Everyone seems to love Ted Talks. I know I do. They are inspiring, engaging, encouraging, and honest. I think what makes them work is that they are in small spaces and there is a connection to your audience.
Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”
So I started thinking about how we can use that principle in teaching material, especially what might be drier material to digest. If you’re like me, I can’t think of anything much drier than scientific journals. They are like the antithesis of passion.
That’s intriguing because many times the scientists behind those papers are deeply passionate about their research. In fact, it’s actually their life’s work! Those articles might help them get funded but they aren’t helping get others involved in their movement (for the most part).
What if we could present a “why” for this type of research before talking about the what? My experience has been that it’s like turning the switch.
Designing Ecology Lessons
MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.*
It was like looking at a brick wall and then I remembered a piece of information I’d heard on vacation, elephants don’t like bees, and went from there.
I learned a lot more than that in the course of my research. In fact, elephants are a keystone species in their ecosystem so their presence is essential to keep the ecosystem healthy.
The biggest threat to elephants? It’s us. Human-elephant conflict is not only the biggest threat to elephants it is the most difficult to address.
That means that it is unfair. If you’ve worked with middle or high school aged kids long you know that the concept of fairness is easy to get kids engaged in. So my “why” which I wanted to the kids to buy into, was that elephants are essential to their ecosystem and are being threatened by humans. That doesn’t seem fair and what can we do to stop that?
With that in mind, I created the “Maintaining Biodiversity Conference” unit.
What is the Maintaining Biodiversity Conference?
In this mock conference, your space is converted from its regular set up to a conference center. Students enter and are given name tags (template provided), welcome sheet, and notes for the keynote presentation.
The keynote presentation establishes some information the students will need as they move through the other presentations. Always considering what is the best way to maintaining elephant biodiversity.
Check out this preview of the Keynote Address…
What is in this unit?
Following the keynote presentation and a brief introduction, students will move to different learning stations “conference rooms” to learn about the following topics:
- What is a keystone species? (including 3 keystone species examples)
- Why is biodiversity important? (including the types of biodiversity)
- What are beehive fences?
- How can wildlife corridors help?
While the conference is a mock conference, the problem is very real. This is a selection of hands on ecosystem activities. The kids are looking at real data and making a decision on that information.
Students are presented with various videos and informational texts that include things like the economic benefits of biodiversity, keystone species in the savanna, the social and economic obstacles and benefits of two different methods for protecting elephant biodiversity.
The summative assessment for this unit is up to you. I suggest a persuasive essay, PSA, and/or debate (and include rubric ideas). I have provided a two-page claim-evidence-reasoning activity to help students gather their evidence for this assessment.
In this unit, students will:
- Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
- Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems (reinforcement activity)
- Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem
- Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
- Introduce claim(s) about a topic or issue, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
- Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.
- Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
You can grab this Maintaining Biodiversity Mock Conference here or at TPT. Included in these ecology lessons are keystone species, species interactions, comparing designs for maintaining biodiversity, and all of the teacher notes and ideas you need to use it.
*NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.