Case Study: Chewin’ in the Chesapeake

Timeline: 4 class sessions

Marine biology students at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, Florida used the Chesapeake Bay Program's Habitat Web page to report on a habitat found in the Chesapeake Bay and in Florida. They used the extensive information on the Chesapeake Bay Program Web site to research estuarine habitats, food webs within the habitats, and the effect of biotic, abiotic, and anthropogenic effects on their food web. From their research they created an educational report on the food webs within estuarine habitats and the effect of various factors on these food webs.

The students spent two 45-minute class periods researching the habitats found in the Chesapeake. They were given the criteria that the habitat they choose must also be found in their home state, and they must describe where in Florida that habitat is found. They researched the following:

  • Physical characteristics of the habitat
  • Organisms found in the habitat
  • Food webs within the habitant
  • Natural and anthropogenic threats to the food web
  • Locale in Florida where the habitat is found

After students individually collected information from the Web site, they divided into groups and spent the next class period assembling an educational report on their habitat. They were instructed to create a magazine article, a newspaper article, or an educational pamphlet.

Once students completed a written report on their habitat, they presented their information to the class, and the instructor graded their presentations and reports with a grading rubric.

Once the lesson was completed, it was evident that the students had a firm understanding of estuarine biology. All students were able to fully explain the habitats found in the Chesapeake Bay, the food webs found there, and the effect of technological changes on their food web. Through researching where estuarine habitats are found in Florida, many students came to realize that such habitats are threatened right in their own backyard. The Chesapeake Bay Program's Web site and the NOAA online resources were instrumental in aiding students in their research and provided a wealth of information on estuary biology, surpassing the information included in our textbook.

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