We’ve developed and implemented each module and series of lessons over the past few years. All of the GPSE materials – modules, lessons, and activities – are designed so educators can implement them at their school or institution. Please feel free to use and alter these materials to fit your class’s needs and specific curriculum.
Although you do not need to contact GPSE to use these materials, we would greatly appreciate a brief email to let us known whenever you do. Furthermore, we would love your feedback about the materials. Please let us know what worked in your classroom and how we might improve our activities and lessons.
Introductory Module: Animal Behavior, Microbiology and Ecology
This is the first module that was developed by GPSE. We initially implemented it during the fall semester of our program when we were designing science fair projects in the spring.
The premise of this module is to introduce middle school students to the scientific method and data collection through three main focal areas of biology: Animal Behavior, Microbiology, Ecology.
These three lessons were designed for middle school students but could easily be altered for high school and introductory college level classes. Each lesson differs in location, but all are designed to be conducted in two, one-hour sessions. The microbiology lesson was designed for a basic classroom, while the animal behavior lab was designed for a zoo and the ecology lab was designed for a park.
This module constitutes the first in a series of three experimental modules. The main goals of this module are introduce students to the scientific method, allow them to test specific hypotheses, and highlight the idea that many hidden patterns in the world around us are revealed using careful scientific thinking. As a secondary goal, this module seeks to introduce students to techniques and content knowledge surrounding microbiology.
This is the second module in the three module series. At this point, students have had at least one experience using the scientific method (Module I – Microbiology). This activity seeks to further build upon this experience base, while introducing students to another field of scientific inquiry, the study of animal behavior. One primary goal is to demonstrate that the scientific method can be applied from microbes to meerkats. The second is to introduce students to the idea that careful observation itself can provide enough information to test hypotheses without the need for more invasive techniques.
The Ecology Module is the last in this series of experimental units, and also
deals with the most abstract content: how the physical features of natural habitats
determine who lives in them and how those residents are distributed. As with the
Microbiology module, this experiment seeks to highlight to students that important
patterns in nature often require careful observation and scientific thinking, not to mention
the use of technology (pH and temperature meters), before they become obvious. This
module also should teach students that organisms have a “comfort zone”, or a set of
environmental conditions in which they do best, and outside of which they do poorly or
are absent altogether. One additional goal should be to discuss with students how these
concepts translate to larger scales, such as regional, continental or global.
Energy Meets Biology
Over a three year period, we developed and implemented a module consisting of numerous lessons.
This module aims at integrating basic themes of biology – photosynthesis, metabolism, foraging, thermoregulation, sustainable food webs, coloration and migration – with the underlying importance of energy.
Wildlife Migrations - Energetic Causes and Consequences
This lesson focuses on the biological and ecological drivers of wildlife migrations and the role migratory species play in transferring energy and nutrients between disparate ecosystems. The students begin by studying humpback whale movements around the northern Pacific Ocean. Then, they will measure out the distance traveled by five other migratory species, and they will eventually map out the migration of a species that travels in or through their own state. The collective activities strive to foster respect for this biological phenomenon and the species that engage in it while also allowing the students to hone their observational, analytical, geographical, and mathematical skills.
Optimal Performance Temperatures
This lesson is designed to show the importance of temperature on performance. To do this, we place bullfrogs at three different temperatures (cold, room temp, and warm) and then test their performance (jumping ability). This gives students hands on experience with science and demonstrates the need for organisms to actively thermoregulate.
Ocean Fisheries and Sustainability - Energetic Inputs and Energy Removal
This lesson talks about how fisheries remove energy from marine ecosystem. It focuses on how many fisheries also accidentally remove other animals and cause damage to marine habitats from their fishing gear. This is a fun, hands on lesson in which students get to learn about different fishing methods and design their own gear!
Optimal Foraging- Costs & Benefits
Students act as hungry animals during the Optimal Foraging Lesson to learn the trade-offs that animals face when hunting for food. Through multiple rounds of scavenger hunts, students must gather points and avoid predators to survive. The placements of low-point foods in the open and high-point foods under the guard of predators help students quickly understand the decisions that hungry animals face in the wild.
Form, Function, & Food
Students learn about how the shapes of things relate to their use by the study of bird beaks. Students perform interactive games, study specimens, do creative brainstorming and formulate hypotheses about what birds eat based on their appearance. Through this process, they gain an understanding of how form and function relate.
Students will ask questions that have intrigued biologists since before Darwin: are all animals colorful? Why are some animals colorful? After an interactive presentation with high-quality images of colorful animals the students will test if coloration can affect temperature regulation using infrared thermometer guns and animal models.
Life History Strategies
The way animals allocate nutrients depend on many factors: age, sex, season, availability of resources and type of resources required. Acquisition and allocation of these nutrients dictate if individuals and species can survive and reproduce. Students will learn how nutrient requirements vary at different stages of an organism’s life history and how animals allocate energy to different needs (ex: juvenile growth vs. adult reproduction).
Students begin the lesson by working with solar-powered cars to get familiar with the energetic output of the sun. Next, students generate hypotheses about the light sources that allow plants to photosynthesize at the highest rate, then test these hypotheses with actual Elodea plants, lights, and CO2 bubble output. Finally, students piece together historical and scientific information to better understand the key concepts of photosynthesis.
Carbon Budget and Storage
Are all materials equal in carbon? This lesson begins by setting afire different soils and materials to show that some things have more energy than others. Then students test different soils to see which soils contain the most carbon. This lesson formally introduces the carbon cycle to students and lets them test energy in other materials.
Ocean Acidification and Marine Connectivity
How do we protect marine life? In this lesson students are engaged by live marine invertebrates and by a video showing how coral is being destroyed across the globe. Then students learn what affects coral and how to protect marine environments through a simulation.
How do animals interact with each other and are these interactions ever dually beneficial? Students will learn about the oldest farmers on the planet: ants! They first see how ants farm fungus and how this relationship is beneficial for both the ants and the fungus. Then other aspects of mutualism are discovered and the lesson ends with the students coming up with creative mutualisms of their own.
Resource Distribution and Predator-Prey Dynamics
What factors how animals decide where to live? In this lesson the students see how temperature and the absence/presence of predators affects an animal’s preference for habitat. The students see a live demonstration of tadpole shrimp and brine shrimp interacting just like they would in nature. Overall, this lesson demonstrates trade-offs that all animals have to deal with.
Can you power a light bulb with a fruit? In this lesson, students are introduced to basic plant physiology and how a battery works. They will discover first hand how a battery is similar to fruits or other living materials and will be able to see how strong of batteries fruits and vegetables are. Lastly, we include a reference to NCIS and CSI to show how television is not always realistic…
Is it easier to hunt in groups or by yourself? What are the limitations to collective foraging? In this lesson students humbly experience how group foraging can be better – but at the same time how there is a trade-off. The lesson then evolves into students deciding when organisms should forage collectively or independently.
As you are reading this, different parts of your brain are active and inactive. In this lesson students are treated as neurologists who first must compare different animal brains and then determine what each brain specializes in whether it is sight, smelling, etc. Then students learn about techniques for seeing what areas of the brain are active during activities. This lesson is excellent for introducing basic brain science to your students.
How do you know when water is clean and safe to drink? This lesson allows students to collect data on water from different sources, allowing them to hypothesize on the source of water as well as its cleanliness. The students will also see a model of a watershed to help them understand how water moves through its environment what it can pick up along the way.
Marine Food Webs
This lesson explores how energy moves through organisms in a marine ecosystem. From Plankton to Orcas, students will observe the energy demands of different organisms and discover the impact that they have on the ecosystem as a whole. In addition, human fisheries are simulated to demonstrate the effect that humans can have on these fragile food webs.
These are additional STEM lessons that have been developed using the 5E model that our mentors have developed through the years.
Where does all the stuff go? A compost experiment to introduce the concept of decomposition.
This is a semester long decomposition lesson plan that is broken up into two separate sessions. This plan
address biological and environmental concepts and terminology. Students are going to be able to bring
in some of their own food scraps or clean garbage from home and watch it decompose throughout the
semester. The big idea here is to teach students about decomposition in a fun lab environment using
some of their own materials from home.
Food Microbiology and Chemistry
Fermentation has been used as a method of preserving food, imparting certain flavors, and used in celebrations and cultural traditions. Fermentation is the process in which microbes, such as yeast, break down sugar for energy and produce CO2, ethanol, and other byproducts that impart flavor, texture, and carbonation to beverages and food. This lesson plan will introduce foods that are the result of fermentation. It will establish the role that yeast plays in a variety of foods by first characterizing the traits of these foods and then by explaining how the yeast is responsible for those said traits. The students will then complete lab activities in which they measure the effects yeast has on foods and contrast them to abiotic substitutes of CO2 from baking powder and CO2 cartridges.
Virus Spread in population
This lesson illustrates how a virus can spread and be sustained in a population.
Sounds In Nature
Animals use sound for a variety of reasons, and we are exposed to some of these sounds on a daily basis. The first part of this lesson will get students thinking about the different reasons sound is used, and will introduce them to some of the sounds they can hear even in urban areas. If there is not a good location near the school to listen for animal sounds, then the teacher should have some sound clips or videos of local fauna producing sound to show in class. Students will learn about sound waves, how animals use sounds, and how anthropogenic sound can affect animals, which is the focus of the second part of the lesson. After learning about behavioral changes and masking affects related to anthropogenic sound, students will get to observe these effects by exposing goldfish to different kinds of sound and observing how the goldfish reacts. Students will then get to present their experiments to the rest of the class.
Students will be playing a game acting as a pollinator. They will then explore flowers and the benefits each receive in these ecological relationships. Finally they will elaborate these ideas and design their own flowers to attract novel pollinators.
After the Quake: Seismology in Action
Seismology is a branch of geology concerned with the characterization of earthquakes and the mitigation of associated damage. Students will learn about two important types of seismic waves and how to make a simple seismograph. They will then work in groups to interpret seismograms and find the epicenter, or origin, of an earthquake. Further discussion will determine if surrounding cities are at risk for a tsunami. The lesson will conclude with a discussion on how we can protect ourselves from natural disasters.
You Are What You Eat!
The prevalence of obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents within the past 30 years. Unfortunately, this population is suffering from similar health consequences that are typically linked to adults who engage in poor dietary behaviors. Therefore, it is imperative to inform youth of the detrimental effects of excess weight gain caused by sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits. This lesson plan will introduce students to the metabolic and cardiovascular consequences of diets that are high in fat and teach them how to identify foods with nutritional value.
Introduction to Social Psychology
This lesson introduces psychology methods and concepts through a classic social psychology experiment: Group Shift. Students will watch a short video to show them how we don’t always recognize the way we perceive our thoughts and actions. The discussion will then examine how scientists can study thoughts, actions, and feelings to better understand how human societies work. In particular, students will learn about the ways in which groups of people together act differently than each individual member of the group would act alone.
Our Drinking Water
This lesson plan was developed to introduce the students to the scarcity of drinking water and possible solutions by which this can be addressed. This will build on previous knowledge of the water cycle and introduce students to the concept of distillation. Students will be introduced to large-scale water purification methods such as desalination and consider their drawbacks and benefits.
Race To Displace: Sonaran Desert Edition
This lesson was adapted from Hopwood et al. (2013) to conform to a 5E lesson structure and for the local biome of the Sonaran Desert. There is some controversy around the invasive and native species distinction. Never the less this distinction can be useful for learning about ecological interactions. This lesson provides students an opportunity to explore the success and failure of various plants in the surrounding Sonaran Desert as well as the effects of human management. Additionally, through use of a game of chance students are provided experience working with, analyzing, and adjusting models.
Hopwood, J. L., Flowers, S. K., Seidler, K. J., & Hopwood, E. L. (2013). Race to Displace: A Game to Model the Effects of Invasive Species on Plant Communities. The American Biology Teacher, 75(3), 194-201.
Our Material is Open Source – Please Use!
All of the GPSE materials – modules, lessons, and activities – are designed so educators can implement them at their school or institution. Please feel free to use and alter these materials to fit your class’s needs and specific curriculum. Although you do not need to contact GPSE to use these materials, we would greatly appreciate a brief email to let us known whenever you do. Furthermore, we would love your feedback about the materials. Please let us know what worked in your classroom and how we might improve our activities and lessons.