Spend time on the ground outside and learn more about critters you find! Students will dig in different areas of soil to investigate the relationship between location and the number of macroinvertebrates (bugs).
- Students will learn the vocabulary: macroinvertebrate, ecosystem, changed variable, and measured variable
- Students will carry out a soil investigation by searching through the ground and counting creatures they see
- Students will make connections between how the location of soil they dig in might be related to the quantity of macroinvertebrates they find
- Access to investigation data chart (see attached)
- Paper to journal and sketch on
- 3 different locations to look for bugs. Can’t find access to dirt? Look under bushes or along a sidewalk!
- Scooper (like a spoon or gardening tool)
- Link to list of macroinvertebrates (you can print it!): http://www.colby.edu/biology/BI131/Lab/Lab08SoilinvertGuide.pdf
- Optional: gardening gloves, hula hoop
- Discuss with your student(s):
- What do you think lives under the dirt?
- What do you think you’d find if you looked under the ground?
- Students draw, color, and label bugs that they think might live in the area of investigation (your backyard, a community park, etc). Dig around in the dirt for something to draw to get you started.
- Have your student(s) journal:
- What do you notice?
- What do you wonder?
*You are a student too! Tell your student what you notice and wonder.
- Most of the little bugs in the dirt are called macroinvertebrates.
- A macroinvertebrate, according to Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/animal/macroinvertebrate), is any animal lacking a backbone and is large enough to see without the aid of a microscope. Macroinvertebrates are part of an underground ecosystem.
- An ecosystem, according to Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/science/ecosystem), is the complex of living organisms, their physical environment, and all their interrelationships in a particular unit of space.
- Discuss with your student(s):
- Is there a location where the macroinvertebrates are more active near the surface?
- Where do you think you’ll be able to find the most/least amount of macroinvertebrates?
- Decide on 3 hula hoop-sized locations (if finding dirt is difficult, try under bushes or along a sidewalk. If you don’t have a hula hoop, draw a large circle with a stick or your finger).
- These 3 locations represent your changed variable, which is the one variable changed by the scientist.
- Using your hands or a scooper, find as many macroinvertebrates as you can within 5 minutes. Put any macroinvertebrates you find in a storage container so you can count, record, and identify them.
- The macroinvertebrates are your measured variable, which is what scientists focus their observations on to see how they respond to the change made to the changed variable.
- After 5 minutes, count up how many total macroinvertebrates you found and record that number in your chart. Use the provided identification chart (link) to learn more about those macroinvertebrates.
- Sketch and label your favorite macroinvertebrate, then return them back to their ecosystem in the soil.
- Continue this process for your 2 other hula hoop-sized locations (changed variables), searching for the same amount of time (5 minutes) and looking for macroinvertebrates (measured variable) in the same way.
- Now your student(s) should have looked through 3 locations, recorded your number of macroinvertebrates in the data chart, sketched a couple macroinvertebrates, and returned them all back to their ecosystem. So…(discuss) what is the relationship between location and number of macroinvertebrates found?
- Have your student(s) journal:
- What does the data tell you?
- Where can you look to find the most and least amount of macroinvertebrates? How do you know?
- Was this how you thought the investigation would turn out?
- What surprised you?
- Discuss: Why do you think macroinvertebrates live (or don’t live) in the soil you looked in? What’s your evidence?
- Trying using this sentence stem: I think [claim] because [evidence] .
*Example: I think worms live in my compost pile because there are lots of nutrient-rich foods for them to munch on.
- Discuss with your student(s):
What did you learn that you didn’t know before?
If you could do this investigation again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?
What new questions do you have?
If you could design your own investigation, what question would you ask? What relationship would you explore?
Investigation Data Chart (see attached)
Video of Investigation Summary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOpEDawETMg)
How do I identify macroinvertebrates: http://www.colby.edu/biology/BI131/Lab/Lab08SoilinvertGuide.pdf
What is a macroinvertebrate: https://www.britannica.com/animal/macroinvertebrate
What is an ecosystem: https://www.britannica.com/science/ecosystem
Try other Home Growin’ Kids lessons at https://homegrowinkids.wixsite.com/homegrowinkids
I've been approached by outdoor enthusiasts for decades asking how the heck can I promote the use of technology in outdoor learning? After all, isn't a main reason to go outside to get away from technology? Sometimes I respond by asking how the questioner gets to their outdoor learning destination. In my graduate classes, I tell the students on the first day that anyone can get an "A" right now by 1) Handing over their cell phone and car keys, 2) removing any non-natural clothing, and 3) walking home right now. My thoughts and intentions behind this are to help them recognize that we use a variety of technologies in our daily lives - why should we have to put it away to learn in an outdoor setting? (A key point is using it to learn - not distract or entertain.)
Why should we handicap learners by taking away tools that they use on a daily basis? Tools they know how to use - and do use - as they work to make sense of their lives?
Here's how I think of educational technology:
- Technology supports our efforts to appeal to different learning styles. With a variety of learning tools, students can understand their experiences through oral, written, spatial, quantitative, and/or graphical means. As a result, many more students become engaged in the learning process.
- Technology supports an integrated approach to learning. A curriculum that integrates different disciplines helps students combine their mathematical, logical, scientific, linguistic, artistic, and social knowledge to make their lives and interactions with the world clearer.
- Technology is integral to modern science. Modeling the research practices of biologists, engineers, and other professionals, students use technology to measure, document, interpret, obtain, present, and manage data.
- Technology aids efforts to support teachers. Technology allows us not only to demonstrate teaching strategies, but also to deliver training – providing teachers the skills and confidence to become leaders in their classrooms and schools.
I promote the use of technology for three main reasons:
Augment Our Senses
Everything we know and understand comes through interactions with the world through our senses. Many technology tools have been developed to augment these senses. Consider “sight.” Binoculars and telescopes make far things closer. Microscopes and hand lenses make small things larger. Time-lapse cameras make slow things faster. All of these tools help learners to make more careful, and hopefully insightful, observations of their world.
Collect and Analyze Information
Understanding a phenomenon often requires thoughtful consideration of various aspects of the phenomenon. Bubbling, oily water at the edge of the pond may look "gross," but determining if it is healthy means understanding a variety of aspects: temperature, pH (acidity), presence of useable oxygen and many other things. We use technology to collect data to help us understand these parameters. Data easily collected and analyzed includes:
- Temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and turbidity of water
- Quantity and diversity of macro-invertebrates in water and soil
- Height & girth of trees
- Light intensity and canopy coverage
- Weather data: rainfall, wind direction, air temperature
- Frequency and location of animals (including radio telemetrically tracking the resident barred owls.)
- Frequency and location of fungi.
- Earthquakes & tremors
- Soil moisture
- Water salinity
- Sound levels
Communications tools allow us to present our ideas in many ways – reflecting our dedication to addressing the varying learning styles (and needs) of our the learners. Some learners will grasp the concept of a watershed from hearing someone speak the definition. Some grasp it by reading the written definition. Some "get it" by examining a drawing. Others gain understanding by watching a short animation/video. Others by climbing on a concrete model. All learners will reinforce or refine their understanding when presented the concept by many of these methods.
Learn WITH Technology - don't "learn the technology"
I remember when we used to spend days learning software (GIS for example) and then it would take less than an hour to actually do some meaningful analysis. If you find yourself or your learners spending a significant amount of time learning how to use a tool, you should ask yourself if you are teaching the tool or teaching with the tool. I'd suggest that what we want to do is make the tools as invisible as possible - so the learners can focus on the phenomenon. Fortunately, there are many fairly useful tools now that have simpler and simpler interfaces. And they are becoming so common that it is reasonable to expect that learners will already have many skills for using the tools. I'm constantly looking to use things that are dependable, affordable, and easy to use. A few examples of current tools and applications include:
- Apple's iPod Touch has become a "Swiss Army Knife" of tools. The ability to bring to hand pictures, videos, text and audio of organisms and phenomenon turns the chance encounter or question into a teachable moment. The built in camera allows one to measure distances and size, light intensity, canopy coverage, sound levels, wind speed and more. New, emerging technology allows us to (somewhat effectively) identify plants and clouds merely by snapping a photo. We also have a variety of reference tools: field guides for birds, mammals and plants.
- Digital cameras provide opportunities for documenting observations, field research and activities. The camera is also a fun way to explore perspective - looking at things from new angles.
- GPS (Geographical Positioning Systems) and Geocaching is a great way to motivate getting to new places. Earth caches even help you learn as you explore - consider this one that helps explore tidal forces. For real understanding, try creating your own earth cache!
- Where I work (IslandWood) we even use iPads as video cameras - to capture education strategies – both for the professional growth of our instructors, but also for professional development of other teachers through the web.