Exploring Biodiversity Through Inquiry

By Patt Olivieri

In this resource, Patt provides an excellent plan for the Grade 6 strand on biodiversity with a major focus on inquiry.

Overview:

The intention of the following learning experience is to share, facilitate, and develop an understanding of biodiversity through inquiry, related to the overall Science expectations, as well as some of the expectations in Language and Social Studies.  The process begins with critical questions related to students’ own lives and the impact they have on their local environment.  Continue reading

Biodiversity is Best

Submitted by Cathy Dykstra

In this inquiry-based unit, the students will learn that conserving and protecting our water supply is crucial after they research the biodiversity of a specific ecosystem and discover that water is necessary for biodiversity and biodiversity is necessary for the health of the planet. Continue reading

Tagging the Largest Shark on Earth – Our Blue Planet

The size of a school bus but in many ways a mystery, whale sharks continue to fascinate. Join a team of international scientists at a renowned marine sanctuary in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico and discover how we’re trying to better understand these remarkable creatures. Continue reading

Frankenstein My Animal

Grade 6: Life Systems.

Contributed by: Gordon Webb.

Frankenstein

  • Biodiversity includes diversity of individuals, species, and ecosystems.
  • Classification of the components within a diverse system is a beginning point for understanding the interrelationships among the components.

Dragon

 

Inquiry Skills Used

This is a research activity using various secondary reference sources to create an animal.

Safety Considerations

Students should use caution when cutting modelling clay for animals.

Background

Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of ways in which classification systems are used to understand the diversity of living things and investigate various classification systems.  This lesson will provide the students with an understanding of the various criteria used to help identify various animals into their classifications. The students will become biodiversity scientists who are going to create new life forms using genetic engineering.  The students could work in pairs to create their new life form based on specific structural characteristics of an animal classification.  The students will create an animal using plasticene but also produce an oral report, which the pair will present during the class’s “New Life Symposium”.

What You Need

  • Modelling Clay
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Tongue depressors
  • Computer lab
  • Plastic knives to shape
  • Science books on classifications systems
  • Overhead projector
  • Presentation materials
  • Video projector

Green Glob

What to Do

  1. Group the students into pairs.
  2. Provide a mini lesson on classification systems and animals.
  3. Instruct the students that they will be creating a new life form, which can survive the changes in climate due to global warming.
  4. Provide the students with index cards from which they can randomly select an animal classification. (This will ensure the full range of classifications.)
  5. The students then research their classification for specific characteristics.
  6. The new animal must meet the criteria and have the identified characteristics of the classification.
  7. The students then mould the new animal using modelling clay.
  8. There is also a research component in which the students must create a presentation to describe the new life.

Summary Notes

The project research must include the following:

  •         the animal’s physical appearance
  • the animal’s structural characteristics
  • the animal’s life processes
    • growth
    • reproduction
    • movement
    • adaptations
  • the animal’s Phylum or Class within the animal Kingdom
    • invertebrates
    •          vertebrates

Where to Go from Here?

Students can play games where they sort pictures of animals into their phylum, class, family, etc. based on the characteristics they determine exist in that animal.

STSE Links

Polar bears are potentially facing extinction due to the melting of the polar ice caps.  What adaptations must the polar bear make to survive in its new environment or is it doomed to extinction?  How do animals survive in desert locations when there is little or no rain?

Cross Curricular Connections

Visual Arts

  • Produce two- and three-dimensional works of art for specific purposes and for specific audiences.
  • Describe, in their plan for a work of art, how they will research their subject matter, select their media, and use the elements and principles of design in solving the artistic problems in the work.

Language Strand

Oral and Visual Communication

  • Use constructive strategies in small-group discussions.
  • Follow up on others’ ideas, and recognize the validity of different points of view in group discussions or problem-solving activities.
  • Identify a variety of purposes for speaking and explain how the purpose and intended audience influence the choice of form.
  • Demonstrate an increasingly sophisticated understanding of appropriate speaking behaviour for science-related activities.

Credit Where Credit is Due

http://torontozoo.com/pdfs/TorontoZoo-Grade6-Workshop.pdf

http://educ.queensu.ca/~curr/units/GenesisP.pdf

Moving Beyond the Textbook: Experiential-Based Learning

Outdoor laboratoryWritten by Anna Tam

Have you seen those glazed eyes when you ask students to pull out their textbooks? There’s a much different reaction when teachers pull out well-crafted experiments or announce a field trip; students’ eyes light up, and they become involved and engaged in learning. Continue reading

Weird, Wild Love: Animal and Plant Mating Habits That Put Us to Shame – World Science Festival

You might have plans to cuddle up with your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, but it’s probably safe to say they won’t include twisting around each other while hanging upside down from a strand of mucus.

Yeah, so that mucus practice is a mating habit of the leopard slug.

It’s also a safe bet that none of you ladies out there hoping to spice up your sex life will sense the antics of a female praying mantis and bite off your male lover’s head mid-copulation.

Which brings us to the point of this article. When you get down to it, compared to the wide array of plant and animal love out there, human romantic practices start to look a little … vanilla. Tame, if you will. Here’s our attempt to just scratch the surface of the exotic (and sometimes dangerous) ways that other creatures and green things get down.

mantis wsf

Image Credit: Wiki CC/Oliver Koemmerling

Going Out With a Bang

During mating season, antechinuses—a group of mouse-like marsupials—love on borrowed time. The males are semelparous (a rare trait in mammals), meaning that they have just one chance to pass on their genes before they die. And the male antechinus tries to make the most of his limited reproductive ability. For two to three weeks, he’ll engage in a nonstop marathon of mating that ends up taxing his body so much that his fur falls off, he starts bleeding internally, and his immune system fails.

“By the end of the mating season, physically disintegrating males may run around frantically searching for last mating opportunities,” University of Queensland researcher Diana Fisher told National Geographic. “By that time, females are, not surprisingly, avoiding them.”

Another male that dies in the throes of passion belongs to the species Dinoponera quadriceps, or the queenless ant. After mating, these ants stay stuck together. But a female queenless ant has stuff to do and can’t abide a useless piggybacker, so the obvious solution is to sever the male’s abdomen. The eviscerated male is doomed, but he at least has the satisfaction of knowing that his severed genitals stay plugged up in the female long enough to prevent other males from mating with her while she’s fertile.

Deceptive Affairs

Plant romance is almost always a long-distance affair. And if you’re not throwing your seed to the wind and praying, then you’re probably enlisting a third party. Sometimes that means sweetening the deal with tasty fruit, nectar, or seed—or, sometimes, it means mimicking a female bug to fool unsuspecting male bugs, which try to make love to the flower but get coated in pollen instead. And when the Australian tongue orchid commits to playing a part, it commits.

Originally, scientists thought what the orchid-dupe-wasps were doing to the tongue orchids was just “pseudocopulation” (the term scientists use instead of “dry humping”) but “when I saw these wasps mating with these tongue orchids, it didn’t look ‘pseudo’ at all,” evolutionary biologist Anne Gaskett told Livescience.

Ordinarily, you’d think evolution would discourage the wasps from spilling their seed on orchids instead of passing on their genes. But it turns out female orchid-dupe-wasps can reproduce without sperm, and while the ejaculation doesn’t benefit the flower, tongue orchids do have an unusually high pollination success rate among deceptive orchids, according to Livescience.

Image Credit: iStock.com/CraigRJD

Strange Equipment

The animal and plant kingdoms feature some genital configurations that seem (from our gonadal perspective) more like the fever dreams of a perverse science-fiction prop artist.

For instance, the female red kangaroo (like most female marsupials) has three vaginas, arranged in a configuration that looks kind of like the steering wheel of a car. The two side vaginas are paths for sperm to travel up, while the middle vagina is the conduit for any joey to hop on out of mom. Male red kangaroos also have a penis that hangs below the testicles instead of the other way around.

When famed French anatomist Georges Cuvier first discovered the “penis” of the argonaut, a type of octopus, lodged in the body of a female, he initially thought it was a parasitic worm. But what Cuvier actually found was the modified detatchable arm, later dubbed a hectocotylus, which the male argonaut uses to fertilize the eggs inside the female. Detachable penises (or detachable penis analogues) have also been found in sea slugs and spiders.

Stab You in the Name of Love

slug wsf

Image Credit: iStock.com/Alexandrum79

Cupid isn’t the only guy to wield sharp objects of desire; a key part of the mating process for hermaphroditic land snails and slugs is shooting “love darts” at one another. The darts, fired from a special sac on the head (located next to the penis), are coated with a secretion that makes the receiving snail’s body take up a greater number of the others’ sperm (instead of digesting them). Since snails are promiscuous, increasing the proportion of sperm cells surviving in one’s mate increases a snail’s chances of passing on its genes.

Maybe the boring old human methods aren’t so bad after all.

Illustration by Roxanne Palmer

via Weird, Wild Love: Animal and Plant Mating Habits That Put Us to Shame – World Science Festival.