Teaching the Lesson Grades 6–9

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

Lesson Introduction:

The focus for students in this age group is to develop their observation skills into research and writing skills. 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 you want to focus on.

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 launch a class discussion about the readings, ask questions such as the following:

  • What is the importance of the sea turtles in their ocean ecosystems?
  • What are some solutions to helping sea turtles survive?
  • Are people the only reason why sea turtles have a lower survival rate? What could be some other factors contributing to lower hatchling survival?
  • What kind of conclusions would you make on the state of sea turtles in Costa Rico in the next five years? The next 20 years?

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 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 launch a class discussion about the readings, ask questions such as the following:

  • How do dolphins affect their environment?
  • How do humans affect the dolphins?
  • What can dolphin behaviors tell us? Why is this important?
  • What conclusions can you make about the dolphin behavior in New Zealand? Can you make similar conclusions for dolphins living elsewhere? Why or why not?

Allow students time to return to their graphic organizers 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 KWL charts.

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: Start Your Research (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 do some research into 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 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?

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?

Ocean Life Research Starter (5 days)

Regroup as a class to discuss what students learned in exploring the activity and reading the stories. Have students reference their completed KWL Graphic Organizer (PDF) and Observation Journals (PDF). Do students have questions they want to pursue? Where will they go to find answers to questions about their data and samples?

Explain to students that they will be writing a research report on an ocean life topic. Students can chose to research dolphins or turtles, continue researching a topic that arose from their observations, or find a new topic. Using their KWL graphic organizers, the class should come up with a list of things they want to learn, and pose those "wants" as questions.  Write the list of questions on the board and have students pick one of the questions to research.

Direct students to start their research with the Scholastic Explorers: Ocean Life activity and continue with the Research Starters: Ocean Life. Remind students that more information can be found off-line in the library.

When the research reports are complete, students can present their work through an oral presentation to the rest of the class. See assessment and evaluation.

Cross-Curricular Extensions

Art
Invite students to draw the life cycle of the leatherback sea turtle, beginning with the mother's climb onto the beach, digging a hole, laying eggs, the emerging of the hatchlings, and their trek back to the sea. The final project can be a poster or a sequential series of cards.

To get a better sense of the effect of human behaviors on ocean life, create a classroom mural of a water environment. In the mural, include all the animals that are part of the water environment, as well as the humans and the activities around that environment.

Have students design posters that support efforts to save ocean life around the world. Students may also wish to include images or facts of the dangers facing these water environments — or things people can do to help. Posters can be illustrated with drawings or with pictures cut out from nature magazines. Remind students to label all illustrations and cutouts and to title their posters.

Language Arts
Divide the class into small groups and have each group write a brief play about ocean life. Dolphins and sea turtles can be some of the characters. Think about how the animals would act naturally and how they would act around humans. Have each group perform their play for the class.

Math
As the class is researching different sea turtles, research the population growth or decline of sea turtles around the world. Have students collect the data and graph the population numbers by year. Display students' graphs on the chalkboard. What year had the biggest turtle population? What year saw the greatest increase or decrease in population? How are these numbers related?

Social Studies
As students are researching the ocean life, encourage them to record the different reasons some animals are endangered or threatened. Discuss the role that humans play in terms of habitat destruction. Are we the biggest threat to the environment? What could we do to protect ocean life and other endangered ecosystems?

Assign students to one of two roles: a fisherman who needs to fish to make a living but accidentally injures dolphins in fishing nets, and a scientist working to save the biodiversity in the ocean. Then have them take turns debating the issues. After the debate, discuss how the goals and views of these two people differ. How could they work together so they could meet both their needs?

Encourage students to research water ecosystems in their own state or region. Contact a local wildlife organization to learn more and find out how you can help protect area animals and habitats. You may want to invite a wildlife expert to visit the class.

Science
Suggest that students keep their own science journals during the project, tracking what they've learned, things they'd like to research, questions, predictions for the future, and personal feelings about efforts to save endangered animals. Encourage them to clip newspaper and journal articles they find about dolphins and sea turtles and include them in the journals. They could also use the space to draw their own pictures and impressions of the expedition.

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?
Why is it important to study the oceans?
How can the quality of ocean life explain the quality of the world’s environments?
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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