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Archive for the ‘Environmental Science’ Category

Students in Oceanography class, which is taken by high school juniors and seniors, were assigned a research topic with presentation for their final assignment. Presentations, given by the students during their final exam period, were a wonderful wrap-up to oceanography and segue to marine biology next semester. Their presentations also provided a means for covering a lot of ocean resource topics in a short time period, as each student was assigned a different resource, but all with the same essential question:

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The assignment

Big Idea: The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected. The oceans are a connected system of water in motion that transports matter and energy around Earth’s surface.

Assignment:  In the role of a marine scientist, you will research a marine resource and present an argument for a position related to use of that resource, supporting your position with scientifically valid evidence.

Product:  On the day of the final exam you will (1) turn in a 3- to 5- page paper, and (2) give a five- to ten-minute oral presentation, with video support, of your research results.

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Commercial Fisshing slide by Jesse

Marine Resource Topics:

To make sure that each student had a separate research topic, I printed the following list in large font and spread them out on the table for students to choose from. Sometimes I assign by putting the topics in a “hat” and students choose blindly, but this is typically followed by a lot of negotiations for swapping; the way I did it this time still had negotiations, but between only those that were quickest with the grab rather than everyone. No perfect way to do this because everyone wants coral reefs.

  • Petroleum and natural gas
  • Marine sand and gravel
  • Magnesium and magnesium compounds
  • Salt
  • Manganese Nodules
  • Phosphorite Deposits
  • Metallic Sulfides
  • Fresh Water from the Ocean
  • Methane hydrates
  • Offshore wind energy
  • Energy from waves and currents
  • Energy from ocean vertical thermal gradient
  • Coastline protection
  • Coral Reefs
  • Medicine and drugs
  • Crustaceans and molluscs
  • Commercial fishing practices
  • Aquaculture
  • Whaling
  • Managing biological resources

Students were encouraged to narrow down their topics to make them more manageable. For example, “Aquaculture” could be narrowed down to shrimp farming.

To make the assignment clear to the students, I broke the description into two pages: the paper and the presentation.

Research Guidelines:

wave_energy

Wave Energy by Jacob

1.Required Length: 1000 words (approximately three pages of text), not including references and not including quoted material.

2.  Required references: a minimum of five relevant scientific articles and/or internet sites related to the topic. This is the minimum amount of reference material — you may need more to do an adequate job of researching your topic.

3.  Things to focus on in your research:

  • define the problem – what part of the world’s ocean does it affect?
  • how did the problem come about? How is the problem being made worse by humans/is it being made worse by humans? What are the various causes of the problem?
  • what are some possible solutions to the problem? Are any of the feasible?  How will we implement some of these solutions?
  • what is the importance or significance of the topic?
  • what methods have scientists used to investigate the topic?
  • what kinds of information and data have scientists found?
  • what major results and conclusions have scientists made, based on the above?

4.  Format of the paper:

  • Lead off with a separate title page, containing: title, your name, course name, school name, date
  • Body of at least three pages of text (~1,000 words):
  • Begin the body with an introduction: a section (one or two paragraphs) that clearly states the purpose of the paper and reviews the main points that the paper will cover
  • Break up the paper into logic sections using subheadings to identify the subject of the different sections
  • End the paper with a conclusion (one or two paragraphs) that wraps up and summarizes in specific ways the main points of the paper
  • Spell-check and grammar-check! (sloppy spelling errors and poor grammar will result in a poor grade)
  • A page (or more) of references per MLA guidelines

5.  Submitting your paper: Submit your paper in electronic format, preferably in Microsoft Word or Google doc.

6.  Plagiarism: Don’t. Just don’t. You know better.

forbes

Background and Reflective Thoughts

Our school only teaches MLA formatting. With my 18-year background of  writing engineering documents, I find it frustrating to constantly be getting english-style essays rather than scientific documents. Starting next year, I plan on teaching my students APA formatting, and directing students to understand the difference between technical writing and english-essay writing.

The word length is only 1000 words because I wanted the students focussed on finding good resources and highlighting the issues, rather than being focussed on “getting the right number of words”. In meeting the research requirements most students were concerned that they had gone too far over the minimum.

Our librarian has stacks of research record templates in different colors for students to use to document their research, with teachers assigning a different color for the type of resources, e.g., blue for a book, green for technical article, etc.. Our librarian has, for her entire career here, been proactive in helping students to learn the difference between “good” and “bad” resources, to understand what paraphrasing is and isn’t, and to use databases beyond the internet. She teaches all freshmen how to research a topic and has written a research guide for students.

  • A coral reef is the rainforest of the ocean with all its diversity.” – Sam

Presentation Guidelines:

You may use the board, posters, handouts, or a PowerPoint presentation to help provide visual aids. Following your presentation, there will be time for a few questions. You should know your topic well enough to answer all reasonable questions on the topic. Grades will be based on both what you present and how well you know the information.

If you just read a few paragraphs directly from a sheet of paper or from your slides and cannot answer basic questions on your topic without your notes, you should not expect a passing grade on the presentation.

You have studied many physical aspects of the ocean. Include a detailed discussion of at least one of these in your paper and presentation. They include:

  • Understand and describe some important properties of water: Before we can understand the numerous and amazing ways the oceans impact our lives on land, we need to understand some special qualities of water. Properties such as surface tension, capillary action and solvency make water one of the most unique substances on Earth.
  • Explain how waves form and shape the coastline. Understanding conditions on the shore will help us understand some ocean habitats.
  • Describe the differences between wave and current formation and qualities.
  • Explain how ocean currents influence climate on land.
  • Describe and identify ocean floor features Understanding the shape of the ocean floor will help us understand ocean habitats.
  • Analyze different ocean zones of life and categorize organisms that live in each.

Background and Reflective Thoughts

I enjoyed the student presentations and really wish I had thought to video tape them.  To make sure that students were paying attention to other presentations, they were given a sheet of paper to record thoughts and impressions, and this paper was collected:

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I was inspired by many of the presentations and it gave me the idea that, in my mixed CP/Honors Marine Biology class next semester, the honors students (who will have work in addition to the rest of the class) should give presentations to the CP students.

A couple of closing thoughts from the students:

  • Fishing to extinction of species is evolution going in the wrong direction.” – Josh

  • You never think about not having earth’s resources until you do not have them anymore, but by then it is too late. Everyone must be mindful of Earth’s natural resources because so we do not find out one day that they’re all gone. ” – Kelsey

Amen to that.

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Objective: Create a web diagram that illustrates environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with an everyday item.

Recent class discussion has considered the concept of our “ecological footprints” and the impacts of a given lifestyle on people and societies. Today, with a partner, you are to develop ideas to reduce the ecological footprint and associated impacts related to an everyday item.

impacts of a burger

Starting point for discussion of hamburger; incomplete.

Steps to get you going:

  1. Brainstorm and diagram all the resources, processes, and impacts associated with one everyday object, such as an item of clothing, a favorite meal, or a piece of sports equipment. For example, if you decide to diagram the impacts of a cell phone, you would write and/or draw the resources and processes required to produce each part of the phone and all the impacts you can think of that might be related to both producing it and using it.  The Good Stuff? – A Consumption Manifesto: The Top Ten Principles of Good Consumption may give you some ideas of what to watch out for. You have five minutes for this brainstorming step.
  2. Once you have decided on one item to be the focus of your impact diagram, diagram your impacts on  Prezi. Remember to consider impacts related to transportation of a product, marketing, health issues, and waste disposal. You might also want to organize your thoughts on a chart such as the one below, to help you and your partner keep track. Additional resources for research are given below. This step should take about 20 minutes.

    Brainstorm Chart

    Organize Your Thoughts

  3. Brainstorm and list ways to reduce the ecological footprint and other impacts associated with creating or using the product. This will take 5 – 10 minutes.
  4. Publish your work! You will need to publish both your Prezi and a description and link to it on your blog.
  5. Tomorrow, you and your partner will present your diagrams and proposed ideas for reducing the item’s negative impacts on people and the planet.

Analysis

After presentations have been made you will consider and write about the following:

  1. How is the ecological footprint of a person’s lifestyle connected to social and economic impacts?
  2. Would production, use, and disposal of these everyday items be sustainable if only a small number of people purchased the items?
  3. How would the impacts associated with an item change if everyone in the world purchased or used it?
  4. Does lessening our impacts necessarily mean reducing our quality of life? Why or why not?
  5. How might businesses be encouraged to produce these items in ways that have more positive impact on the environment and on people?
  6. Often negative impacts associated with an item are not paid directly by the people who purchase and use the items. Who might end up payiong for those impacts? Why do you think these impacts are not included in an item’s purchase price?

Resources

The Life Cycle Of A Cell Phone
The Life Cycle of a CD or DVD
The Hidden Life of Paper and Its Impact on the Environment
The hidden cost of your hardwood floor
 Global Exchange Website: Fair Trade Coffee

This lesson for environmental science students is a modification of “Buy, Use, Toss” from Facing The Future.

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Conservation International (CI) has asked for student assistance to develop site-specific conservation plans for biodiversity hotspots worldwide. You will select an identified hotspot, researching key species present, learn about the region and culture, and identify threats to and stakeholder roles in the region. You will then develop plans to conserve the biodiversity of the region.

Unit Essential Questions

  • How do species become threatened or endangered?
  • How does the disappearance of one species affect the larger system?
  • What are some actions that humans might take to slow the current rate of extinction?

Unit Enduring Understandings

  • Species can become threatened or endangered due to habitat loss or changes resulting from human actions or natural forces.
  • The extinction of one species has consequences for the entire system due to essential species’ interactions called symbioses.
  • There are a number of conservation measures that can be taken to slow or prevent the decline of a species.

Procedure

  1. Select a hotspot from the list held by the teacher. Write your name on the list; only one person per hotspot. Read the overview of hotspots at http://www.conservation.org/How/Pages/Hotspots.aspx.
  2. Research key species living within that ecosystem (e.g., kingdom, phylum, habitat, food needs, and so on), using http://www.cepf.net/resources/hotspots/Pages/default.aspx and other teacher-approved sites. Consider ALL organisms, not just Animalia. Count the number of relationships each species has with other species and record it on an organizer for that species.  Answer the following questions in your science journal:
  • Which species are most important to your ecosystem and why (e.g., food, habitat, reproduction factor)?
  • Are the important species animals? plants? fungi?
  • Which species in your ecosystem has the most relationships with other species? Which have the fewest?
  • What role do abiotic elements play in your ecosystem?
  1. Determine and describe a conservation action that can be taken to ensure the future of the hotspot you researched. Consider the needs of the hotspot you are researching and identify one action that could be taken to better conserve the biodiversity of the area.  There are many different conservation approaches that could be taken for avoiding the extinction of a threatened species or protecting areas of key biological activity. Some of these ideas are shown in Table 1 below, but you may have ideas of your own.   Describe your action plan fully, identifying resources needed and timeline for implementation.
  2. Create an online presentation of your research project. Potential online resources include google docs, prezi, glogster, weebly. You may know of others.
  3. Present your research to the class in a formal and professional manner. Include documentation of recorded species and your proposed idea.

Vocabulary

Endemic:           A plant or animal native to or restricted to a certain locality, region, or area.

Biodiversity:    Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact. Biodiversity is explored at three levels: genetic diversity; species diversity; and ecosystem diversity.

Biodiversity hotspots:  To qualify as a hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (> 0.5 percent of the world’s total) as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70 percent of its original habitat.

Table 1.  Potential Actions

Create incentives and legislation to reduce hunting pressure.
Control of invasive species.
Captive breeding programs, propagation, and re-introduction of threatened species.
More effective management of protected areas.
Adding new parks and reserves in the highest priority portions of unprotected intact habitat.
Restoring degraded habitats to provide increased connectivity (to decrease fragmentation).
Establishment, expansion and management of protected areas
Implementation of innovative economic alternatives such as ecotourism and conservation concessions.
Influence the behavior of people at the local level, through education, and at the national level, through policy work and awareness campaigns
Working with international corporations to ensure that their business practices do not contribute to further biodiversity loss.
Collaborating with a single expert to protect a threatened species to avoid its extinction
Working with the government of the country to facilitate national conservation initiatives.
Leveraging other organizations to protect biodiversity in the hotspot.

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Assignment To Students:

Todays question is “What do you do to contribute to a sustainable environment?” Write a 300-word blog post on your environmental ethics.  Previously you have written in your journal about “what is an environmentalist”; you have also learned some new terms such as “sustainability”, “environmental footprint”, and “tragedy of the commons“. Finally, you have your own personal reason for being in this class. Combine all of these things with your class learning and tell us what are your environmental ethics. You might also think about things you want to do in the future that you have not done before; for ideas on these, go to What Can You Do?

My 300 (or more) Words:

I am deeply connected to our planet Earth and I think I always have been. My parents raised me to respect the planet, take care of her, and to know the names of her New England inhabitants. My mother would take my little sister and me on walks in the woods and name the trees and flowers and wild herbs. My father used organic gardening methods for our food (and all of our vegetables came from our garden) and was disgusted by builders who clear-cut a lot to put in a house; he knew they could have left some of the trees and still built the home, he felt the builder was just being lazy. This background is the structural foundation for the environmentalist in me.

When it comes to environmental ethics, every individual can make a difference and everyone should do their part. I do what I can. Here are my principles, and how I try to keep them:

  • I respect and care for Earth and life in all its diversity.  Everything in the universe is connected to everything else and has value regardless of its worth to human beings.  In addition, with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect these resources for the future.
  • We should protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life. In my yard I have converted an acre of invasive species (bittersweet, Norway maple, Alianthus) into an acre of native trees and shrubs that provide food sources for birds. With the exception of poison ivy killer, I use no chemicals on my yard. The birds, bats, and dragonflies help control mosquitoes in my yard.
  • I promote the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems. This can be seen in my lessons and teaching of science to high school students.
  • We must manage the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that do not exceed rates of regeneration and that protect the health of the ecosystems.
  • The goal of my life has been life-long learning of the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life. In this regard, I have tried to provide others, particularly children and youth, with knowledge to empower them to contribute actively to sustainable development.
  • It is my belief that every individual has the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation. As a consumer I make a sincere and definite effort to buy products that are either manufactured in the U.S. or are certified as Fair Trade. Rather than shopping at Walmart, where products are cheap and poorly made and 91% are made in China, I spend the extra money to make purchases from local shops and small online boutiques. If at all possible (which is impossible for some electronics) I do NOT buy “made in China” products; China has an atrocious human rights (non-rights?) record and is the greatest polluter of the planet. As much as I am financially able to, I buy organically grown foods, including free-range chicken eggs and grass-fed beef. I also look for where the product has been grown and choose the one that has traveled the shortest distance, thus has a lower carbon (via transport) footprint.
  • My daily intent is to treat all living beings with respect and consideration, and to promote a culture of nonviolence and peace.  “Peace” is the wholesomeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part. I do not always succeed, but it is always my intent and when I falter I just try again.

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