6-8

10. Gone Fishin'

Summary
The management of the world’s fisheries is a controversial current issue that involves individuals from many different viewpoints – fishermen and women, environmentalists, park rangers, politicians, and shoppers at the seafood counter. The issue is that many of the world’s fisheries are overfished and have collapsed or are on the verge of collapse. This is but one example of the tragedy of the commons – where a limited common resource is overused because each individual person thinks, “If I don’t use this resource first, then somebody else will.” Students in this activity act as fishermen and women who need to share an ocean of fish and take in a catch. Groups soon realize that if they don’t set fishing limits and monitor the fish population, soon there are no fish left in the ocean.


9. Hare and Lynx Populations

Summary
Once students understand the concept of populations, it is important to introduce the idea of population change. There are many reasons for population change – limited resources, predator-prey cycles, human impact, habitat change – to name but a few. In this activity, students learn to graph population data and then use their graphs to evaluate one of the most famous examples of population change, the predator-prey population cycle of the snowshoe hare and the Canada lynx. The data is taken from the 300 years worth of real data collected by trappers of the Hudson Bay Company. This activity provides students a chance to look at real data and make some hypotheses about what causes population change in the real world. The Going Further section is more extensive than for other lesson plans on this site and refers teachers to many excellent population change activities that can be found in other curriculum guides.


8. Ecosystem Organization

Summary
Ecosystem Pyramid student workEcosystem Pyramid student work The study of ecology has many layers, ranging from the individual organism, to the population, to the ecosystem, to the planet. It is important for students to know the levels within this hierarchy and to recognize which level they are focusing on at any one time. For the purposes of this activity, students will learn about the different levels (organism, population, community, ecosystem, biome, and biosphere) by choosing an organism and the illustrating a pyramid about that organism. The result is a colorful display of organizational pyramids.


7. Habitat Survey

Summary

In this activity, students finally get to apply their skills of soil analysis and observation to a 1 meter by 1 meter area of the schoolyard, restoration site, or creek bank. Teams of students get down and dirty exploring the soil, vegetation, and insect life in their microhabitat. Students practice using the soil analysis tools they learned previously and also practice using field guides to identify plants and insects. Upon returning to the classroom, they compare their results with other groups to see the differences and similarities between their microhabitats. This is a superb activity to use before and after a habitat restoration project or simply to track changes in a habitat throughout the year. I used this investigation to introduce the idea of native vs. non-native species and to begin a debate about invasive species. My students really “got it” when they examined our adopted restoration area and discovered that there was a monoculture of invasive, non-native English ivy all across our site. They visited our adopted site 3-4 times throughout the year pulling ivy and planting native plants. When all was said and done, they repeated this investigation in the spring to discover exactly the magnitude of the change they made on the environment – and to find that the native plants recruited a wider variety of insects than they had seen at that site in the fall.


Sub Plan - Fighting for Foxes

Summary

In order to help understand the complexity of the issues surrounding protecting endangered species, students read an article about the Channel Island fox published in the Smithsonian magazine in October 2004. They create and use food webs to better understand the reasons for the foxes decline. This is a superb follow up to the Food Webs activity.


Field Trip - Point Reyes

Summary

This section will give you information to help you plan a field trip to Point Reyes National Seashore. My classes went to Point Reyes for an overnight camping trip between lessons 7 and 8. The first day, we went to the Bear Valley Visitor Center and did a ranger led program called Monitoring Creek Health. After creek monitoring, we played and hiked at Linmatour beach before retiring to our campsite. The following day, we took a kayaking tour of Tomales Bay. Our kayaking guides taught the students about the wildlife and geology of the area throughout the trip. The happy and exhausted students and teacher then made their way back to school.


6. Food Webs

Summary
In this 2-3 day activity, students choose an organism and research its life cycle, food chain, and habitat. The student research is assembled in 2 ways. First, the classroom is cleared of tables and chairs while students use their organisms to create a food web stretching the length and width of the classroom. Second, the pages are assembled to create a field guide for your local area or for a field trip into a state or national park nearby. I found this to be an extremely effective way to get students interested and excited about an upcoming field trip. I choose insects, birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles commonly sighted at Point Reyes National Seashore for students to research a week before the scheduled field trip. On the field trip itself, students were very excited to spot their animals and the student who did the research would usually come forward to tell his or her classmates all about their organism.


5. Food Chains

Summary
Students review the concepts of food chains and the roles of organisms in a food chain through a simple card sorting activity. Cards representing different individuals in a California ecosystem are first sorted by herbivore, carnivore, dentrivore, and omnivore, then are reordered to create several food chains. In addition, students begin to understand the idea of a food pyramid – since all living things use energy to move, reproduce, respond to the environment and grow, less energy is available to pass on at each link of the food chain.


4. Pond Water

Summary

Delve into a micro-habitat that is the size of a drop of water. This lesson allows students to explore the plankton (organisms that drift with the currents) that exist in a drop of pond, lake, or bay water. A microscope is required to view most organisms although some are observable with a hand lens. If possible, this is a fantastic opportunity for students to collect the pond water themselves using pantyhose and a small bottle. If you are pursuing a restoration project, collecting water might be an excellent excuse for an initial visit (as long as the creek/body of water has regions of relative calm where algae can grow on the rocks). Plans for both an initial creek visit activity and a classroom investigation of the water sample are included in this lesson plan. If it is not possible to bring students to the creek or pond, then you can collect the sample ahead of time and skip the creek visit and sense of place activity.


2. Water Analysis

Summary

Students conduct 3 tests of water quality in the classroom that can then be applied to their terraqua columns and to the outdoors: pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. They make comparisons between different types of water and draw conclusions about how "healthy" each water source is for fish and other organisms. Through this process, students practice their observational and data analysis skills. Water quality monitoring data is routinely used in the "real world" to determine the effects of habitat restoration, development, pollution, and wastewater treatment. It is often the initial step in describing the health of an ecosystem. There are hundreds of ways to extend this simple activity and make connections to the real world - from monitoring water quality in a local creek to making comparisons between different bodies of water in your area.