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  • Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Adaptation Intro-Live!
Rating

This activity is a brief introduction to adaptations as the group observes a live organism together. Adaptations are inheritable structures and behaviors that help a group of organisms survive in their habitat. Students start out observing an organisms’ structures, trying to figure which might help it survive in its habitat and which are inheritable. Then, they do the same with behaviors: attempting to figure out which ones are behavioral adaptations. To build understanding of a complex concept like adaptations, students need multiple exposures to it, which is why this activity should be followed by other adaptations-focused activities.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
04/14/2020
Argumentation Routine
Rating

This activity helps students learn to be open-minded and to participate in respectful discussion using evidence and reasoning. These are great life skills that any citizen of the world should have. They’re also scientific argumentation skills. The ability to change one’s mind based on evidence and reasoning, to see issues as complex, and to look at issues and claims from different perspectives are all scientific argumentation skills. Students also learn that absolute answers rarely exist. These skills and understandings are useful beyond science for anyone interested in figuring things out and in talking with others about issues, particularly with those who have different perspectives and opinions.

Subject:
Speaking and Listening
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
04/14/2020
Bark Beetle Exploration
Rating

In forested areas, students are often intrigued by mysterious sticks covered in carved tunnels–but students often think the patterns were made by human artists or termites. After students complete this activity, they’ll have the skills to identify bark beetle galleries, to make explanations about the patterns of beetle galleries, and to interpret what these tracks tell us about the life history of the organisms that made them.

In an optional discussion, students can consider outbreak levels of bark beetles that cause the death of many trees, make arguments based on evidence about possible effects on ecosystems, then brainstorm and critique possible management strategies. An optional extension for investigating student questions about bark beetles is also included.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
04/14/2020
Bird Language Exploration
Rating

By paying attention to the sounds and behaviors of birds, students are introduced to a whole new way to experience and observe what’s happening in their surroundings, both during their field experience and back home. In this Focused Exploration activity, students pay attention to the birds around them. After listening as a group, students imitate calls and notice differences between them. Students think about and discuss the different messages birds might communicate, then they individually watch and listen to birds from a Sit Spot. When the group gathers again, students compare their observations and make a large map of the bird vocalizations and behaviors they observed.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
04/15/2020
Blending in & Standing Out
Rating

Students tend to be fascinated by colors and patterns of organisms, and by thinking and learning about these and other adaptive strategies. Colors and patterns in nature are a great entry point to understand adaptations. This activity focuses on how organisms’ patterns and colors help them stand out or blend in with their environment, and how this helps them survive. Students observe the main colors in the landscape, then search for plastic animals hidden there, noticing which blend in with their surroundings and which stand out. Then, students discuss what made the animals blend in or stand out, construct explanations for how this could help the animals survive, and learn four categories for color and pattern adaptations: camouflage, mimicry, warning, and attraction. Students apply these concepts as they search for real organisms in the area, then discuss how patterns and coloration might help the organisms survive in their habitat.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
04/15/2020
The Case of the Disappearing Log
Conditions of Use:
Read the Fine Print
Rating

After exploring the “Case of the Disappearing Log,” students will probably never look at a log the same way again. In this activity, students assume the roles of detectives faced with a nature mystery. First, they explore a decomposing log and look for evidence of how the log is changing. They make possible explanations for what might be causing log to disappear. Students then learn about common “suspects”—organisms that decompose wood—and the signature evidence they each leave behind. Students use a Disappearing Log Key to identify which organisms might have left behind which evidence, and use this information to make explanations about what has happened to the log since it was a tree. Finally, students learn that the log isn’t really disappearing, it’s turning into the invisible gases that are part of the cycling of matter in all ecosystems.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/04/2020
Decomposition Mission
Rating

In this activity, students investigate the fascinating and complex process of decomposition and lay the foundation for deeper understanding of concepts related to matter and energy transfer in ecosystems. Through exploration and discussion, students go beyond simple definitions. Instead, students discover key characteristics of decomposition as they struggle with creating a sequence for decomposing wood and leaves. They learn the difference between physical decomposition and chemical decomposition and that many things contribute to decomposition, but certain organisms are classified as decomposers. They also search for and discuss evidence of decomposers, make model diagrams to further develop their ideas about the process of decomposition, and discuss decomposition and its role in the cycling of matter. Finally, students are challenged to recognize the evidence and impact of decomposition in the ecosystems they explore.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/04/2020
Discovery Swap
Rating

This student-centered Exploration Routine can be used in many different ecosystems and provides a way for students to search for, observe, research, and share discoveries about organisms. It can be used with any type of organism or phenomenon you choose for students to focus on, such as macro-invertebrates in streams or ponds, under-log organisms, insects caught with nets, or plants.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/04/2020
Double Take
Rating

Based only on what we see when we watch stars in the sky, it’s easy to believe that the stars revolve around a stationary Earth, a common misconception among children. Although many students have at least heard that the Earth spins, they may not have thought about how this affects how we see stars, planets and the Moon.

In this activity, students find evidence of the Earth’s spinning through observing the apparent movement of stars. They use outstretched arms to measure the distance between a star and an object at the horizon. Later, they return to the same spot, re-measure, and notice that the star is in a different position, and try to explain this movement. Finally, the instructor shares the accepted scientific explanation for the phenomenon.

Subject:
Astronomy
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/04/2020
Exploratory Investigation
Rating

Scientists can spend years planning, conducting, analyzing, and publishing the results of their investigations. It’s not surprising that trying to design and conduct scientific investigations in a vastly shorter time span, can often be frustrating for instructors and students, and may lead to misunderstandings about how investigations are done. Students’ attempts at quick investigations are often messy, and data can be inconsistent and fairly inconclusive. But scientists often do “messy” exploratory investigations before doing a full investigation. The goal of an exploratory investigation is to observe and record basic patterns in nature, as well as to explore various methods and improve the ultimate design of an investigation. Exploratory studies can be “quick and dirty” but are important to understanding a phenomenon well enough to develop a testable question and appropriate methods for investigating. Similarly, the goal for students in this activity is not coming up with great data, but to observe and record patterns in nature, and to think about how the investigation could be improved in the future. After being assigned a general topic, such as “exploring where fungi live,” students brainstorm questions, sort questions as testable or not testable, plan a brief exploratory investigation, do it, analyze the results, discuss ideas, and brainstorm ways the investigation could be improved in the future. In a relatively short amount of time, we can give students an experience that’s authentic to field science, while emphasizing how this can lead to a more thorough investigation that answers important questions about the natural world.

Subject:
Life Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
Fire Management Discussion
Rating

Discussing environmental issues can be a pivotal part of a student’s environmental education. Thinking about complex issues while engaging in respectful discussion is an opportunity for students to develop skills that are important throughout life. In this activity, students discuss the question, “Should humans stop wildfires?” At first, students typically respond, “Yes! Fires are bad!” In reality, fire management is a challenging environmental management problem, and the question has no simple answer. To make actual fire policy decisions you need a thorough analysis of the impacts of fires—which are not all bad!—on different ecosystems. You also need to think about the usefulness, cost, and effects of different management approaches and solutions.

Subject:
Environmental Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
Food, Build, Do, Waste
Rating

This activity gives students a way to look at how organisms are connected to ecosystems through the cycling of matter and the flow of energy. By the end of the activity, students will be able to make distinctions between how matter and energy are used and transferred and will be encouraged to apply this important crosscutting concept to the world around them.

First, students observe an animal, then they reflect on how it uses matter from food to build body structures and energy from food to do things. Students look at food as “packages” of matter and energy that animals (and plants) consume. They also think about wastes, such as poo, pee, sweat, heat, and carbon dioxide. This is a focused activity best used as part of an extended matter and energy-themed experience, and it works best after students have had time to explore, check out organisms in other ways, and be physically active.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
Fungi Exploration
Rating

Weird and wild fungi are everywhere, especially when it’s wet out. Given the chance to explore and observe fungi, students will notice them everywhere. Exploring fungi will also lead students to appreciate how fungi function in ecosystems as decomposers and other important roles. Recent discoveries in science have found that huge underground networks of thin, branching tubes of mycelium, the white tubes that are the main growing part of a fungus, provide key links between plants and the rest of the ecosystem.

In this Focused Exploration activity, students begin by observing fungi. Then, they learn that mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi. Students use a simple key to identify types of fungi, record data, then regroup, and discuss patterns of where fungi grow. Next, they learn about how fungi digest what they live on, discuss fungal impacts on ecosystems, and reflect on fungi roles in decomposition.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
Hand Lens Introduction
Rating

In this Exploration Routine, students learn how to most effectively use their hand lenses. They practice finding the “sweet spot” – the distance to hold the lens between eye and object so the object comes into focus. Without this introduction, students may become frustrated or distracted by hand lenses because they don’t understand how to use them. With this quick activity, students develop a healthy fascination with this transformational tool and feel empowered to use it like a scientist. This activity is also an opportunity to invite your students into inquiry. By modeling how to use a lens, how to say observations out loud, and by encouraging students to check things out and share discoveries, you can begin to set a tone of collaborative inquiry for your group.

Subject:
Physics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
How Big & How Far
Rating

The sizes and distances of things in space are awe-inspiring, but hard to fathom. Things that are unimaginably massive can look tiny to us from Earth, and things that appear very large to us may be among the smallest in the sky. Although students can learn names and features of objects in the night sky, scale is one of the biggest stumbling blocks they need to overcome to actually understand what they’re looking at and to understand astronomy in general. But students have lots of daily life experience with bigger things looking smaller because of relative distance (and visa versa). How Big & How Far takes this experience of observing relative sizes and distances here on Earth and challenges students to apply it to night sky objects.

In this Night Sky Activity, the group measures how many fists tall a volunteer is. Then, students scatter and measure again, this time with outstretched fists and with much smaller and varied measurements. Students discuss how the distance you are from an object can make it appear larger or smaller. This activity sets them up to apply this idea afterwards as they observe night sky objects and attempt to better understand the actual sizes of the objects they see.

Subject:
Engineering
Astronomy
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of
Rating

Many field instructors cite this Exploration Routine as their most effective teaching tool. It helps students develop a mindset of curiosity, and provides language tools to actively and directly engage with the natural world. These are important skills students can carry away and apply in any natural setting. Using this routine makes any field experience more student- and nature-centered. After introducing it, instructors can ask students to apply the routine to deepen their understanding of the natural world during any part of a field experience.

During the activity, students pick up a natural object, such as a leaf, and make “I notice…” statements out loud with a partner, then share some of their observations with the group. They do the same with “I wonder…” questions, and with “It reminds me of…” connections. Then, students practice using these tools while exploring whatever they find interesting. This simple routine can help students get beyond seeing nature as a “green blur,” and lead them to never be bored in nature again.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
Interview an Organism
Rating

Interview an Organism gives students the opportunity to enter the world of an organism. Students slow down and have a “conversation” with an organism of their choosing, asking questions that can be answered through more observation while paying attention to its surroundings and the scale of its world. It helps take students to a “next level” of observing and questioning as they learn to ask themselves questions that lead them to make deeper observations. In the process, they get to know their chosen organism.

In this Exploration Routine, students search for interesting organisms and observe them. Each pair of students chooses an organism to study, comes up with questions about the organism’s appearance and structures, while attempting to answer each one through observations. Then they move on to more probing questions about the organism’s behavior, ecosystem, and relationships to other organisms. Afterwards, students share with other pairs and then with the whole group.

Subject:
Engineering
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
Lichen Exploration
Rating

Looking at lichen through a hand lens can be like looking at life-forms from an alien planet. In this activity, students focus closely on lichen and get turned on to its different strange and interesting forms. One reason for spending time learning about lichens is that they can be found just about anywhere, so students can keep investigating lichen after they leave your program. Students observe and explore this “weird organism” that grows on rocks and trees and wonder what it is. They learn that it’s a lichen, use a key to identify three types of lichen, reflect on the symbiotic relationship of fungi and algae that make up lichens, and finally search for evidence of lichen succession. After this activity, students will likely begin to notice lichens everywhere, and will be motivated to continue their explorations.

Subject:
Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
Mind Pie
Rating

In this Assessment Routine, students use a Mind Pie chart to express how comfortable and confident they feel about certain topics and activities they will encounter during the field experience. The chart provides the instructor with some information about the group, which they can use to inform their instruction. It also gives students an idea of what to expect from the field experience. This activity does not explicitly illuminate student misconceptions, rather, it serves as an opportunity for students to access and reflect on their prior knowledge and experience.

Subject:
Life Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020
Moon Balls
Rating

In this Night Sky Activity, students use a simple indoor Earth-Moon-Sun model to explore and learn about Moon phases and eclipses. Many children (and adults) have misconceptions about what causes the phases of the Moon, and helping them confront those misconceptions with evidence makes this activity pretty enthralling. While it’s pretty easy to see the phases of the Moon in the sky, it’s not possible from our perspective to observe the entire system, which often leads to inaccurate explanations of what’s going on, most commonly that Moon phases are caused by Earth’s shadow. It’s a perfect situation to use a scientific model. Students are challenged to use the model to struggle to figure out, develop understanding of, and explain the phases of the Moon, discuss ideas with others, then adjust their ideas based on evidence from the model. This activity usually includes a lot of big, “aha’s!” as participants encounter evidence while using the model that often contradicts what they previously thought was going on.

Subject:
Engineering
Astronomy
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Beetles: Science and Teaching for Field Instructors
Date Added:
05/06/2020