Biology Citizen Science Is Lesson Plan Life Science NGSS Phenomena Science and Engineering Practices Three-Dimensional Learning Middle School Grades 6-8
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Sensemaking is actively trying to figure out how the world works (science) or how to design solutions to problems (engineering). Students do science and engineering through the science and engineering practices. Engaging in these practices necessitates students be part of a learning community to be able to share ideas, evaluate competing ideas, give and receive critique, and reach consensus. Whether this community of learners is made up of classmates or family members, students and adults build and refine science and engineering knowledge together.
In today’s task students learn that the rusty patched bumble bee population and range have severely declined making it eligible for the Endangered Species list in 2017. In this Daily Do, students use the practices of developing and using models and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information to learn more about this native pollinators’ ecosystem. They use the thinking tool of systems and system models to figure out how the components within this ecosystem interact and use this “systems thinking” to make predictions about what is changing in the ecosystem that could explain why rusty patched bumble bees are disappearing.
Before you begin the task, you may want to access the accompanying Why are the rusty patched bumble bees disappearing? Google slide presentation.
Introduce students to the plight of the rusty patched bumble bee using the first two minutes of the video, Gone but not Forgotten: The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, found on Slide 2. (Make sure to stop the video before the leading hypothesis for their decline is revealed.) Have students make a t-chart in their science notebooks or a sheet of paper to keep track of what they notice and wonder from the video. Have students share their observations with a partner.
Use Slide 3 to introduce students to Bumble Bee Watch, which is a citizen science, collaborative project to track and conserve North America’s Bumblebees. Using the directions on Slide 4, have students explore the verified sightings of rusty patched bumble bees by clicking on the green dots. You might divide the class into groups and assign each group a different state or region to explore and allow the groups to decide how they will divide the data collection within their assigned area among themselves.
Consider asking students to create tables to record data. As you move from group to group ask, “What types of data are you recording? How do you think these data might help us figure out why the rusty patched bumble bee is disappearing?” You may need to guide students to record the habitat (described under “Comments”) in addition to the flower type (“Floral host”) and date of sighting (“Date”). Ask each group to identify any patterns they see within their data and then ask each group to share those patterns with the class. Can they identify patterns between the state/region data sets as well?
Guidance: Some students may benefit from working with a partner while investigating the website. If more scaffolding is needed, consider providing a graphic organizer to gather needed information about the bees and their environment.
Patterns groups identify may include:
Have students brainstorm ideas in small groups about what may be causing the decline in the rusty patched bumble bee population. Next, have students share their ideas during a whole group discussion. Some ideas that might surface include:
Students should continue to add to their list of questions as they consider the patterns the class identified and listen to their classmates share ideas about why the rusty patched bumble bee population has declined. Explain to students that scientists conduct investigations to gather data to use as evidence to answer questions they have about a phenomenon, like the decline in the rusty patched bumble bee population. Have students work in small groups to determine the most productive questions to help figure out what is happening to the rusty patched bumble bees. Then, ask the groups to share their questions with the class. Students' questions may include:
Point out that many of students' questions from their t-charts are related to what the rusty patched bumble bee needs to survive and that learning more about these needs may help us figure out why their population is declining.
Guidance: Through the use of the video clip and the exploration of Bumble Bee Watch students will learn a little bit about the rusty patched bumble bee. By generating questions they will realize there is a lot more to learn. Having students generate the questions about the phenomenon creates a motivation and need to engage in investigations in order to develop a deeper understanding of the species and figure out the cause of their decline.
Use students' questions to begin exploring what the rusty patched bumble bee needs to survive. Ask students to make a list of what living things need to survive. Students will likely say
Using Slide 5, introduce students to the concept of systems. In small groups, and then with the whole group, have students discuss how the term system and ecosystem are related. Use students’ ideas to build the understanding that a place where a living thing is found is a system that contains all of the components it needs to survive. We call this an ecosystem. Tell students that in order to get an idea of what may be causing the decline of the population, it would be helpful to learn more about the specific components in the rusty patched bumble bees’ ecosystem.
Introduce the article “All About the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee,” and tell students it will help us figure out the components in the rusty patched bumble bees’ ecosystem. As students read, have them make individual lists of the specific components the rusty patched bumble bee needs to survive. If students need additional scaffolds for reading, consider utilizing a close read strategy or break the article into sections and read in small groups.
In small groups have students compare the components that they found in the reading and share how the components interact with the rusty patched bumble bee. Have them combine their lists ensuring that all of the components on their group list interact with the rusty patched bumblebee.
Begin developing a class model that represents how all of the components in the rusty patched bumble bee’s ecosystem interact by creating a class list of components in the ecosystem. To do this, have groups take turns sharing the components from their groups’ list and describing how they interact with the rusty patched bumble bee. Ensure that the whole class agrees the component is part of the ecosystem. Once the list is complete, take time to reflect with students that the list consists of both living and nonliving components in the ecosystem.
Tell students that in order to get a better idea of what may be causing the decline of the population, it would be helpful to develop a model that shows all of the components in the ecosystem and how they interact. Discuss with the class how to represent the interaction of all of these components with each other and the rusty patched bumble bee. Use this discussion to create a class model.
Guidance: Developing and using models has applications in all disciplines of science. The task of developing an ecosystem model gives students practice in recognizing that systems are made up of interacting components. A model of a system allows us to communicate how it functions and make predictions about how changes will affect the components in the system.
Using the components and interactions represented in the class model, have students individually brainstorm possible causes of the decline of the rusty patched bumble bee population. Put students in small groups and explain that they should share and discuss their individual brainstormed list and present one claim per group about what is causing the decline in the rusty patched bumble bee population. Tell students that they will present their claims in a gallery walk. As they prepare their claim, students should use the class model to explain how the predicted change in components and/or interactions could cause the rusty patched bumble bee population to decline.
As students participate in the gallery walk, have them use sticky notes to ask questions and add comments to other groups’ claims. After students have had an opportunity to examine other groups' claims, ask the class what they noticed about the claims. Were there any similarities? What were the differences? Return to students’ questions to determine what questions have been answered and if there are additional questions they could explore to figure out the cause(s) of the decline of the rusty patched bumble bee.
NSTA has created a Why are the rusty patched bumble bees disappearing? collection of resources to support teachers and families using this task. If you're an NSTA member, you can add this collection to your library by clicking Add to my library (near top center of page).
The NSTA Daily Do is an open educational resource (OER) and can be used by educators and families providing students distance and home science learning. Access the entire collection of NSTA Daily Dos.
This Daily Do is inspired and uses materials from SkyDay Project. These materials are adapted from a unit about the rusty patched bumble bee that is currently being developed and piloted by teachers in Illinois. You can find out more about this project here.