Students become environmentalists and work in groups to develop solutions to contemporary environmental problems. Student groups research the features of a specific biome and then investigate human impact and its harmful effects on the biome. Finally, students analyze the problems and use scientific understanding to develop solutions to human encroachment. The solutions are presented to the class in multimedia formats.
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the Biomes: Action for a Healthy Planet Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.
Begin the unit by asking the class the Essential Question, What can I do to affect the future? Record student answers on a chart (which will be brought out again at the end of the unit).
After students have responded to the Essential Question, tell them that in the upcoming unit they will be making decisions about the future of the world by playing the role of environmentalists. As environmentalists, their task will be to investigate threats to various biomes in the world and propose solutions to the threats.
Introduce the concept of biomes with the biomes introduction slideshow that gives an overview of the upcoming research project. Introduce the unit rubric to students so they are aware of project expectations right from the beginning. Allot time to discuss the expectations, and answer any questions.
Discuss the requirements of the slideshow research assignment using the slideshow scoring guide. Because the class will be working in groups, remind students that each member of the group should contribute to the upcoming projects, and that each person’s responsibilities within the group should be well-defined for each project. Hand out the group process rubric and discuss team expectations. Remind students to refer to the rubric as they work together to assess their own collaboration skills as well as those of their team members.
Form eight biome groups and begin by using the biome brainstorming chart to brainstorm what students know about their biomes. (Note: The desert biome is not assigned, because it is used as a teaching example throughout the unit.)
Using the Internet and other resources, have groups study their biomes. Next, tell students to use the human impact brainstorming chart to predict and record ideas about the influence human habitation and resource use has on the biomes. (This topic is studied in-depth during Days 8 and 9.)
Show students the desert student sample. This presentation teaches about one biome, the desert, and serves as a model for the quality and depth of work expected of students. Have groups create a slideshow presentation on their biome, using the slideshow scoring guide as a guide.
Provide time for groups to deliver their slide presentations to the class. Peers provide peer feedback to each group on science content, presentations skills, and slideshow elements using the slideshow scoring guide. After each presentation, members hold a brief class discussion to receive feedback and take suggestions for improving their presentations. Advise students to take notes during the presentations so they will be prepared for the final test covering information on all of the biomes.
Allow groups to review feedback and complete the slideshow scoring guide to improve their slideshows for final grading.
Ask students the Unit Question, How are biomes changing because of human behavior? Hold a class discussion around this question.
Using the human impact brainstorming chart, have students begin studying the impact humans have on the health of biomes.
Have students use Internet resources and print materials to find credible evidence of human effects. Review the brainstorming charts to assess student understanding of the concepts. Hold small group conferences with groups that may be having trouble grasping the concepts and redirect teaching as needed. Have students use the notes from their research to create informational Web pages. (Note: Solutions may be developed during this study, so notes for The Solution newsletter in the next project can be taken concurrently.)
Have students present their Web pages to the class. After each presentation, hold a brief discussion, with questions for presenters, suggestions for aiding the biome, and ideas for improving the Web pages. Again, have students take notes on all of the biome presentations in preparation for the final test.
Ask students the Unit Question, How can we lessen the human impact on the world’s biomes? Tell students they will be investigating the answer to this question in their next project.
In response to earlier studies and discussions, biome groups identify major environmental problems in their biomes (such as desertification) and research solutions. Have groups investigate the impacts on human life that would occur if the proposed solutions were implemented.
Present a sample newsletter to students. Pass out the newsletter scoring guide to help guide student work. Check for student understanding and answer any questions. Have students use the biomes graphic organizer to help outline their newsletters.
Have students complete their research and develop newsletters.
Provide time for groups to present their newsletters to the class. Groups explain the problem, the solution they recommend, evidence to support their reasoning, and the subsequent effect on human life. Have students take notes on each presentation.
Tell each group to create five quiz questions that cover general information about the biome they presented. Have each group include answer keys with their submissions. Combine the group quizzes to create a "Biomes of the World Test," which is administered as a final assessment.
After students take the test, revisit the Essential Question, What can I do to affect the future? Post the chart from the beginning of the unit and ask students to discuss their new understandings regarding this important question.
Audrey Richards participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.
This unit is aligned to Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.