Earthwatch Endangered Ecosystems Home Scholastic Explorers

Activity Description
Through on-the-scene field reports, photographs, interviews with scientists and others on the site, students will discover firsthand how Earthwatch teams study animals in their environment and work to preserve these endangered ecosystems. Students will have the opportunity to read firsthand accounts of the explorer teams' field reports, a transcript of an interview with the  wildcat scientist and a teacher-volunteer about her caterpillar research. Students will read the transcript of a bulletin board discussion between users and the student team traveling to Brazil to study the river otters. Students will have the opportunity to ask their own questions of scientist Dr. Alexine Keuroghlian from the Pantanal and Endangered Ecosystems during a live interview on April 29th, 11 a.m.–12 p.m. ET. Students will also use interactive online technology to explore food webs and create caterpillars that fit their environment. This project is suitable for students in grades 4–8. See Lesson Planning Suggestions for a prescribed plan on using this project with your students.

The activities in the "Explorer's Endangered Ecosystems" project can be used with grades 4–8.

Your Mission
The mission page serves as an introduction to the Scholastic Explorer's Endangered Ecosystem project. Students learn about the Earthwatch Institute, which works to preserve our cultural heritage and natural resources. Students will also gain background knowledge about the specific endangered ecosystem that they will explore.

Field Sites
There are three Endangered Ecosystem explorer field sites:

Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve Mexico
Students visit the tropical dry forests of southwestern Mexico. The explorer team there is focusing on  wildcats including the jaguar, ocelot, and puma because of their importance to the food web. The team is there to find out more about the large carnivores that occupy the top of the food chain. The disappearance of these predators can have dire consequences on the forest's biodiversity. If scientists can learn how to preserve these carnivores, they have a better chance of preserving the rest of the ecosystem.

La Selva Biological Preserve, Costa Rica
Students explore a biological reserve in a Costa Rican tropical rainforest. The explorer team there collects and studies the eating habits, life cycle, and defense mechanisms of the tropical caterpillar. Scientists are hoping to find many new species of caterpillars as well as learning more about the hundreds of recently discovered species. Researchers are curious about the effect of the eating patterns of the caterpillars on the rainforest. They'd also like to find out more about the caterpillars' place in the rain forest food web.

Fazenda Rio Negro, Pantanal, Brazil
Students travel to the world's largest freshwater wetlands. The explorer team of students will study the habitat of the river otter. Scientists are hoping to find out why the river otter is going extinct in some parts of Brazil and are hoping to find ways to help preserve the otters' ecosystem and protect them from further decline.

Field Reports
There are three sets of field reports, one for each expedition. Dr.  Carlos López González posted field reports from the Chamela, Mexico, site expedition were in 1999. Students will be able to read about scientific findings and animal sightings at the explorer site.  Science teacher Shauneen Giudice posted her field reports about her experiences in Costa Rica. Finally the Hudson High School "Brazilian River Otter" Earthwatch team posted field reports from their expedition to Brazil in 2003.

Meet an Explorer
Costa Rican Caterpillars
Students can meet the team members by reading a biography of teacher-host Shauneen Giudice from the Costa Rican caterpillar site. They can also read a transcript of a student interview from 2002.

Mexican Wildcats
Students can meet Dr. Carlos López González, who is in charge of the Chamela project on  wildcats, and they can read a transcript of an interview from 1999 when students asked scientist Dr. López González about what it is like to track  wildcats in the tropical dry forest.

Brazilian River Otters
Students can meet the Hudson High School students who are studying river otters in Brazil's Pantanal. Students can read a transcript of a question and answer bulletin board from 2003.

Students can also meet Students will have the opportunity to meet scientist Dr. Alexine Keuroghlian from the Pantanal and Endangered Ecosystems and ask their own questions during a live interview on April 29th, 11 a.m.–12 p.m. ET.

Be an Explorer
Students have the opportunity to use the knowledge they have gained about fieldwork to explore an ecosystem of their own. They will make observations and collect field samples. Afterward, they research information to learn more about their observations. Finally, they share their data and experiences.

Interactive Food Web
Students explore the intricacies of the dry tropical forest ecosystem. By interacting with the food web, students learn how plants, insects, and animals are all connected in the ecosystem. They then complete a skill sheet and analyze the importance of each food web organism.

Build a Caterpillar
Using interactive online technology, students use their understanding of structure and function to build caterpillars that fit into their environment.

Lesson Goals:

Scholastic's Online Activities are designed to support the teaching of standards-based skills. While participating in the "Scholastic Explorers Endangered Ecosystems" project, students become proficient with several of these skills. Each skill below is linked to its point of use in the Teacher's Guide. In the course of participating in this project, students will:

  1. Discuss the importance of preserving endangered ecosystems.
  2. Use graphic organizers to order their questions and discoveries.
  3. Read online texts from the Field Reports to build comprehension of the nature of scientific inquiry.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of content by participating in a question and answer discussion of their reading.
  5. Interact with a food web and gain an understanding of animal eating habits.
  6. Complete a skill sheet and draw conclusions about the effects of change on the food web.
  7. Read online texts from the field site to build comprehension about the rain forest and wetland environments and their organisms.
  8. Demonstrate an understanding of diversity and adaptations of organisms by participating in a question and answer discussion of their reading.
  9. Interact with online technology to build caterpillars that are suited to their environment.
  10. Discuss how the student-built caterpillars' structure and function help them fit into their environment.
  11. Participate in a bulletin board with the student and scientist explorers studying river otters.
  12. Investigate a local ecosystem by making observations and collecting samples.
  13. Use a variety of technological and informative resources to conduct research and analyze data about the ecosystem.
  14. Write about the characteristics and changes in the ecosystem.

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