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The Buffer Zone: Acid-Base Chemistry in the World's Oceans

Secondary

Description

This resource features an experiential learning approach that examines the effects of global warming on marine environments. Students apply introductory acid-base theory (including conjugate acids/bases and buffers) in an experiment to simulate ocean acidification resulting from the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide.  They then discuss the implications of their findings. As a culminating activity, students read a scientific article describing the toll of global warming on coral reefs and reflect on the scientific processes used to gather information on the impacts of climate change on this habitat.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Organizing and using apparatus and materials to collect reliable experimental data
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Inferring and explaining relationships in order to apply experimental results to real world situations
  • Working cooperatively with team members
  • Identifying further problems or issues to be investigated
  • Problem solving and evaluating scientific methodology

Strengths

  • Gives students a chance to practice real science and link it to an important, current issue
  • Science focus provides opportunity to practice skills associated with the methodical approach
  • Resource is interesting, and up-to-date
  • Provides opportunities for experiential "hands-on" learning
  • Good background information for teachers
  • Objectives for each part of the lesson are clearly stated
  • Teacher notes and helpful hints sections are very useful
  • The instructions for the lab procedures are very student-friendly
  • Links for related information are provided
  • Assessment questions and suggested answers are given
  • Student background information on the chemistry behind the ocean water's natural buffering system is well presented
  • EHP reading is accompanied by detailed pictures and visuals which add clarification and enhance understanding
  • The link to the "Coral Reef Web" is excellent

Weaknesses

  • No authentic action plan in included
  • No accommodations suggested for struggling learners
  • Reading level for the EHP reading may be too challenging for some students
  • Students need explicit opportunities to clarify and express values
  • There are no rubrics provided for assessment

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource will provide an effective tool for bringing real-world relevance to chemistry lessons involving acid-base reactions, pH, and buffer systems.  It is especially appropriate for use in a high school classroom studying the ways that global warming is affecting ocean ecosystems and the consequences of changing PH levels for marine habitats.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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        • Chemistry 20: Matter as Solutions, Acids and Bases
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Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (2)

    • Air Pollution
    • Weather
  • Ecosystems (2)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Habitat Loss
  • Water (1)

    • Marine Environments

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

Students gather information through guided inquiry and relate their findings to real life situations. They make their own conclusions on how carbons dioxide levels affect pH, by stressing the natural buffering system and the consequences this may have on human health.

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 Satisfactory

The resource links global warming, and green house gas production with changing ocean water chemistry. This brings about environmental consequences which impact our own food supply safety, and health.  Clear opportunities exist for teachers to introduce meaningful discussions of the social and economic consequences of reef degradation.

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 Satisfactory

Although not explicitly examining all dimensions of the issue, it promotes discussion and action through the hands-on learning activity.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected

Values Education Satisfactory
Values Education:

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

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

Poor- there is no action activity included in the resource

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
Action Skills Satisfactory

Students learn to work cooperatively and collaborate on results. The scientific method emphasizes precision and accuracy.

Action Skills: Explicitly teaches the skills needed for students to take effective action (e.g. letter-writing, consensus-building, etc.).
Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory
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

Although it does not have an out-of-door experience, it does promote an appreciation of the oceans and the need to protect them.

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

After reading the EHP article, students will see how ocean ecosystems are linked to local  food chains as well as the value coral reefs have in enhancing medicinal,and spiritual health.

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 Good

The use of  scientific inquiry allows students to see the effects of past practices and to highlight the current situation. The future would be seen as positive if students use the results of the inquiry as a springboard to action.

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

Students are able to discover some of the answers on their own through the guided inquiry approach taken.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

This is primarily a science resource, with an emphasis on acid-base and environmental chemistry. There are some opportunities for addressing outcomes in geography.

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 Good
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

Activities do teach to both the cognitive and affective domains. Reading levels in the EHP introductory article will be challenging for some students. There are no accommodations suggested for students with learning difficulties, but appropriate placement of students in lab groups should help in addressing this.

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

Hands-on, minds-on learning are prominent.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  •  Satisfactory: learning is made concrete.  ‘Working with real objects,  using real sources of information
  • Good: learning takes place in a real-world context. Simulation, mentorship
  • Very good: learning provides experience beyond the classroom.  Addressing real world issues and problems 
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
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

Some assessment tools are provided, but there are no suggested rubrics for evaluating student work.

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
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
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 Satisfactory
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.