Type of Activity:This unit incorporates several learning processes.First it was developed as a hands on activity that took the students into the field where they learned on site what is occurring in their own area.Second in doing this activity students worked in groups in many of the activities.
Questions:The questions this activity helps students answer are questions that are constantly coming up in their community, society, and government concerning the environment. In the process they develop many skills needed to do lab/research.
BackgroundNotes to teacher:
This activity requires a great deal of extra time spent after school on field activities and requires certain skills in sampling techniques. Resources available especially for first time exercises are the Izaak Walton league, biology departments at local universities, and state conservation departments. The unit can also be modified to conform to the particular geographic area in which you live.
Several hours may be needed to conduct this activity for the first time, however, this will decrease after doing the activity a few times. The time needed will vary with the instructors experience in this type of activity and knowledge of their geographical area that could impact the issues studied. Depending on available funds it may be necessary to make your own sampling equipment which can provide a rewarding experience for both student and instructor.
Class time needed:
Because I do this unit as an environmental unit and we are on six week blocks it usually takes a minimum of six weeks. The unit could easily be modified to fit almost any time frame. It is easy to expand this unit or use it as part of a larger unit/course of study.
One activity I use each year with my Biology II class is an ecological approach to understanding problems that confront everyone. I call this my Environmental Issues Exercise. At the beginning of the section students are introduced to terms and concepts that are necessary to the understanding of ecology. This is followed by a study of natural environmental cycles and relationships that are an integral part of understanding the unit. The students are then introduced to sampling techniques and plans for constructing sampling equipment. A camping trip to the Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area is then planned. The students are then divided into lab groups and given exercise sheets provided by the Izaak Walton League. This often coincides with an environmental camp we have sponsored by the Big South Fork NRRA.
From our camp we hike into a remote area of the park called the Chariot Creek Hostel. After a short rest and a sack lunch students are given demonstrations on how to survey the areas as to stream type, and on kick sampling as well as seining techniques. The students then get into their respective lab groups and begin their exercise. Each group goes to a site and determines the volume of the stream, the velocity of the stream, turbidity and construct a stream profile. I move from group to group helping students find answers to questions they have and assist in sampling and identification of organisms. After a short rest we hike back out to our camp.
Upon returning to the classroom students prepare a written report complete with objectives and conclusions. Students are then asked to select two streams from our area that represent two contrasting situations. Examples of contrasting situations could be one stream from a strip-mine watershed and another from a farm or forest watershed. Reports are written up by each team and turned in. At this point many scenarios are discussed and possible results of each situation. We discuss forest harvesting practices, landfills, farming, industrial impacts, mining, nuclear wastes, and city runoff.
When possible this unit is concluded with a canoe or white water raft trip down one of our local creeks or rivers and a brief study of the flora and fauna of the area. This unit provides a great deal of hands-on activities, creativity, scientific thought, problem-solving, and inquiry.
Extension/Reinforcement:Many students after completing this exercise have chosen science fair projects relating to their environmental studies.