For habitat survey:
- Explain the purpose of today’s investigation to the students before you leave the classroom. If there is a specific question you are investigating, clearly state your question now. The question for my students was “How diverse is the existing ecosystem along the creek bank?” Set out the rules and expectations. You may want to hand out the Habitat Survey Sheets now. I had my students staple each page into their lab notebooks the night before as homework so that each student had a chance to look at the types of data they would be collecting and had a hard surface in which to take notes outdoors.
- Tell students what teams they will be working with and how to find a survey site (you can assign them there or they may find their own site). Show them how to stake out their survey site with the string and stakes.
- Depart for the trip.
- When you arrive, make sure that each team has an appropriate survey site and a creek kit. Make sure that groups are setting up their string and stakes correctly.
- Allow students to get started immediately collecting the information on their sheets. Circulate among groups to help students who have questions.
- Teams that finish early can sit quietly with a field guide and try to identify the plants and animals they found.
- When all groups are finished, return to the classroom.
For setting up soil analysis experiments in the classroom:
- Tell students to get out their soil samples and Habitat Survey Sheets from their survey site. Tell them that their objective in the next 20-30 minutes isa) to set up a Tullgren funnel with their soil, b) to set up a soil separation test with their soil, and c) to identify the plants and insects at their site using the field guides. Show the students where in the classroom each of these activities can be done. Specify a rotation schedule or divide up the groups to split the work between the team members.
- Allow students to accomplish each of these tasks, allowing enough time for clean up at each station before rotating to the next area.
For final analysis of results in the classroom:
- Give students an overview of today’s class and your goals. Remind them of the purpose of this activity and the question you posed at the beginning of this activity. Write this question or your purpose on the board.
- Allow students 10 minutes to interpret soil separation and Tullgren funnel tests and clean up those stations.
- When all students are back in their seats, pair each team of students up with another team and ask them to compare their results. Tell them that they will report back to the whole class about a) similarities between their survey sites, b) differences between their survey sites, and c) anything that surprised them during this investigation. On the board, below where you wrote down the question or purpose, create a table with the following columns: Similarities, Differences, Surprises. Give the students 10 minutes to discuss their results with another team.
- Allow each pair of teams to share their findings with the class. Write up their discoveries on the board.
- Once all pairs of teams have shared, begin a class discussion. Some discussion questions you may want to consider include:
- What similarities did groups find? Why might those similarities exist?
- What differences did groups find? Why might those differences exist?
- Why did you find certain things surprising? What did you expect at the beginning?
- These small habitats are considered microhabitats. What factors in the environment might create microhabitats? (examples include a road or path that divides one area from another, areas of shade or sunlight, proximity to a water source, etc.)
- What creatures might live their whole life in only one microhabitat? What creatures wander from one microhabitat to another?
- Were we able to answer the question with the data we collected?
- Are there additional observations we could have or should have made to better answer the question?
- Is the area we studied a healthy habitat? Why or why not?
- Is the area we studied a sustainable habitat? Why or why not?
- What could or should be done to improve this area? Could we as a class do anything to improve it?