recombination and migration) and how these differ between native and invasive species
  • The definition of an invasive species
  • How evolution by natural selection can facilitate an invasive species



Lesson plan and game created by GK-12 Fellows Tomomi Suwa & Elizabeth Schultheis and Teacher in Residence Marcia Angle, 2012

 Posted by on April 30, 2012 at 4:16 pm  Lessons
Mar 202012

In this lesson, students will examine three claims made about global warming: (1) global warming has not occurred since the industrial revolution, (2) the main cause of global warming since the industrial revolution has been natural changes in the amount of solar radiance from solar flares, and (3) the main cause of global warming since the industrial revolution has been an increase in greenhouse gases.  Students will use quantitative figures to critically evaluate each claim and they will decide which claim is best supported by the information in the figures. Students will interpret and analyze graphs and figures and then evaluate the reliability of the information in the figures.  Students will then evaluate the relevancy of each piece of information as it relates to the claims made and then students will make inferences to decide which claim is best supported by the evidence.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain the main factors controlling climate and how changes in these factors would impact the earth’s climate.
  • Know what the current data on the causes of global warming show.
  • Communicate their position on global warming using evidence.


Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellow Nick Ballew, 2011

 Posted by on March 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm  Lessons
Mar 202012

Students will learn essential part of the experimental design (replication, randomization, and control). This will be especially useful for students conducting independent projects. Students will also learn how to present their scientific findings and practice by critiquing scientific posters.

At the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Design experiment (randomization, replication and control)
  • Communicate scientific findings (general structure)
  • Make a poster and evaluate constructively


Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellows Tyler Bassett and Tomomi Suwa, 2011

 Posted by on March 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm  Lessons
Mar 202012

Invasive tree Norway maple, growing near KBS

Invasive species are non-native, introduced species that have a negative impact on the habitats they invade. Invasive species can be plants, animals, or microorganisms, and the damage they can cause to native ecosystems can be devastating. What is it about these species that allow them to successfully invade different habitats? Does the environment itself also play a role in how likely it is that an invasion will take place? In this lesson plan students will explore what it means to be an invasive species. They will learn what traits make a good invader as well as what environmental conditions favor invasion. Students will also get a chance to observe and interpret graphs and figures from real world research on invasive species. Finally, students will have the opportunity to play a game that simulates an invasive species spreading through Michigan, and students have to implement different methods to control its spread.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain what an invasive species is and provide several local examples of invasivespecies
  • Understand what traits help invasive species spread
  • Understand what environmental factors facilitate invasion
  • Interpret graphs and figures of real world data from several invasive species
  • Understand the different methods that have been used to control the spread of invasive species


Lesson plan and game created by GK-12 Fellows Michael Kuczynski and Kate Steensma, 2011

 Posted by on March 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm  Lessons
Mar 202012

Biotic resistance is the ability of a native community to keep out invasive species. Land managers want to promote biotic resistance because of the harmful effects of invasive species once they have established. Several aspects of a community might make it better able to resist invasion such as high diversity, low nutrient levels, and low disturbance. In this activity, students will be able to make and test hypothesis based on invasive species success and biotic resistance. Factors promoting biotic resistance are manipulated in our BEST Bioenergy Plots and so similar questions can be asked through this activity and the data that we will be collecting through the entire GK-12 district network.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Discuss several examples of invasive species in Michigan, and why biologists are concerned about their introduction.
  • Define biotic resistance and qualities of a community that can repel or facilitate invasion.
  • Link biotic resistance to the treatments that are being applied to the BEST Bioenergy plots at their school district.
  • Make predictions about where we’ll find the most invasive species in the plots.
  • Graph and interpret data, using evidence to support their claims.

Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellow Elizabeth Schultheis, 2011

 Posted by on March 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm  Lessons
Mar 202012

Here you will find our Fellow-developed lesson plans that relate to the three categories of protocols we’ve developed: biomass/biodiversity, landscape level, and soils. Each lesson plan takes one or more of those protocols, provides background for teachers and students, and relates the protocol to Michigan grade-level content standards.

Introducing the Plots

Plant Biodiversity Protocols

Invertebrate Biodiversity Protocols

Soil Protocols

Lessons on Plot Data Analysis
  • Data Analysis Lesson Plan – What will you do with all these data?, Middle and High School level
  • Exploring patterns and drawing conclusions from data – Elementary level, invertebrate data
Mar 202012
In this lesson, students will learn the characteristics that help seeds to disperse and the variety of ways that seeds can get around! Dispersal is important for plants (and animals, too) because it helps young organisms to avoid competing with their parents for resources and to escape seed predators. Different species of plants produce seeds with different adaptations for dispersal. Some seeds, like those of the dandelion, rely on the wind to carry them. Other seeds are encased in fruit, and rely on animals to eat them and deposit their seeds elsewhere. This topic connects to many K-4 topics, including organism’s needs in their environments, competition, adaptation, survival, reproduction, and plant life cycles. Additionally, this lesson helps students practice multiple important inquiry skills that encompass many steps of the scientific method.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe different adaptations seeds have that help them to disperse
  • Make predictions about how a seed is likely to disperse
  • Collect data and record findings in simple charts
  • Summarize data from charts into sentences
  • Compare findings among types of seeds
  • Compare findings between groups that may have tested the same or different types of seeds
  • Recognize that repeating a test should provide similar results to previous tests


Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellows Elizabeth Schultheis & Alycia Lackey, 2011

 Posted by on March 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm  Lessons
Mar 192012

These materials can be a guide for exploring nature, with focus on Michigan species. Use the scavenger hunt to help your students identify particular types of organisms and organism-environment interactions. The “picture review” shows how Jim Eckert’s class at Wattles Park Elementary School in Harper Creek exploring the Ott Biological Reserve. The “tree identification” and “animal tracks” documents focus on Michigan species your students might be able to find.

Enjoy the outdoors!

GK-12 Fellow Alycia out with students doing a forest walk!


Field trip idea by GK-12 Fellow Alycia Lacky

 Posted by on March 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm  Lessons
Mar 192012

Students explore the effects of the environment on competition between species. Students play a game where two different species forage for prey. Species differ in vision, simulated by light-filtering goggles, which affects their
ability to forage on particular food items that differ in color. Students gather data, make tables and graphs, and make comparisons between outcomes for different species and in different environments. Students develop new
questions to test within the framework of the game. They make predictions, develop methods, gather data and interpret results from their questions. Connections to evolution, competition, predator-prey dynamics and food webs
can be made.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand that organisms require resources from their environment.
  • Understand that organisms compete for resources in their environment.
  • Become familiar with examples of competition between species.
  • Understand that changes to the environment change competition between species through a game.
  • Become familiar with examples of change in environments that cause change in competition between species.
  • Make applications to real world situations of environmental change and competition (including applications to bioenergy plots).
  • Make tables and graphs of data collected.
  • Interpret data from graphs and make comparisons between graphs from different scenarios and species.
  • Develop new questions, make predictions, design methods, test question, collect and interpret data.


Lesson plan and game created by GK-12 Fellow Alycia Lackey & teachers Steve Barry and Sandy Erwin

 Posted by on March 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm  Lessons
Mar 192012

Mud, or sediment, is an active part of aquatic ecosystems. Sediment varies widely within and among ecosystems in its biotic and abiotic characteristics. In many ecosystems sediment can release excess phosphorus (a common aquatic pollutant) into the water column causing internal eutrophication

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Observe and describe abiotic and biotic characteristics of sediment
  • Recognize that the sediment and water in a lake carry phosphorus, which is necessary for life, but can have negative ecosystem effects at high levels
  • Describe the difference between experimental control and treatment groups
  • Use observations to support conclusions


Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellow Lauren Kinsman & teacher Liz Ratashak

 Posted by on March 19, 2012 at 10:17 pm  Lessons
Mar 192012
Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife, photo by EHS

In this lesson, students will examine herbivory on exotic vs. native tree species planted into plantations in the Kellogg Forest. We will use our data to test the Enemy Release Hypothesis, which posits that exotic species escape from specialized natural enemies in their invaded range, contributing to their success. Students
will develop predictions, design experimental sampling methods, collect data, and create graphs to summarize data.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Give reasons why invasive species are so successful in their introduced range and can displace native species
  • Compare ecosystem processes acting on native and exotic species
  • Identify new plants species and different types of herbivore damage
  • Present data in visual format for interpretation


Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellow Elizabeth Schultheis & teacher Marcia Angle, 2010

 Posted by on March 19, 2012 at 10:12 pm  Lessons
Mar 192012

Biofuel crops are being considered as an option for reduction of global warming.  However, biofuel crops are not 100% carbon neutral.  There are three agriculture related greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, N2O. Nitrous oxide is an important greenhouse gas that is often overlooked by the non scientific community.  60% of nitrous oxide emissions are produced by agriculture ecosystems.  Input of fertilizer greatly stimulates nitrous oxide emissions.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe certain processes in nitrogen cycling (specifically, denitrification, nitrification)
  • Understand that an increase in fertilization of biofuel crops will increase the release greenhouse gases
  • Know how nitrous oxide can counteract the greenhouse gas reduction effects of using biofuels as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions


Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellow Leilei Ruan & teacher Sandy Erwin

 Posted by on March 19, 2012 at 9:53 pm  Lessons
Mar 192012
Gray tree frog

Gray tree frog, photo by DNR

This lesson will span both Middle and High School Michigan Standards making connections to wetland ecosystems and natural selection.  Students explore gray treefrog morphology and behavior, focusing on how these frogs are adapted to their environment.  Students will be asked to describe their preconceptions of what makes a frog.  Students will engage in an activity demonstrating what a frog needs to survive in the wild.  Students will also examine several species of MI frogs taking notes of their similarities and differences and learning to identify the calls of MI frogs.  Finally, students will also play a card game simulating the pros and cons of different reproductive strategies.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify food chains and food webs in a wetland incorporating the Michigan gray treefrogs
  • Understand how the environment and human activity can influence populations.
  • Understand that all plants and animals have a definite life cycle, and adaptations to accomplish specific life functions.
  • Understand that inherited traits can be influenced by changes in the environment and by genetics
  • Understand that characteristics of mature animals may be inherited or acquired and that only inherited traits are passed on to their young.
  • Understand that there are different strategies that can be used to try to maximize reproduction


Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellow Mike Kuczynski & teacher Marty Green, 2011

 Posted by on March 19, 2012 at 9:47 pm  Lessons
Mar 192012

Students participate in an activity that models natural selection or the introduction of an invasive species by competing for limited “resources,” and observing how the presence of an advantageous trait can change the class population over time.  Students graph the population’s change over time and participate in a guided discussion about factors that may influence natural selection.

Example graph from the activity

 At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the effects of natural selection on a population, or the effects of an invasive species on a native population
  • Understand the factors contributing to extinction, including displacement and competition
  • Discern patterns of population growth, including exponential growth and the relationship between a population’s environment and its carrying capacity
  • Construct and interpret graphs relating to population growth
  • Relate patterns to theory
  • Use evidence to reason and draw conclusions
  • Differentiate between a theory, hypothesis, and observation


Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellow Kate Steensma & teacher Marty Beuhler, 2011

 Posted by on March 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm  Lessons
Mar 192012

Students will learn about the mutualistic relationship between plants and nitrogen fixing bacteria.  The effect of environmental conditions on this relationship will be investigated in two inquiry activities.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define mutualism.
  • Describe the mutualistic relationship between nitrogen fixing bacteria and legumes. (biotic interactions)
  • Describe how changing environmental conditions can alter the relationships between organisms. (abiotic interactions)



Lesson plan created by GK-12 Fellow Tomomi Suwa & teacher Sandy Breitenbach, 2012. Last updated: September 2015

 Posted by on March 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm  Lessons
Mar 192012

In this lesson and game, students will learn about invasive species in Michigan, characteristics that make species good invaders, factors that can influence plant community assembly, and the role that people play in causing and proliferating invasions.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Provide examples of invasions causing economic and ecological concerns in Michigan
  • Identify characteristics (traits) that are common among many invasive species
  • Present information on the role that people play in the establishment and spread of invasive species
  • Recognize some common native and invasive plant species in Michigan
  • Talk about populations, communities, and the niche


Lesson plan and game created by GK-12 Fellows Elizabeth Schultheis & Melissa Kjelvik, 2010

 Posted by on March 19, 2012 at 8:46 pm  Lessons