Feb 182014


Although winter may seem like a life-less frozen wasteland here in Michigan, many birds spend the winter here.  Some arctic birds even come down to Michigan to escape the cold!  Many of these winter birds can be easily attracted to backyard feeders, particularly since food is in short supply.  In this lesson students will learn how to identify the 16 most common feeder birds in Michigan and will be introduced to 8 other less common species.  Students will learn how scientists classify and identify species.  This lesson also provides materials necessary for students to collect data from their own bird feeder and tools to contribute their data to citizen science efforts like the Great Backyard Bird Count or Cornell’s eBird tracking program that help scientists monitor bird populations across the United States.

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

  • Correctly identify the 16 most common birds that visit Michigan feeders in winter
  • Recognize 8 other less common species
  • Explain how citizen science information on birds can help scientists


Lesson plan by GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg, 2014

Dec 192013

chi-square_photoResearchers often need to decide if the results they observe in an experiment are close enough to predicted theoretical results so that the tested hypothesis can be supported or rejected. For example, do a series of coin flips match what you’d expect to get by chance, or is their evidence the coin is unfair? Does the number of women interviewed for a job position match the proportion of women in the applicant pool, or is there evidence of bias? Does the number of white-eyed fruit fly offspring match the number expected if the white-eyed trait is recessive, or are white-eyes inherited in some other way?

In this lesson, students will able to:
  • Decide when it is appropriate to use a chi-square goodness-of-fit test
  • Use a chi-square test, interpret the results, and create evidence-based conclusions
  • Use a chi-square test on real data collected from the house wren population at the Kellogg Biological Station


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg, 2013

Nov 072012
An organism’s genetic composition plays an important role in its chances of survival, but will the same combination of genes always win?  An organism, (or more specifically, a set of genes) that succeeds in one environment or season may not fare so well under different conditions.  In this lesson plan, students will explore how genetics and environmental conditions can affect the survival of different organisms.  This classroom activity simulates how birds with different beak sizes might have a competitive advantage depending on environment.  Students will then graph their data to see how environment influences the success of different genotypes.

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

  • Explain how survival of an organism is affected by both its genotype (nature) and its environment (nurture)
  • Understand environmental factors that contribute to the varying success of organisms, including climate, seasonal change, disease, and competition
  • Define and differentiate between a genotype and a phenotype
  • Construct and interpret graphs relating to genotype by environment interactions
  • Relate patterns to theory
  • Use evidence and reason to form a conclusion


Lesson written and created by GK-12 fellows Michael Kuczynski and Kate Steensma, 2011

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