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Plants & Animals Are Affected by Water Quality

Elementary, Middle

Description

This unit, which is taken from the compilation Healthy Water Healthy People, consists of three lessons. It introduces students to macroinvertebrates and their role as environmental indicators through simulated or actual fieldwork and classroom experiences.

Lesson 1 - Benthic Bugs and Bioassessment - Students are grouped, assigned individual tasks, and conduct a simulation of a rapid bio-assessment using common objects in the classroom. The extension activity suggests that students also carry out the activity at a local stream or creek. That might best be done at the end of the unit when students have experience identifying and naming common macroinvertebrates.

Lesson 2 - Water Quality Windows - Through a game-like format and/or research, students explore limiting factors, such as pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen, that impact macroinvertebrate survival.

Lesson 3 - Invertebrates as Indicators - The lesson begins with students playing a game that simulates change in a stream when an environmental stress or pollutant is introduced. After a few rounds, students discuss ways to reduce or eliminate the stress. They then play again noticing and reflecting on the change. The wrap-up suggestions include a visit to a local stream to gather macroinvertebrates and to assess the health of the stream.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Identifying and naming macroinvertebrates.
  • Conducting a rapid bioassessment.
  • Reading and interpreting water quality data.

Strengths

  • The lessons are sequentially written, easy to understand and follow, and they are all thoroughly teacher tested.
  • The lessons are written so that most students can be successful. No adaptations for easing the work are provided. Interestingly, ideas for making the work more challenging are provided! This will be particularly helpful for teachers of students in the higher grades.
  • The resource has excellent appendices.
  • The unit invites authentic out-of-doors investigation.
  • All of the lessons are created to involve students in physical activity while learning - perfect for the middle years.

Weaknesses

  • Students might need more opportunity to discuss, and probe their own thinking during and after the lessons.
  • The lessons do not include backgrounder information for students.
  • The reading level on the symptom cards may be too high for some students without some initial support.
  • The resource is written for an American audience so the web recommendations for the teacher do not equate. This will require some additional teacher preparation to rework the webquest lesson.
  • The assessment section is useful for matching the lesson to local curriculum learning outcomes, but it does not suggest how a teacher might assess lesson activities for learning.

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Themes Addressed

  • Water (1)

    • Water Quality

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good
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

The lessons focus on ecology and health, although ethics and aesthetics will likely arise in discussion.

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 Very Good
Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

Actual field work is suggested in conjunction with the lessons (lesson one is easily transferable to a local stream). Action beyond changing personal attitudes and awareness is not mentioned in this unit.

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 Good

While there is some opportunity for discussion, it is important that the teacher build in opportunity for reflection throughout the learning process.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

Not an aspect 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 out-of-doors is repeatedly suggested as a place for fieldwork. The activities are created to be classroom friendly but can be adapted for the out-of-doors. Students are learning about nature.

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 Very Good
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 Very Good

While the lessons do not include a historical look at stream life, students are learning stewardship techniques that foster hope.

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 Satisfactory

A combination of structured inquiry and guided inquiry is used.

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
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
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 Very Good
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

The lessons include classroom friendly simulations, as well as the opportunity to convert the experiences to out-of-doors, authentic field work. The teacher ultimately determines a rating of very good or mediocre.

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

Group roles are assigned to complete specific tasks in the first lesson. Cooperative learning is a priority throughout the resource. The product is assessed, while the process could be informally assessed.

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 Very Good
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 Very 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

Choice is incidental. Self-direction in research is a possibility in the second lesson.

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.