Case Study: Caution: Do Not Bleach!

NOAA's National Ocean Service Coral Reef Ecosystem online resources proved to be a valuable informational tool for use with my 9th-grade biology students. I was able to utilize the guide materials in four different ways with my students.

  • 1. Students used the information from the resources to create food webs of the coral reef ecosystem. Students worked individually to draw organisms and show their interactions, and they used pictures of organisms to make a collage of the system and indicate food interrelationships. Students drew connecting lines between organisms to create their webs. This activity allowed them to search the resources available in the unit to find a collection of organisms.

  • 2. Student teams prepared bulleted charts that reflected the individual learning objectives contained in the unit and used these charts as presentation materials for class discussions led by each student team. Each team member researched one of the five unit objectives and made his presentation chart to reflect what he learned. Each group repeated the five goals in their team presentations, but each team presentation reflected their internet searches. With five teams per class, by the time all presentations had been made, all unit resources had been reviewed and discussed. The presentations allowed the class as a whole to review the scope of the material contained in the online resources and to begin to understand the importance of anthropogenic change in our reef ecosystems.

  • 3. To carry the unit information and content into the realm of inquiry and the scientific method, each student was asked to design an experiment that could be conducted within a fringing coral reef ecosystem. Students developed individual questions, made a hypothesis about what actual data might show, and then designed specific, step-by-step procedures that could be carried out to collect the data. They were asked to find specific locations where their experiments could be conducted. Students were shown how GPS and GIS data systems work in field documentation.

  • 4. Students in my advanced biology class reviewed all of the experimental protocols developed by the 9th-graders and selected some of these research experiments for their use in the field. The advanced students spent eight days in the Virgin Islands National Park doing fieldwork and preparing for their year-end ETS exam. While in the field, the advanced students used the procedures developed by the 9th-graders and conducted their experiments. They brought back data for the younger students to observe and evaluate. This activity gave the 9th-graders the opportunity to see whether or not they developed a good experimental question. The advanced students evaluated the quality of the experimental design developed by the 9th-grade students and made necessary modifications before collecting field data.

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