This year, for the first time, I had my environmental science students design insect traps. They worked in groups to select their trap designs, create a budget and materials list. They also did some initial investigations on which type of insects would be attracted to each trap and why.
After setting the traps, students evaluated their trap designs. There were obvious improvement to be made, and some groups had time to try some improvements. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to do this well. (That will be changed next year!)
At the end, students created posters to evaluate their trap designs, and report what insects were collected from their traps. These posters were displayed next to their entire insect collections at Family Science Night. I wish I had better pictures!
I really enjoyed this project. Next year I will emphasize why each trap works for certain insects as a way to emphasize insect adaptations, anatomy, behavior, etc!
Welcome to the KABT blog segment, “In My Classroom”. This is a segment that will post about every two weeks from a different member. In 250 words or less, share one thing that you are currently doing in your classroom. That’s it.
The idea is that we all do cool stuff in our rooms and to some people there have been cool things so long that it feels like they are old news. However, there are new teachers that may be hearing things for the first time and veterans that benefit from reminders. So let’s share things, new and old alike. When you’re tagged you have two weeks to post the next entry. Your established staple of a lab or idea might be just what someone needs. So be brief, be timely and share it out! Here we go:
Investigating Energy Flow with ZOMBIES!
It’s the zombie apocalypse! You have a safe fenced-in area that is impenetrable to the zombies. But, you also cannot leave the fenced in area. If you had time to prepare this land, what would you plant? What livestock would you have? (Note: Students have the option of doing a Mars Biodome if they do not want to do the zombie apocalypse.)
Student groups are all given the same 11 x 17 inch grid paper. Each square equals 100 square feet. Each student needs a housing structure(s) that equal 20×25 squares.
Sustain as many humans as possible using the land space given. The group who can sustain the highest number of people wins. The criteria for sustainability is 2,000 calories per day, per adult (730,000 calories per year). (Note: No stockpiling allowed).
Students need to find the total number of producer calories from all their crops. (Find the calories / square foot for each food, and then multiple by the number of total square feet.)
Then, students need to calculate how many of those producer calories are actually available for human consumption. To do so, students must figuring out how many of those producer calories their livestock will consume per year.
Next, students need to find the total number of anaimal calories produced. They calculate how many calories of meat (or eggs/dairy) each animal produces. (To simplify, one could assume the entire weight of the animal is meat.) Students do this for each type of livestock and add it together to find the total number of livestock calories produced. (If you have any secondary consumers, they will take a whole other set of calculations!)
Next, students find out how many calories their land produced for human consumption. They take the number of plant calories available for humans and add it to the total number of animal calories produced. Then, they divide that by 730,000 (the total number of calories needed per human per year) to see how many humans they can support.
Getting the Numbers
To make it easier, you could provide a list of several crop and livestock options with their calorie information. But, for me, one of the best parts of this project was having it open ended for the students. I have my students find the information on their own, but they have to back it up with a credible source. This gets pretty competitive, so the students really hold each other accountable.
Here are some important questions that we discussed after completing this project:
Why do we lose calories when we feed them to livestock?
What is the “best” crop? (calories vs. nutrients)
Should we be putting plant calories into livestock?
What are the pros and cons of having livestock?
What would be the “best” livestock? (For example, for many reasons crickets are much more energy efficient than cows.)
What does this make believe scenario have to do with the real world?
Tips and Suggestions
I suggest you have a running list of “rules” that you as a group decide upon throughout the project. For instance, someone will probably ask if it’s okay to do a rooftop garden. Whatever you decide, you should keep documentation of the “rules” your class makes. The students get pretty competitive and this is helpful.
To simplify our model, we assumed a lot. 1) People only need calories to survive, not certain nutrients. 2) We have sufficient water, fertilizer, and everything else needed to grow the crops. 3) We can store crops up to one year, and there is no limit to the type of crops that can be planted due to climate, etc. 4) Animals can only eat the part of the plant that humans eat. 5) All animals reproduce each year. 6) We eat the entire weight of the animal in meat. And more. But, these assumptions lead to fantastic discussions! I have students write about them for part of the end paper. They are also great opportunities for extensions.
Even with all of the assumptions and simplifications, the students were really able to “get it” in terms of energy transfer and the 10% rule.
If you’d like a more detailed description or have any questions, please e-mail me. firstname.lastname@example.org
I know KELLY KLUTHE has some cool stuff to share! Tag, you’re it!
It’s back to school time, which for me means gathering friends and family to help me collect antlions. This will be my 6th year using antlions, thanks to Brad Williamson.
It really is a fantastic way to start the year. Students see a boring pit of sand in a cup, until the inevitable accidental bump and they realize, “It moves!” We first practice generating questions, then students will design a short investigation. Much more information can be found in Brad’s post: Ant Lions and Biology. I recently heard Paul Anderson talking about the Question Formulation Technique on the Horizontal Transfer Podcast. I’m pretty sure Brad had us do this technique in Research Methods. I will be trying it this year with my kids.
Many teachers I talk to about this have a lot of questions about collecting and sorting them. I thought I’d share some tips and tricks as I’m preparing for the first day of biology class.
Antlions are readily available in Kansas, but sometimes they’re hard to find when you’re actually looking for them. They love fine loose dirt or sandy substrate and some kind of protection overhead. I always find them around houses that have an overhang, or under porches where bare soft soil is found. I also see them in my parent’s pasture near trees or under the cow feeders.
The best tools I’ve found to capture the antlions is a metal spoon. The antlions mandibles can usually be seen at the very bottom of the pit.
Knowing the location of the antlion within the substrate, scoop with the spoon under the pit. If disturbed, they will back up and are sometimes hard to find. My method is to go through and scoop the pits, and put all the scoops into the same bucket. I sort out individuals later, because it’s easier and I don’t always get an antlion with every scoop.
I use 2 oz cups, which work well for one antlion each. If you get substrate from outside, or if you have substrate with large pieces, you could sift it before adding it to the cups. Fill the cups with substrate and have them ready.
One spoonful at a time, look for the antlions. Sometimes they are difficult to see if they don’t move. I shake the container, or blow on the substrate and wait for movement. Put one antlion each of the prepared cups.
DO NOT DISCARD THE DIRT THE FIRST TIME YOU GO THROUGH IT! I guarantee there will be antlions that you miss. Every 7-8 scoops, I put into a pie plate. I leave these pie plates out overnight. The next day, you can see pits or “doodles” to find the antlions.
At the end, I even put all the dirt I’ve gone through into one final container and wait to see if there are any pits. There usually are!
Now I have individual containers ready for the students. While the antlions sometimes make a pit within an hour, they all should make one overnight.
Other Tips and Tricks
As stated in the post linked above, finding the antlions is the limiting factor. Ask around, post that you’re looking for them on Facebook!
I’ve never been bit, and my students have never been bit even though they try!
Sometimes they look dead, but are not. Better put it in a cup of dirt to see if it makes a pit or not!
After the initial observations, I sometimes keep the ant lions together in a large container full of substrate. This works fine for me, but if an antlion falls in another antlion’s pit, it will probably be eaten.
They can go some time without food, but it’s better to feed them ants every couple of days.
Insect speed slows down as temperature drops. If you’re room is freezing, the antlions will be less active.
Make sure you return at least some of the antlions to where you found them so you don’t wipe out the population.
You don’t need other people to help you collect the antlions, but it’s fun!
While collecting and sorting takes some work, I think it is worth it.
If you want the students to actually do investigations with the antlions, you’ll need a lot! So get out there with your spoon and bucket!
I recently had the pleasure of attending the KU Med Summer Teacher Externship. I decided to go because I am lacking in my knowledge of medical careers. The flyer said it was for health career teachers, and I decided A+P counted. Well, after attending, I’m here to tell you that this is not just a program for health science teachers, but for any biology teacher who thinks part of their role is helping to inform and counsel students about medical careers. The 3 days were packed completely full, but I will try to give you a glimpse of my experience.
The program was a mixture of meetings with heads of admissions, libraries and tours of hospital departments and research labs.
I started to write about every place we went, but it was an overload of info. I’ll just make a list. We talked to people with the School of Nursing, School of Medicine, Health Information Management, School of Health Professions (a school which includes clinical laboratory scientists and occupational therapists), Public Health, physical therapists at the Heart Center and a medical illustrator/imaging specialist. In the hospital we toured and spoke to people in the emergency department, hospital pharmacy (with a ROBOT!), hospital labs, and radiology. In the research part of KU Med we got to tour the orthopedics research lab, REACH lab (physical therapy), the Hemingway Lab which does research with reproductive health and ovarian cancer, and the brain imaging lab where they do research on humans and mice using MRI and Magnetometer. It was awesome and exhausting!
Everyone was very nice and we were able to ask a lot of questions. They have so much passion for their work, and gave me lots of information for me to share with my students. I now feel more prepared to be an advocate for my students. I can give them much more information about health care careers, and I can help them prepare for their next step in education after high school. This was also very insightful because most of my students who want to go into a medical career think doctor, nurse, physical therapist and maybe anesthesiologist. But there is so much more! And, while not everyone can be a doctor, there is a career in healthcare for everyone. It’s also motivated me to want to learn MORE and find additional resources for them. If you’re interested, you can e-mail the coordinator Seth Nutt (email@example.com). I feel bad leaving so much out, but I learned so much, too much for a blog post. So, you’ll just have to go next year!
Welcome to the KABT new blog segment, “In My Classroom”. This is a segment that will post about every two weeks from a different member. In 250 words or less, share one thing that you are currently doing in your classroom. That’s it.
The idea is that we all do cool stuff in our rooms, and to some people there have been cool things so long that it feels like they are old news. In this segment, if you are tagged all you need to do is share something you’ve done in your classroom in the last two weeks. It must be recent, but that’s it. If you are tagged, you’ve got two weeks to post your entry. Who knows… your supposedly mundane idea, lesson, or lab might be exactly what someone else really needs. Keep it brief, keep it honest about the time window, and share it out! Here we go:
This year, I tried the bird beak adaptation activity for natural selection for the first time. I looked at several variations of the activity online, and took pieces of some and added in my own. I not only wanted to show adaptation, but also how adaptation might be different in different environments (islands with different food sources). So here is what we did.
All of the “birds” went to the library with their “beaks” (tweezers). This was the mainland, a big continent. We noticed that some beaks were slightly different than others.
We then were swept up in a hurricane and brought to the classroom, where we found refuge on different islands (tables), too far away for any birds to travel back and forth with normal circumstances. Each table had a different environment, and different food source (big beans, little beans, toothpicks, pennies, paper clips, barley).
The students then took turns “eating”. The one who go the most food had 2 offspring. The bird who got the least died before they could reproduce. The one in-between had one offspring. The offspring were exactly like the parents. These rules made it super simple, which was nice for an introduction activity. Throughout the activity we talked about how simplified this model was, and how real life would be different.
Next, I introduced some mutations (a spoon and a test tube clamp).
They acted out three generations. Obviously the spoon was very successful with big beans but pretty detrimental with toothpick prey. We had a nice conversation about how mutations are neither good nor bad, it depends on the environment. They also got to see one way geographic isolation can lead to speciation. We followed up with a more real life example using some HHMI Pocket Mouse activities. This activity was done before we really talked about evolution. It was nice way to begin our discussion. I think having the different tweezer beaks at the beginning was confusing, so next year I think I’ll simplify it further and have all the tweezers the same. I would also like to add in a more complex natural selection activity later on. What’s your favorite natural selection activity?
Tag Andrew Taylor, you’re it! Tell us about something you’re doing in your classroom.