Teachers and families across the country are facing a new reality of providing opportunities for students to do science through distance and home learning. The Daily Do is one of the ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families with this endeavor. Each weekday, NSTA will share a sensemaking task teachers and families can use to engage their students in authentic, relevant science learning. We encourage families to make time for family science learning (science is a social process!) and are dedicated to helping students and their families find balance between learning science and the day-to-day responsibilities they have to stay healthy and safe.
Interested in learning about other ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families? Visit the NSTA homepage.
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.
Today's task, How can vaccinating one population affect another?, creates an opportunity for students to look at examples of how vaccines work when administered to only specific populations. Students engage in science and engineering practices - including the use of a simulation (mathematical model) - to figure out how changes in one population can affect other populations.
This task has been modified from its original design in order to be used by students, parents, and teachers in distance and home learning. While students could complete this task independently, we encourage students to work virtually with peers or in the home with family members.
Before you begin the task, you may want to access the accompanying How can vaccinating one population affect another? Google slide presentation.
You are a field scientist in the Serengeti - one of the ten wonders of the world. The Serengeti is an area of land stretching approximately 30,000 square miles in northern Tanzania, a country in Africa. It is most well-known for its diverse species habitats as well as its migratory activity (animals moving from one location to another in search of resources - food, water, mates, etc.). The Serengeti is home to over 70 large mammal species as well as over 500 bird species.
As a field scientist, you have compiled data that indicates the populations of buffalo and wildebeests have changed over a period of time. The Serengeti National Park is well-known for its populations of wild animals, but something puzzling has occurred and it is your task to solve the mystery! What is going on with the buffalo and wildebeests? Let's investigate!
Guidance: Students will be taking on the role of a field scientist in the Serengeti. The goal is to get students thinking about why the population of buffalo and wildebeests have changed. Presenting a phenomenon and asking students to generate questions about it creates a need to figure out the answer to those questions. This is authentic engagement and a powerful learning process (unlike "learning about" animal interactions in ecosystems and relationships among them - commonly known as symbiosis, a widely-used vocabulary term in middle and high school science instruction).
Presenting the Phenomenon: Have students observe the graphs on slide 3 and write down what they notice about how the buffalo and wildebeest populations between 1960 and 1975. This is a critical step in eliciting further questions about why and how the populations of buffalo and wildebeests changed. Our goal here is to promote student thinking about questions they have related to this. ALL student questions are okay at this point. Our goal is to motivate curiosity and not distinguish between "good questions" and "bad questions" or "right questions" and "wrong questions". Common questions will arise for most students, which is what this task builds upon.
Investigative questions are common questions kids may ask after they are introduced to the phenomena. Although questions may vary, many students are curious about what caused the population changes. This is the question we will focus on first.
Guidance: It is important to allow time for thinking. Many students have ideas and questions but need time to formulate their idea or question into words. Some students may also benefit from writing things down first before they share. As adults we may be tempted to give them questions we feel might be important to explore, however we need to refrain from this and allow our students to practice asking their own questions. Our goal here is for students to consider all of the different factors that may influence whether a population shows positive growth (increases) or shows negative growth (decreases).
Common Questions: (slide 5)
We want to focus on one question in particular at this point: (slide 6)
Connection Guidance: Students may make connections to previous concepts in other grade levels. For example, students may mention that populations grow in size (exhibit positive growth) when more animals are born than die. Conversely, they may mention that populations decline (exhibit negative growth) when more animals die than are born. Students may also know that many factors can influence how a population increases or decreases over a period of time. Other things they may mention are resource availability (food, water, etc.), reproductive capacity (how frequently they reproduce and how many mates are available), and disease. Our goal here is to prompt students to think about all of the different factors that could explain positive or negative population growth in order to conduct an investigation that indicates which factor(s) may have been most likely to affect the buffalo and wildebeests.
Now that we have identified the first question we want to figure out, it would be helpful to gain some additional background information about something we know impacts populations of all kinds - disease. Students will read an article about Rinderpest, an animal disease.
Rinderpest, Scourge of Cattle, Is Vanquished (Original NY Times Article)
Rinderpest, Scourge of Cattle, Is Vanquished (Modified Reading)
When you are finished with the reading, take a minute to document what you know about wildebeest and buffalo. You can use a chart like the one on slide 8 or something similar, like a Venn diagram.
It is valuable for learners to stop periodically and gain consensus about what they currently understand to be true. Teachers do this often in the classroom, periodically pausing instruction to be sure students have achieved the learning milestones necessary in order to move forward. Because of the length of this Daily Do, we will do this multiple times. It makes sense to pause here for consensus on what we have established so far.
Let's look back at what we've figured out up to this point:
We also read an article that helped us understand more about a disease and how it affects animal populations. From the article, we learned:
Sometimes, establishing consensus leads us to ask more questions about what we have yet to figure out. Reading this article leads us to two important questions:
Now that we understand more about vaccines and how they work, we want to explore more about our second question from above - "Could vaccinating the cattle affect the buffalo and wildebeest populations?" Use Slide 12 to engage students in a discussion about what they suspect is the relationship between vaccinating cattle and population changes in both buffalo and wildebeests.
Guidance: It is not necessary (at this time) for students to figure out all the connections among the population dynamics in play. However, want to promote student thinking about how changes in one population can affect another population.
Because of that, we will now investigate "Can vaccinating cattle affect the buffalo and wildebeest populations?. Before conducting the investigation (Slide 13), students will make predictions about what they think will happen. Access the Student Activity Sheet to have students document their predictions on if populations will increase, decrease, or stay the same.
Students will now test their predictions by following the instructions on "Procedures for Investigation" on page 2 of the Student Activity Sheet. If students need to familiarize themselves with, or review, how the simulation works, have them do so by watching the optional video in step 3.
The activity sheet is also available in Spanish. (NOTE: Familiarize yourself with the instructions of the simulation on the student activity sheet and video before running the Serengeti Consumers simulation to collect data. Feel free to "play in the sandbox" with the simulation to explore its various features prior to collecting data for the investigation.)
After Investigation 1, students will have figured out (slide 14):
Let's look back at what we did:
We conducted an investigation and discovered that:
So, let's go back to our original questions:
Guidance: Here we can take stock of all the things we figured out about the many factors influencing how populations of living organisms in the same area affect one another. Although, we did not figure out everything regarding ecosystem interactions, we have learned many things about how and why changes in one animal population can drive changes in another:
To answer our phenomena question How can vaccinating one population affect another?, we have figured out: (Slide 17)
Connection Guidance (slide 19): Recall a time when you, or someone you knew were vaccinated to prevent against an illness. The most common form of this is an annual flu vaccine. Consider how you would explain to a friend how vaccines work to build immunity for various infectious diseases. (This task could also be built in as a formative assessment).
If your students are conceptually ready to go further, consider having them work through the Daily Do "Why do we all have to stay home?" This makes explicit connections to viral transmission, immunity, and how antibodies function in developing resistance to infection.
NSTA has created a How can vaccinating one population affect another? resource collection 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 located near the top of the page (at right in the blue box).
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 by and uses materials from the Why Don't Antibiotics Work like they Used To? storyline created by Inquiry Hub and Next Gen Storylines. Next Gen Storylines and Inquiry Hub Biology are an open-source resources that can be used by parents and teachers to implement students driven learning.
You can follow both of these programs on Twitter @nextgenstoryli1 and @inquiry_hub