Mar 192012
 

KBS GK-12 Fellows spend at least a year in the classroom of a KBS K-12 Partnership Partner Teacher. Over the course of the year they design and present lessons to students in their partner classes with guidance from their partner teachers, and present concurrent sessions to teachers at our KBS K-12 Partnership school-year workshops. We’ve posted some of our favorite fellow-produced lessons for you to enjoy. They may be related to fellow research, based on a suggestion or request made by one of our partner teachers, or produced for use on our BEST Research Network schoolyard plots. Lessons can be viewed either individually, by scrolling down this page, or by using our New Interactive Table. Feel free to contact the fellow who designed the lesson with further questions and for lesson-related materials – you can find their contact information here.

BEST Plots Lesson Plans

BEST Plots Lesson Plans

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 Bioenergy: An Introduction – the what, how, and why of bioenergy Lesson Plan Presentation Slides What makes it all go? Can biofuels do the job? Lesson Plan Part I Lesson Plan Part II Lesson Plan Part III - elementary Presentation Slides Energy Exercise – elementary Energy Exercise – high school BEST Plot Plant Biomass Data – Feb 2012 Michigan Map Fuel Conversion Worksheet  Fun with fermentation: How cellulose becomes ethanol Lesson Plan Presentation Slides Plant Biodiversity Protocols Biodiversity: It’s all connected! – exploring biodiversity and organisms’ interactions with their environments How [...]

The Double Life of A Squirrel: Seed Disperser and Predator

The Double Life of A Squirrel: Seed Disperser and Predator

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 [...]

Seeds on the Run: A Model of Seed Dispersal

Seeds on the Run: A Model of Seed Dispersal

In the 1970’s, an influential ecological hypothesis was developed by two tropical biologists trying to explain the distribution of trees in the hyper-diverse rainforests of planet Earth. We use a deceptively simple board game as a model for students to explore how two basic concepts (dispersing far is hard, and living at high density is dangerous) can be combined to explain this baffling natural pattern. We show you how to interactively lead students through the predictions of the hypothesis, give you the tools to collect data from the game itself, and finish by graphing and discussing our board-game data. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: Explain dispersal in an ecological context including why dispersal is important and the challenges of dispersal Make predictions based on ecological concepts Understand the principles of the Janzen-Connell hypothesis Graph [...]

Weeds! Tricks of the Trade

Weeds! Tricks of the Trade

This lesson will explore how plant traits like seed dispersal (e.g., wind-dispersed, animal-dispersed, etc.), seed hardiness, and land-use history influence the assembly of weed communities following a major disturbance (e.g., construction of a BEST plot, agricultural field, or garden plot). The focus will be on volunteer species (read: weeds) most commonly found in the BEST plots across the network. The lesson begins by providing students background information on seed traits and land use legacies. After covering this information, participants will do a brief activity that involves making predictions about which plant traits make weeds made most successful. Students will spend the remaining portion of the lesson analyzing and interpreting volunteer species abundance data from the BEST plot network. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: List and describe four different plant dispersal mechanisms Describe three determinants [...]

Effect of fish on pond invertebrate community structure

Effect of fish on pond invertebrate community structure

This lesson offers an introduction to aquatic invertebrates living in ponds, and a look into how the presence or absence of a top predator – fish – affects the community composition and structure.  This is a lesson teachers can do at KBS if they are interested – just contact Gary Mittlebach. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: Display familiarity with techniques used to sample aquatic invertebrates Describe how predators influence prey community composition and structure Identify several major groups of aquatic invertebrates Use microscopes to examine zooplankton If classes want to come out to the KBS pond laboratory, we would suggest allowing at least a half day to spend on the facilities. This will allow time for an introduction to the history and research done at the pond lab an introduction to the study system [...]

Pollination: what’s on your flowers? Observing and quantifying pollinator visitation

Pollination: what’s on your flowers? Observing and quantifying pollinator visitation

Students explore mutualistic interactions by focusing on pollination.  Do flowers attract specific or a variety of pollinators?  Students hear a presentation on mutualism and pollination in particular, and the go outside and use actual observations and data collection to discover what types of pollinators visit flowering plants in their vicinity.  The lesson is adaptable to multiple topics, grade levels, and habitats. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: Explain the major kinds of interspecific interaction Explain what pollination is and how it works Identify one or more species of local flowering plants Identify pollinators by broad or narrow group, depending on age of students Collect pollinator visitation data in a scientifically rigorous way Discuss some of the ecological factors affecting composition and abundance of pollinator communities Presentation: 20 minutes Field: 30 minutes (plus time to get [...]

Water and Winter: How our seasons and the properties of H2O shape life in temperate lakes

Water and Winter: How our seasons and the properties of H2O shape life in temperate lakes

Using a simple inquiry exercise, a short presentation, readings, and discussion, you will explore how water and winter interact in temperate lakes and ponds. From the properties of solid and liquid water to the effects of biannual nutrient turnover through freezing and thawing, this lesson will highlight how winter dictates the ecology in temperate lakes. It ends with current event tie-ins that will get your students excited about ice in their daily lives. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: List the unique properties of water Hydrogen bonding Ice is less dense than water Water is most dense at 4°C Explain how turnover affects nutrients, plants and animals in a lake Explain how the density of water at certain temperatures causes turnover to happen To complete this lesson in full will take two 50-minute periods. The [...]

BEST Plots ~ Using student-collected data in the classroom

BEST Plots ~ Using student-collected data in the classroom

In the following lessons, we use questions generated for and data collected from the BEST (BioEnergy SusTainability) plots to have students make predictions, draw graphs, interpret data patterns, and support claims with evidence. Students play a fun and engaging game that helps them think about the biology involved in how plants grow or how invertebrates find food in their environment. The outcomes of the game help students make predictions. We also have four classroom activities, based on the Data Nugget model, that get students looking at real data, making graphs, and answering questions by making evidence based claims. These lessons focus on parts of the overarching scientific question for the BEST plots: “Can we grow our fuel and save our flowers and butterflies, too?” These lesson plans address the following questions: How do the kinds of plants we planted (switchgrass [...]

BoxCar2D ~ Evolving better cars: teaching evolution by natural selection through inquiry

BoxCar2D ~ Evolving better cars: teaching evolution by natural selection through inquiry

In this lesson, students explore how the basic principles of evolution can be used to produce a better vehicle using web-based software. The program, BoxCar2D, allows the user to observe evolution in action with cars in a virtual environment and design vehicles to move over a variety of 2- dimensional landscapes. The program utilizes the basic principles of biological evolution: mutation, reproduction with recombination, and selection (moving faster and farther = higher fitness). Objectives Through guided exploration of the dynamics of digital evolution in BoxCar2D, students will gain an understanding of the following concepts: Evolution happens over generations in populations, not to an individual within its lifetime. Mutations and recombination create variation. Although much of the variation is not helpful, some of it is – this random variation allows evolution by natural selection to solve problems in novel and efficient [...]

Big Roots for Big Problems: Exploring the Ecosystem Services of Roots

Big Roots for Big Problems: Exploring the Ecosystem Services of Roots

Student will explore the idea of what ecosystem services are, focusing on the importance of plant’s root systems. A brief introduction to ecosystem services will be followed by an interactive demonstration illustrating a basic ecosystem service. Then students will have an opportunity to construct their own root systems and test out their designs to see how they fare in a heavy rain event. Finally, after conducting a month long experiment with different watering regimes, students will determine whether certain plants are more equipped to deal with drought and what makes them better. This is a highly interactive lesson that requires some preparation prior to implementation. Objectives At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: Understand how healthy ecosystems provide valuable services Distinguish between four different categories of ecosystem services Understand the specific role of roots in providing [...]

Where does plant mass come from?

Where does plant mass come from?

Photo Credit: Audrey from Central Pennsylvania, USA Tracing matter in the gaseous form is difficult to teach and requires carefully planned activities. Plant growth is one way to teach students that most of the mass of the plant comes from somewhere other than the soil, but mostly in carbon dioxide and hydrogen atoms from water. To identify this, students will be planting seeds indoors, weighing the dry pot, soil and seed first and then the dry pot, soil and plant later. The total mass of the soil and pot will be nearly equal before and after the experiment. Students will also measure plant height throughout the experiment. Students will be able use the data from the experiment to make graphs and conclusions, which are important concepts for upper elementary students. After discovering that most of the plant mass does not [...]

All About Corn

All About Corn

Photo Credit: Darwin Bell Corn and soybeans cover 6% of the total land area in the United States and are grown on 15 times as much land as all fruits and vegetables combined.In this activity, students will take a walk out into a corn field to become more acquainted with this crop that is so common.Students will make calculations for the number of plants and ears of corn per acre and then estimate the total number of ears grown in the U.S.in 2002 based on USDA data.Students will be informed about the different types of corn available and that most of it is actually used for products other than human food. Finally, corn is a crop that requires high amounts of energy and nutrients to grow successfully, making it a crop that can potentially contribute to environmental pollution if managed [...]

Food Chain

Food Chain

    Students learn about a specific food chain (coyote-squirrel-acorn in this example, but can be any local food chain) in nature and that organisms can be classified as producers, herbivores or carnivores depending on their diet. A game will be played where students take on the role of different organisms in the food chain and act out different cycles.Experimental situations are played out in the game and are designed to help the students understand that there are more organisms lower than higher in the food chain.They will also learn the consequences of separately removing carnivores and plants from the food chain. At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to: Understand that energy flows naturally through a locally occurring food chain Define the terms producer, herbivore and carnivore Understand that there must be more individuals at the [...]

Habitat Loss and Fragmentation: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Habitat Loss and Fragmentation: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Photo Credit: SUNY JCC Habitat fragmentation is visible all over Michigan. Roads, lawns, buildings, farmland, and other changes in habitat have turned our state, and most others, into a huge patchwork quilt of ecotypes. Unfortunately, the lines between those quilt squares and the small size of those patches has had a huge impact on the wildlife that call Michigan home. Come join us for a session of active games and prizes. You can really see what impacts fragmentation has by putting yourself in the shoes of the critters dealing with the changes we make. Weather permitting we will head outside for some fun, so come dressed for the chill in the air and be prepared to get active and have fun! At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to: Explain how habitat fragmentation can influence the survival [...]

Hairy Leaves

Hairy Leaves

Plants have small hairs on their leaves and stems called trichomes.These structures are important for defense from herbivory and protection from cold, heat and drought. Students will investigate leaf hairs of many different plants in the schoolyard using an inquiry based activity.Two hypotheses will be made,one about whether or not all plants have leaf hairs, and whether most plants are highly pubescent (hairy) or modestly pubescent.Leaves will be collected and classified into three categories.Students will create a data table and bar graph from their data and present this to the rest of the class.The teacher will conclude with some ideas about why plants have leaf hairs and try to stimulate future questions from the students about the topic. At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to: Conduct a basic scientific investigation to support predictions Explain why plants [...]

History and Diversity of American Crops

History and Diversity of American Crops

In this activity, students explore the world of crop history in North America. They begin by choosing a crop species that was historically grown in the Americas, studying the history and ordering bulk amounts of seeds from an heirloom variety that has been around for many years. The students use the bulk seed to run a small- scale seed store where they repackage and sell seed for a profit. Students also examine the characteristics of the seed and use the schoolyard or classroom as a place to plant and examine the growth of the variety they have chosen. Plants may be maintained in the schoolyard or at students homes so that they can save seed to create a seed bank at the school. At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to: Provide a detailed history about a [...]

Comparison of Historical Lake Ice Cover Data From Three Lakes in Michigan and Wisconsin

Comparison of Historical Lake Ice Cover Data From Three Lakes in Michigan and Wisconsin

What evidence do scientists really have to support global climate change? Students will explore long term datasets on the duration of ice cover for three different lakes (Gull Lake, Fair Lake, and Lake Mendota). They will examine patterns of variation at different time scales to see the importance of long-term data as well as the importance of having multiple sources of support for scientific hypotheses (in this case, global climate change). At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: Interpret data Make inferences from trends or patterns in data Make spatial and temporal comparisons of ecological systems Explain how lake ice cover has changed due to global climate change on three lakes Resources: Lesson plan (.doc) Climate change presentation (.pdf) Student handout (.doc) Data files (simple, standard, teacher) (.xls) Access to computers with Microsoft Excel Lesson Plan created [...]

How Do Birds Fly?

How Do Birds Fly?

Photo Credit: Paul Tomlin The ability to fly is a fascinating biological phenomenon. In this short activity, students will identify characteristics of birds that allow them to fly, and how these characteristics are different from other animals that cannot fly.Many of these characteristics are listed in this lesson for teacher use, including how bird wings are arc shaped, causing decreased air pressure above the wing compared to below.Students also will learn that not all birds are able to fly. At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to: Understand that gravity is a force that pulls objects toward the center of the Earth Understand that not every bird can fly Explain several reasons for why birds are able to fly and many other animals can not fly Resources: Lesson Plan Bird and squirrel picture Lesson created by Brook [...]

Iron In Cereal

Iron In Cereal

Many breakfast cereals are fortified with iron, which is essential for transport of oxygen in blood throughout human bodies. The iron is simply sprayed on the cereal and can be separated by physical processes. Students in this lesson use bar magnets to extract iron from crushed up breakfast cereals. Five different cereals are used for the experiment including those with different iron concentrations based on nutritional information. Iron extracted from each cereal type is weighed and compared to the other cereals and the nutritional information on the box. At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to: Extract iron from fortified breakfast cereal Conduct an experiment to determine which cereals have the most iron Separate a mixture of cereal and water into magnetic and non-magnetic categories Resources: Lesson Plan Lesson created by Brook Wilke

Land Conservation Debate

Land Conservation Debate

Photo Credit: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy In 1980, 6% of Michigan’s landscape was covered by urban areas. Experts project that by 2040, 18% of the landscape will be developed into urban areas. This comes at a huge cost to natural landscapes including the ecosystem services they provide. In this activity, students will be divided up into groups that represent different landscapes including farmland, wetlands, forests, prairies and urban areas. Students in these groups will identify reasons and share arguments for protecting natural landscapes or developing areas for urban expansion. Students are allowed to debate the topic between groups and to come up with a reasonable solution to the problem of expanding urban development. Specific examples in the local community provide grounds to really understand how this plays out in the real world. At the conclusion of this lesson, students will [...]

Volume of Snow and Water

Volume of Snow and Water

Water and snow do not have the same volume because snowflakes have air pockets trapped inside. When snow melts, the air pockets are released to the atmosphere. In addition, water in the solid form has roughly 9% more volume than in the liquid form because of the way the molecules are bonded together via hydrogen bonds. Therefore, when snow melts, the volume of the water is reduced as air molecules are released and hydrogen bonds are broken. In this activity, students investigate the volume relationship between snow and water, which changes depending on the weather conditions at the time of a snow event and the amount of time since the snow event. Students will use many skills learned regarding making measurements of volume to accomplish this activity, and will understand how much liquid water comes from the snow in one [...]

Thinking About Waste

Thinking About Waste

Waste generation in the U.S. is an enormous problem, as 230 million tons of trash is generated each year. Students must begin to learn about these issues because natural resource depletion and environmental degradation may directly affect their lives in the future. This lesson is designed to get students thinking about how to cut waste in their own lives. They will draw pictures of the Earth in 100 years under two different scenarios. They will also list some ways that the school and families at home can reduce waste, which will be posted in the school hallway. Students should come away from the lesson with a positive outlook, that waste generation can be significantly cut, which will benefit everyone in the world. At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to: Understand that an immense amount of waste [...]

Don't Shell Yourself Short

Don’t Shell Yourself Short

  Students explore the effects of natural selection on populations with or without trait variation.  Students play a game with nuts simulating crab-mussel interactions, gather data from the game, analyze it by making figures, and draw conclusions about how an introduced predator could cause quick evolutionary change in only a few generations of the prey species.  Students answer questions about the three requirements for evolution by natural selection and discuss other examples of rapid evolution. 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 Relationship between that trait and fitness The trait must be heritable Determine whether evolution happened in a given situation Resources: Lesson plan (Word) Peanuts and almonds/pistachios (in the shell) Student worksheet (Word) Presentation (PDF) File to generate figures (Excel) Lesson [...]

You're not you when you are hungry...

You’re not you when you are hungry…

Students will explore their own level of assertiveness via a quick personality test to show that scores are not all the same in humans. Students will then do a manipulative simulation of her how individual variation can be maintained within a population by examining the survival and growth of bluegill that exhibit more aggressive and less aggressive foraging strategies. Students will do a behavioral lab experiment observing the behaviors of crickets in the presence or absence of food.  Students will then be guided in creating their own inquiry experiment.  At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: Explain why intraspecific variation (individual variation within a population) can be maintained. (i.e. not always one best “adapted” trait) Learn how zoologists study behaviors of animals in varying contexts (crickets in the presence and absence of food). Create and carry [...]

Frogsicles: how frogs survive the winter

Frogsicles: how frogs survive the winter

How do frogs survive the winter when they’re frozen solid? Their heart may even cease to be beating, and yet they still bounce back just in time for some springtime hanky-panky. You will complete three short lab experiments to explore topics that help explain how frogs freeze over the winter: solute concentration, osmosis, and freezing point depression. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: Define and explain osmosis Predict the relative freezing points of pure water, salt water, and sugar water Understand that frogs have adaptations that help them survive the winter Resources: Lesson plan (.doc) Student worksheet (.doc) Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellows Emily Grman and Sara Parr Syswerda, 2008

Gases matter!

Gases matter!

When understanding the states of matter, students often are able to understand those states they can see and work with the easiest (liquids and solids), and they are less able to reason about gases. Gas is all around us, but most students don’t think it weighs anything or matters very much. This exercise is designed to help students realize that gas has mass, and that the gas can add up and affect how the world works. We will weigh a balloon empty and full to see how the gas weighs something. We will watch a glass of soda lose mass as the bubbles leave. We will then compare the temperature within two clear containers (one with classroom air, and the other with the breath of a student) that are placed in the sun to see how particular gases (in this [...]

Groundwater Conceptions and Processes

Groundwater Conceptions and Processes

Teacher professional development lesson that can be modified for the classroom. This lesson about groundwater includes an overview of three important ideas:  the scarcity of freshwater reservoirs available to us, what water looks like and how it flows in the ground, and how our land-use choices impact the availability of groundwater.  First is a demonstration of what percentage of the Earth’s water is available to us.  Incorrect conceptions of groundwater are very common, so we will use student drawings to understand where our students are starting when we introduce the idea of groundwater.  Finally we will demonstrate groundwater movement and storage using small groundwater models that teachers can use in their classrooms. Upon completion of this professional development session, teachers will be able to: Demonstrate the relative amounts of water on the Earth that is in various reservoirs Pre-assess and [...]

The Subliminal Significance of Soil

The Subliminal Significance of Soil

This lesson will build participants’ understanding of the importance of soil food webs by directly measuring carbon dioxide production due to soil organism respiration in samples from a variety of habitat types. Differences between annual and perennial crop field soils, as well as those from forests and lawns, will be used to highlight the important differences in carbon storage rates among these soil types. The main activity will be a titration lab determining the CO2 production from soil microcosms caused by microbial respiration. A class demonstration using Vernier probes will measure the same variable as a comparative method. A brief introduction to global carbon cycling and soil ecosystem components will precede the lab work. Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to: Measure CO2 production from soil respiration with at least two methods. Identify some of the major groups [...]

Lady Beetle Blitz

Lady Beetle Blitz

For this lesson, you will be participating in citizen science project started by Dr. Mary Gardiner at Ohio State University. Mary is a former graduate student in Entomology at Michigan State under the direction of Dr. Doug Landis. In 2009, approximately 100 Ohio gardeners will be collecting lady beetles on sticky traps and assessing populations of native and exotic species. All of the data will be compiled by Dr. Gardiner to assess the status of lady beetle populations across the state (http://ale.cfaes.ohio-state.edu/outreach/buckeye-lady-beetle-blitz-blbb). We are excited at KBS to expand this study into curriculum material that can be used in area K-12 classrooms to improve biodiversity literacy and provide an opportunity for cross district collaborations and partnerships between KBS teachers and other teachers nationally and/or internationally. Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to: Identify lady beetles to the [...]

Microbes on Trial: A Case for the Benefits Provided by Microbes in Ecosystems

Microbes on Trial: A Case for the Benefits Provided by Microbes in Ecosystems

Students will examine their preconceived notions about microorganisms.  The intent is to focus on the benefits microorganisms provide in several diverse ecosystems.  In the first part of the lesson students will use petri plates to grow microorganisms from various outdoor habitats.  In the second part of the lesson students research various topics related to microorganisms and present their findings to the class. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to: Describe the role of microbes in ecosystems Describe symbiotic relationships between microorganisms and other organisms Describe how microorganisms can change biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem Resources: Lesson plan Lesson plan includes links to other resources Lesson Plan created by GK-12  Fellows