Case Study: What Do You Know About Horseshoe Crabs?

Timeline: 3 class sessions

Marine biology students at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, Florida, used the Ecological Research and Development Group (ERDG) Horseshoe Crab Web site, the University of Delaware's Graduate College of Marine Studies Horseshoe Crab Web site, and NOAA online resources to research information on horseshoe crabs and to design a learning tool for future students to use. They used the Web sites' material to gather information on the evolution, ecology, conservation, anatomy, and medical research of horseshoe crabs. Once students created their learning tool, they used a peer review process as part of their assessment for the assignment.

The students spent two 50-minute class periods researching aspects of horseshoe crabs. Students were then instructed to create a learning tool for future students using the information from the assigned Web sites.The form of the tools was left to the student's imagination; some examples including a worksheet, scavenger hunt, board game, and computer quiz. Points were given based on the following criteria:

  • Engagement: Does it engage the learner? Does it hold their interest?
  • Content: Does it cover the required areas - history, anatomy, life cycle, medical uses, importance in the food web, reasons for its decline.
  • Ease of use: Are the directions clear? Is the information found on the Web site, but not clearly referenced?

During the third class session, students swapped learning tools and evaluated their peers' work. Students used the above criteria for grading, assigning a maximum of 5 points for each category. Following the students' grading, the teacher evaluated the work using the following grading criteria:

  • Engagement: 10 points
  • Content: 30 points
  • Ease of Use: 5 points
  • Peer evaluation: 15 points

Once the lesson was completed, it was evident that students had a firm understanding of the importance of horseshoe crabs in our environment and in medical research. Students demonstrated their knowledge of horseshoe crabs with the creation of their learning tool, and enjoyed navigating the websites and creating a unique assignment. The NOAA online resources were instrumental in aiding students in their research, and provided a wealth of information on horseshoe crabs, surpassing the information included in our textbook.

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