Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Empty Lot: What Can you Find in a Square Meter

The Empty Lot tells the story of man who thinks he's selling an empty lot, but he comes to learn that the lot is far from empty - instead it's home to a great many living things.

Have your students head outside on a nice day.  Mark off one-square-meter squares, using string or yarn.  These will be your students "lots".  The lots can be on a variety of terrain - grassy areas, parking lots, etc. 

Before students explore their lots, have them guess how many different living things they'll find evidence of in their lot. 

Have students carefully examine their lot to see how many different living things they can find (or evidence of living things).  They can carefully move leaves and grass aside, but shouldn't pull anything out of the ground.  And, they should try to replace anything they move to the best of their ability.  Students may also wish to use magnifying glasses to make closer observations. 

Student should keep a list of the things they find - naming the ones for which they know the names and providing careful illustrations for the ones in which they don't know names.  Upon returning to the classroom, students can use their observations and reference books to identify the unknown objects. 

Were your students surprised by the number of living things they found?  How did the different terrains vary in their living components?  What impact do human habitats have on other creatures' habitats?

By the way, The Empty Lot is illustrated by Jim Arnosky, who has written (and illustrated) a plethora of picture books about nature.  He's well worth checking out if you're looking for some books to accompany any studies of animals or plants. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Lorax: Over-Harvesting

The last time I mentioned The Lorax  it was as a story to share for Earth Day.  I included some follow-up questions to get your students thinking about both the story and the world around them.   

If you're looking for an activity to use with the book, consider the over-harvesting challenge (first posted on March 30, 2010). 

Set up this activity to help students understand that sometimes humans take more natural resources than nature can produce.

Put students in groups of 2 or 3. You'll need 152 pretzel sticks for each group. The pretzel sticks represent trees/lumber

Within each group, you'll need someone to be the protector of the trees - he or she will 'plant' more trees each round. You'll also need someone to be the lumberjack, who 'cuts down' trees each round. If you have a third member of the group, he or she can record the data each round; if there are only two group memebrs, they can both record as the scenario plays out.

Begin with a 'forest' (pile) of 120 trees. Additionally, the protector will have a supply of 32 more trees

During each round, the following will happen...
- The protectors will 'plant' 4 trees from their source.
- The lumberjacks will double the number of trees they are 'cutting down' each round, starting with 1.
- The recorder records how many trees are left at the end of the round.

After explaining the scenario, but before beginning the actual process, ask students to guess how many rounds it will take before there are no natural resources left.

What can we do to protect our natural resources from over-harvesting?
Here's a table you can set up to help your students record their data:

Natural Resources + Trees Added - Trees Consumed = Trees remaining

The first two rows of data should look like this:

120 + 4 - 1 = 123
123 + 4 - 2 = 125

You could also use Goldfish crackers for the activity - replace the lumberjacks with fishermen and you're all set!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Day: The Lorax

The Lorax is a great story to share with your students around Earth Day (or any other time, for that matter).
The Lorax (Classic Seuss)

There is a video available, but I'm partial to reading to my students (and they seem to enjoy it as well). 
Dr. Seuss - The Lorax/Pontoffel Pock & His Magic Piano

Following the telling of the tale (or the watching of the DVD), have your students consider the following:

  • What does a "Thneed" represent?
  • List some "Thneeds" in our society today.
  • Who does the "Once-ler" represent?
  • How was the "Once-ler" irresponsible?
  • What could the "Once-ler" have done to protect the natural resources while still manufacturing "Thneeds"?
  • Did the "Once-ler" feel that he was part of the Truffula Land?  Explain.
  • Can we separate ourselves from our natural environment?  Why or why not?
  • The "Once-ler" excuses himself with "Well if I didn't do it, then someone else would."*  Is this a valid excuse?  Why or why not?
  • Who does the "Lorax" represent?
*In the video version (at least in an older version, it looks like there's a newer edition, which I haven't seen, so I don't know if it's word-for-word the same or not). 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Earth Day: Picture THIS: Taking Human Impact Seriously

Grass scraped away by winter snowplowing. 
 I love this idea, presented in the March 2010 NSTA Science Scope Journal. 

In it, students are challenged to take 20 pictures that document human impact on their local community.

The pictures are assembled and captions are added, to create the finished product.  I imagine the finished product could be digital (PowerPoint, website, etc.) or a hard copy. 

At first thought, it seems like this should be easy enough - human impact abounds.  But, at least for me, the real challenge is determining how to use photography to document that impact.  And it takes some thought and creativity to come up with 20 quality photos that meet the challenge. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Natural Selection: Can you find me?

Mark off a 1 square meter (or yard) section of grass. Scatter a selection of colored toothpicks in the marked off area – you will want to count the number of toothpicks of each color before you scatter them.

Provide a group of students with ~15 seconds to pick up as many toothpicks as they can find. Count and record the number of each color that was collected. Repeat this exercise several more times.

After returning inside, students can graph the data. You should find that the green toothpicks were found in smaller numbers, especially in the early trials.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Who Dirtied the Water

Who Dirtied the Water is an excellent activity found in the Access Excellence Fellows Collection.  

In short... begin with some nice clean water from an undisturbed lake.  Beavers come and add some wood chips to the lake and a river washes sand into the lake.  People begin to settle the area and their waste enters the lake.  Soil from farm fields washes into the lake.  Eventually a city grows there, with houses, laundromats, factories, etc.  Each of these new additions adds something to the lake.  

As you read the story, students come and add the material to the water.  Periodically throughout the story, you ask the students if they'd want to swim in that water, eat fish caught in that water, or boat in that water.  

It's a powerful demonstration of what can happen to a water source over time.  And it's great for staring a discussion.  Students will have all different ideas of how dirty is too dirty.  And at the end, you get to the big questions - who made the water dirty and even bigger - who's responsible for cleaning up the water.  

It's a fantastic activity.  I most recently used it as part of the local library's summer reading program.  Since there were young (preschool) children taking part, I made a few changes.  

I made a name tag for each part, which contained a picture as well as the name.  The film canisters were labeled with pictures that matched those on the name tags.  These modifications made it more meaningful for children who are not yet reading, as well as making it easier for them to participate. 

For a nice progression of activities, start with Earth Ball Catch (land vs water on Earth), then do Earth's Water Necklaces (salt water vs. fresh water on Earth), and then do Who Dirtied the Water (take care of the tiny amount of fresh water available).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mutation Game

Place a plate of candy or beads in the center of the room.

Each team of students has a nest (a paper cup or plate).  Each team also has a means of picking up their food - forks or spoons.  But, each team also has a mutation - missing fork tongs, bent handles, extra large or small size, etc.  You may wish to leave one team un-mutated, for the sake of comparison.

During the course of the game, students on each team take turns making trips to the food supply to bring food back to the nest.  The goal is to get as much food back to the nest as possible before time runs out.  Any food that falls to the ground is out and can no longer be used.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Acid Rain and Baby Birds

Vinegar is a weak acid.  It's much stronger than acid rain, but it can be used to show the effects of acid rain over time.

One effect acid rain has is on baby birds.

Soak an egg in vinegar during the course of the school day, or overnight.

You will find that the shell dissolves in the vinegar.

While acid rain is not strong enough nor does it act over a long enough time to completely destroy the shell, it does weaken it.  This allows pollutants to potentially enter the egg, as well as reducing the baby bird's protection.