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Author

Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Grades

5th, 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects

Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, English Language Arts

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans, 11-15 class periods
  • Activity - Outdoors
  • Scientific Papers or Reports
  • Videos, 1 minute, 59 seconds
  • Assessments
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, Maine

Format

Google Docs

Ecosystem Observer

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Synopsis
  • This outdoor learning module guides students through observing, recording, and presenting ecosystem observations in their area through a multi-lesson project.
  • Students will select a topic, make multiple observations on that topic, then create a nature note to present their findings.
  • There are downloadable teacher guides and student pages for each step of the project, including a student noteboook that guides them through the entire process.
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • There are many opportunities for student choice throughout this learning module, so students will feel like they have some autonomy in their learning.
  • The opportunity to submit their nature notes to "Findings in the Field" gives students an authentic purpose for their work, especially if they also participate in the citizen science projects.

Additional Prerequisites

  • It may be beneficial to discuss with students what plants and animal species you have locally.
  • You will need to request access to the resources on stunk bugs and dragonflies provided on page 6 of the teacher guide.
  • For the Building Background Knowledge step, students may need explicit instruction for how to use books, field guides, or the Internet to research their topic. They may also need to be reminded to save their sources and that Google is not a source, but a search engine containing many sources.

Differentiation

  • To introduce more independent students to scientific observation, groups or pairs of students can go through stations reading multiple nature notes together, then record and discuss what most nature notes have in common.
  • Students who struggle with finding something to observe can practice recording what they experience with their five senses (remind students not to taste anything, for safety).
  • After completing this lesson, time to return to the observation spot can be incorporated into a daily, weekly, or monthly class routine.
  • It may be helpful to create an anchor chart with students about safety measures that need to be taken while observing outside. This chart can hang in the room year-round.
Scientist Notes
This learning module from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute gets students out in nature, making observations, formulating questions and hypotheses, and drafting a Nature Note in either video, visual, or written form. This resource features an excellent teacher’s guide with clear instructions and numerous examples linked to show what a good Nature Note looks like. The student notebook has simple instructions and space for students to plan, record and organize their ecosystem observations. Once students have created their Nature Note, a clear rubric and feedback form help to guide students through the peer review of each other’s work, giving students hands-on experience with the peer review process that is so important in scientific research. This resource is superb for getting students to open their eyes and ears to make observations out in their local environment and then compile these findings into a coherent Nature Note. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
      • MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • English Language Arts
    • Reading (K-12)
      • R.5.12 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
      • R.6-8.8 Analyze the structure of various texts, including how the features and components relate to each other and the whole.
    • Speaking and Listening (K-12)
      • SL.6-8.1 Prepare for and participate in conversations across a range of topics, types, and forums, building on others' ideas and expressing their own.
      • SL.6-8.3 Present information and supporting evidence appropriate to task, purpose, and audience so listeners can follow the line of reasoning and incorporate multimedia when appropriate.
    • Writing (K-12)
      • W.5.2 Develop, strengthen, and produce polished writing by using a collaborative process that includes the age-appropriate use of technology.
      • W.5.3 Routinely produce a variety of clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, audience, and purpose.
      • W.6-8.2 Develop, strengthen, and produce polished writing by using a collaborative process that includes the age-appropriate use of technology.
      • W.6-8.3 Routinely produce a variety of clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, audience, and purpose.
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