Toward the end of the school year, you might be looking for a culminating activity in which students can apply what they’ve learned during the year to new situations or problems. This issue has ideas that help students investigate the big idea of the interrelationships between biodiversity and human activity–how each affects the other.

Exploring Biodiversity’s Big Ideas in Your School shows students that there’s more to studying biodiversity than reading about the rain forest or other exotic places. The activities focus on the plants, microorganisms, and invertebrates that are often overlooked in traditional activities. The authors include a simple survey, graphic organizers, and activities. [SciLinks: Biodiversity]

Testing for Toxins: Using Daphnia spp. and Table Salt integrates skills in measurement and observation with content knowledge of invertebrates and experimental design. Students use water fleas as indicators of the level of toxins in water. The authors include detailed procedures illustrated with photographs, a sample data table, a student handout, and background information. [SciLinks: Bioassay, Daphnia]

Sometimes it’s difficult in the classroom to conduct a long-term study. The authors of Ecological Investigations Within an Interactive Plant Community Simulation show how simulations can be used to “experiment” with factors that affect the growth of plants. They describe a particular simulation using screen shots and its system requirements. They also describe three experiments that reflect different student roles in inquiry activities: student as research assistants, students as co-researchers, and students as lead researchers. [SciLinks: Plant Growth]

Having pHun With Soils shows a practical application for learning about acids, bases, and pH. With the context of planning and developing a wetlands restoration project, the 5E lesson guides students through a soil analysis. [SciLinks: pH Scale]

When I taught middle school science, I worked closely with our art teachers. He would have enjoyed Science Meets the Arts. This article shows that with guidance students can go beyond the traditional diorama to create realistic wildlife art. Several photographs show the finished work, which I’m sure scored high on the included rubric.

Looking for ideas for field trips? The authors of Our Watery World: Teaching Middle School Students About Biodiversity share their experiences in planning a study of a water restoration site. The 5E lesson includes a student activity sheet. Even if you live in a different type of surroundings, the lesson is very adaptable. [SciLinks: Wetlands]

Cold Scat Creamery: Using Ice-Cream-Parlor Tricks to Create Fake Scat sounds like it would be interesting to middle school “scatologists”! Using indirect evidence (the simulate scat) students explore heribivores, carnivores, and omnivores.   [SciLinks: Food Chains and Food Webs]

The Human Impact on Biodiversity: A Case Study With Corn examines issues related to biodiversity and agriculture, including economics and health. For students who are not familiar with agricultural practices, this could be an interesting look at this important crop.[SciLinks: Corn, Sustainable Agriculture]

Studying animal behavior requires more than just watching animals. Using Mathematics to Conduct Social Analyses of Bottlenose Dolphins in Science Classrooms shows how technology and mathematics are integral parts of these behavioral studies. Students use real data in their analysis and learn that mathematics is essential to biologists. The article includes a rubric and additional resources can be found in this month’s Connections. [SciLinks: Animal Behavior, Behavior and Adaptations]


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