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Preserving Critical Species: Inquiry to Action

Secondary, Middle

Description

This activity guides students through a process that uses the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework inquiry arc. Students identify and research compelling and supporting questions, leading them to develop explanations and arguments and ultimately to take action on issues related to preservation of species.

Students discuss the meaning of the term ‘endangered species’, identify examples and suggest causes including human – animal conflicts.

Using resource links provided in the resource, students work in pairs or small groups to examine a number of case studies and generate questions.

The class then creates a list of questions found to be common among the groups and from these further isolate those questions that deal with concepts, raise issues involving a number of variables and perspectives and are difficult to resolve (compelling questions)

Using the Inquiry framework provided, students develop arguments to resolve these questions and take appropriate action.

 

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The lesson will help strengthen student skills related to

. critical thinking and problem solving (analyzing, applying evaluating)

. communication and collaboration

. asking questions and identifying the hierarchy of questions

Strengths

students examine an authentic issue which, given current trends, is likely to become more urgent

provides students with a framework for investigating compelling questions

includes useful background material for the teacher and a number of relevant resources for student investigation

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The lesson may be used within the context of

. a biology unit that focuses on biodiversity

. a Science/Social Studies unit that investigates the relationship between climate change and changing habitats

. a Science/ Social Studies unit that has students explore the effect of fishing, forestry or farming practices that reduce biodiversity

. a Social Studies unit that links species loss with the demand for certain animal parts such as ivory 

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Themes Addressed

  • Ecosystems (5)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Biodiversity
    • Endangered Species
    • Habitat Loss
    • Wildlife Protection

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The lesson plan content focuses on threatened and endangered species with the unstated assumption that we should protect biodiversity. The question then is one of causation - what are the factors that are responsible for this threat to biodiversity - and what might we do about it?

In addressing the issue of causation, the lesson introduces a generic process that outlines a framework to help students identify and research compelling and supporting questions and arrive at their own informed position. The possibility for bias then is dependent upon the resources provided for student research and whether they meet the test for balance and comprehensiveness. In this instance, the resources provided are National Geographic online resources and therefore reflect that organizations perspective on the issue of threatened or endangered species.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Student research into the reasons why certain species are threatened should lead to an appreciation of the economic factors at play (habitat loss due to development; environmental dislocation (alteration in habitat caused by climate change); and social traditions associated with farming, fishing and hunting. 

The online resources provided by the lesson plan allow students to investigate some of these factors but other resources are needed for a more complete understanding of the forces at play. 

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The process advocated by the resource introduces students to a framework for recognizing and investigating enduring issues. The process requires that students identify the relevant compelling questions, the supporting questions that contribute to an understanding of the compelling question, the resources needed to answer the questions asked,and the importance of evaluating the resources consulted. Such a process should guard against the tendency to find simple answers for complex questions.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

The resource argues for the importance of taking informed action but limits their direction in this regard by suggesting that students brainstorm possible action or look into species preservation issues in their communities.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

Student discussion of possible loss of threatened species and what may be done to better guarantee their survival may be expected to have them consider what value they attach to nature in general and biodiversity in particular.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

Empathy and respect for humans is not a focus of the resource.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

The issue addressed by the resource - Preserving Critical Species - is intended to alert students to the threat to the continued existence of certain species. As students explore the issue and become more informed, it may be expected that this heightened understanding will lead to an enhanced appreciation of  these species and a greater sense of stewardship with respect to their preservation.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Satisfactory

Teachers may choose to adopt a local focus in applying the process outlined in the resource by having students look into species preservation issues in their communities.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

The focus is on the current situation with respect to endangered species, the factors that have created the current challenges and the need to take such action as will guarantee the future existence of those threatened.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The resource has two goals. The first is related to content - the issue of threatened species. The second is concerned with process - to introduce students to a framework that will allow them to develop explanations and arguments and, ultimately take action on issues such as threatened species. Implicit in this process is the assumption that students will arrive at their own understanding of the issue addressed and take action accordingly.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Very Good

Students may be expected to draw upon a number of subject areas in seeking to understand the factors that cause certain species to be threatened and what they may do in response. Geographic considerations will help explain the role of physical features such as habitat loss in reducing the numbers of particular species. The sciences - Ecology and Environmental Science - lead to an understanding of the interplay among biotic and abiotic elements in maintaining a habitat. Biology will alert students to the importance of maintaining genetic diversity and Social Studies will draw attention to the part played by human activity in reducing this genetic diversity. 

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Very Good

The teaching approach adopted by the resource represents a combination of inquiry - based learning and learning -for - use. Students are presented with an issue - threatened species - and a format for investigating the issue. The questions they generate and conclusions arrived at are those of the students; conclusions they share with others and which may be the basis for their actions in addressing the issue.  

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

The lesson employs a variety of teaching methods - discussion, student inquiry and research. A number of tasks are involved as students work in groups to gather and present relevant information and this should allow for students to contribute in a way that reflects their talents.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

Students are charged with investigating and reporting on an authentic and current issue - loss of species diversity. Their perspective on the issue and their commitment to address the issue will be influenced by their findings.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Good

The lesson is structured to allow students to work individually and in pairs in exploring some of the resources provided and to share their findings with their classmates. Students who arrive at similar compelling questions as a result of their research are encouraged to work together in determining what information they need to gather and what arguments they might make related to the issue. The concluding exercise has students make an oral presentation to their classmates in which they outline and defend their position.  

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

Teachers have an opportunity for a degree of formative evaluation as they observe students carry out  their investigations and present their findings.

Teachers are advised to develop a rubric in advance of the activity for assessing students' inquiry process and/or their final presentation. Students are also asked to write a short self-assessment describing their reaction to the inquiry process and what they discovered as a result.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

In those instances where students are working in pairs to investigate "their" compelling question; when they share their perspectives in class discussion; and when they present their finding to classmates, students learn from other students.  

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

Students have an opportunity, within the larger issue of threatened species to contribute to their understanding of the factors involved and the possible responses.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

The lesson prescribes the issue to be studied, the framework for investigating the issue, and identifies a number of relevant issues but allows for a degree of student autonomy in determining who will do what and what resources may be consulted.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.