Teaching the Lesson Grades 4–5

This complete unit plan can be taught in two weeks , or lesson components can be taught individually as described below.

Lesson Introduction:
The focus for students in this age group is to investigate and observe ocean life. Students will practice   their reading comprehension, note taking, and writing skills. Depending on the amount of time you have for this lesson, you can follow one or both of the expeditions.

Your Mission (1 Day)
If you will be using the entire unit, begin with Your Mission. If you are using individual components separately, you may wish to skip over this project introduction with you class and go directly to the specific field site on which you want to focus.

Encourage students to share what they may already know about ocean life. Also suggest that they talk about sea turtles and/or dolphins, the animals involved in the project.

Ask them to explain what they want to find out by participating in this project. Have students read the Your Mission sections. Afterward, lead a class discussion by asking questions such as:

  • Why do they think an organization like Earthwatch is important?
  • Why is it a good idea to have ordinary people participate in these kinds of explorations?

After the discussion, have students locate the field sites on a map or globe.

Go over the different components of the project with students. Explain that they will

  • read about research at the field sites;
  • read field reports from team members at the site;
  • conduct their own research on water ecosystems in their lives;
  • observe and discuss dolphin behaviors.

Suggest that a good strategy to keep track of all the new information they will learn is to organize it in a KWL Chart (PDF). Explain to students that they will fill out this chart as they explore the activity.

Sea Turtle Field Reports and Interview Transcript (2 Days)
Have students read the online field reports and interview transcripts from the Costa Rican field site.

To assess class understanding of the readings, ask questions such as the following:

  • Describe the physical attributes, climate, and geography of the Las Baulas National Park.
  • How do scientists like Dr. Paladino study sea turtles and their reproduction?
  • What kinds of information are the scientists collecting?
  • What are some of the dangers faced by sea turtles laying their eggs?
  • How are Earthwatch teams protecting the turtles?
  • What have scientists learned by observing the sea turtles of Las Baulas National Park?
  • What are some reasons for the population decline?
  • Why is it important for sea turtles to survive?
  • What is the process that the scientists go through when they transfer the sea turtle nests to the hatchery?

Allow students time to add new information or questions to their graphic organizers. Afterwards, talk about the collaborative nature of the field mission. Explain that team members work together to collect data. Tell students that they can collaborate with each other by sharing questions and ideas. Encourage them to add any new ideas or questions that appeal to them to their graphic organizers.

Dr. Frank Paladino will join Scholastic Explorers on April 15 from 1–2 p.m. ET for a live interview. Encourage students look over any unanswered question on their KWL chart (PDF) and either send questions in advance or ask their questions at the time of the interview.

Have students play the Turtle Hurdle game so that they will research the answers to questions and gain an understanding of sea turtles. Encourage them to add any new information to their KWL graphic organizers. See assessment and evaluation.

Dolphin Journal (2 Days)
Have students read the online dolphin Field Report pages. Remind them that later in the project they will observe and discuss dolphin behaviors. Have them keep in mind what they want to find out while they learn about the explorer mission.

To assess class understanding of the readings, ask questions such as the following:

  • Describe the physical attributes, climate, and animals of the Kaikoura Peninsula.
  • Why do the dusky dolphins congregate close to shore?
  • How do the dolphins affect their environment?
  • How do humans affect the dolphins?
  • What are ways that dolphins have adapted their behaviors to suit their environment?
  • What are some typical dolphin behaviors?
  • How do the scientists observe dolphin behaviors?
  • Why is it important to observe dolphins?

Allow students time to return to their KWL charts and add new information or questions. Afterwards, talk about the collaborative nature of the field mission. Explain that team members work together to collect data about the dusky dolphins. Tell students that they can collaborate with each other by sharing questions and ideas. Encourage them to add any new ideas or questions that appeal to them to their graphic organizers.

Observing Dolphin Behavior (2 days)

Schedule computer time to allow each student to go to the Dolphin Observatory activity. Have them use the online technology to view dolphin photos and videos and describe what they see. Suggest that students keep in mind the four dolphin behaviors: traveling, feeding, playing, and resting.

After students have observed the dolphin behaviors, encourage them to discuss what they have observed. Either individually, or as a class, add student observations to the discussion board.

Be an Explorer (5 days)

Encourage students to talk about what they've learned about ocean life. How did the Earthwatch Explorers conduct their scientific inquiries? How did they keep track of their data? Tell them that they will investigate a local water environment. Ask them to explain what they want to find out by participating in this fieldwork. Hand students copies of the Observation Journal (PDF) to record and organize their field work.

Have students read the Be an Explorer section. Before beginning their fieldwork they should consider what they want to know about that particular ecosystem. Have them research as much information as they can before they go out to their study site.

Remind them to collect all the necessary materials for their field observations. Students should also take precise notes and pictures of their observations. Point out that they need to take special care of any samples they collect.

If possible, allow students time to visit their study sites a few times during the week in class or assign observations as homework.

When student observations have been made, have them sort and analyze their data. What do they notice about their samples and observations? Do they know how animal life in water environments has been affected by human behaviors? Remind students to note their observations in their Observation Journals (PDF).

Have students brainstorm ideas about where they can conduct additional research on their observations and samples. Where will they go to find answers to questions about their data and samples?

Allow students time to share their discoveries. Encourage them to explain their observation and collection techniques. Ask questions such as: What did you learn about collecting data in the field? What was the most interesting observation you made? What was the most puzzling question you had? How did you go about finding more information?

Project Wrap-up (1 day)
Allow time for the class to talk about the aspects of the project that they found most exciting or challenging. Encourage them to compare and contrast the two study sites. As a class, come up with questions to as Dr. Frank Paladino on April 15 for a live interview from 1–2 p.m. ET. Dr. Paladino will make every effort to answer all student questions.

Cross-Curricular Extensions

Mapping
As the students learn about the different field sites, have them look up the location in an atlas. Once they have located the country, encourage  students to outline the country and draw in the approximate location of the field sites. Coloring in different sections, students can denote different countries, locations, and areas of water.

Discussion Questions:
Why do they think an organization like Earthwatch is important?
Why is it a good idea to have ordinary people participate in these kinds of explorations?
Why are the turtles an important part of the Las Baulas ecosystem?
What are the factors involved with the success of the turtle population? Which of these factors can scientists control? Which can we, as individual citizens, control?
Why are scientists studying dolphin behaviors?
What kind of environmental factors might disturb the dolphins? Why?
Compare the dolphin and turtle situations. How are they similar? What are the differences?
How are flourishing turtle and dolphin populations important to ocean life?
What other explorer missions would you like to participate in?

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