In this lab I used the classic sun angle lab to compare heat produced at two different angles. By naming one "Summer" and the other "Winter" students can quickly model abiotic factors in an ecosystem. More importantly, after the activity you can ask students to explain how abiotic factors influence biotic factors in an ecosystem. This leads to a great discussion on food availability (for animals in the north) deciduous trees dropping their leaves and a host of other adaptations due to season changes. Here's a picture of the lab setup. If you're looking for the complete lesson, check out my Ecology Lesson 1 for Middle School.
Being outside with students is awesome. My kids love collecting bugs, leaves, rocks and all sorts of living stuff. For our students, we have a wealth of technology and tools at our fingertips. The daily challenge teachers face is how to maintain a positive hands on leaving environment, integrate technology into lessons and meet curricular goals. As usual, we are spinning lots of plates. Too much technology means too little hands on learning. Hands on learning not properly aligned with curriculum goals leads to missed learning opportunities. To address these issues I focus on three core elements in classroom lessons.
Mini lessons: introducing new content objectives are key for providing context to hands on learning experiences. This is face to face teacher led instruction. A teacher sharing their passion and experience is necessary to bring students into great learning experiences. This approach works in lab, or in the field. Before taking students to the salt marsh, we want the to have a basic idea of a wetland. Prior to collecting macroinvertebrates in a stream, they need to understanding what the difference is between biotic and abiotic factors. Mini lessons don't need to be long, 10 to 15 minutes is perfect. The key is to prepare your students for the learning that is coming.
Looking for the perfect mini lessons? Editable presentations, incomplete outlines and scribble notes all available in these complete lesson resources.
Lesson experience: Students get out into the field (or in the lab) to experience what we are learning. Collecting, classifying and organizing are key skills in taxonomy. Allowing kids to hold flowering plants, study vein placement in monocots or view protists under are microscopes are exciting opportunities. These activities need structure and purpose to help student connect the dots between content knowledge and real world application. For example, placing celery in colored water, then slicing it to look at xylem and phloem. This experience is even better if students understand that xylem transports materials from the roots and phloem brings nutrients from the leaves (they will note that the phloem tubs are empty when using samples from the grocery store). Hands on explorations that line up with core content mini lessons will maximize student achievement in your classroom.
The following lessons represent a variety of hands on experiences for the middle school classrooms. From mapping, model construction to quadrat studies, there is something for every style of teaching.
Lesson Reinforcement Allowing students to revisit, reflect and assess is a key process in learning. These activities can take place in a variety of formats. For example, using Google sorts to directly review lesson concepts. Google sorts are quick, effective ways to help kids experience content after a lesson experience. Classroom projects or lab reports also provide opportunities to review. The only caution is to be sure you outline your expectations and timeline. These assessments can consume many days in the classroom if not carefully planned. In the end, time circulating during these activities will provide valuable feedback to your teaching process. Students who can synthesize and apply what has been experienced will achieve the best learning results. Students who are struggling will quickly identify themselves providing you opportunities for reteaching and intervention.
Looking for some help with your lesson reinforcement. Each of the following products provide easy access and use with your middle school students.
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