|by Linda C. Joseph, Columbus (Ohio) Public Schools, Library of Congress|
[Editor's note: URLs mentioned in this article appear in the chart that follows.]
On a brisk, overcast day a busload of budding scientists from Old Orchard Elementary and Monroe Middle schools in Columbus, Ohio, embarked on a field trip to Spruce Run Environmental Education Center. Spruce Run is located on 50 acres of land donated to Columbus Public Schools by Robert and Dorothy Patton in 1974. It is well suited for outdoor education, with a variety of geologic features including a succession plot, woodland, meadow, shale creek bed, flood plain, and ridge. A portable classroom equipped with electricity and running water serves as a shelter and area for indoor activities.
As the students emerged
from the bus, the air was filled with excitement and anticipation. This
was no ordinary field trip. These urban scientists were going to collect
data with science probes that would help them find the answers to questions
posed about the differences in the ecosystems of a stream, forest, and
meadow. Which type of soil supports more plant life? Why do you think the
habitats have different pH levels in the soil? Are there different temperature
readings among the ecosystems? After being divided into groups, students
were given worksheets (see "Soil Sample Worksheet" at right) and rotated
through stations where they learned about the characteristics of ecosystems,
soil pH, difference between air and ground temperatures, and how to use
probes. Laptop computers were set up in the shelter house to manipulate
the information. Prior to this scientific expedition, students were prepped
with background information on habitats, pH, making predictions, and soil
composition. Web sites provided valuable background information and contributed
to the prior knowledge necessary for scientific inquiry.
Biomes of the World
Basic concepts about biomes and ecosystems around the world are presented along with photographs and illustrations. You can find facts and definitions about deserts, forests, grasslands, streams, wetlands, and oceans. The site is easy to navigate and suitable for elementary and middle school students.
Take a virtual walk through the forest, complete with sights, sounds, and panoramic views. Find hidden creatures and features and learn about plants and animals in the woods. Build your own forest by selecting from objects and placing them in the picture. This activity produced by National Geographic will be a big hit with elementary students.
Forest Conservation Portal
Links and news to hundreds of sites can be found by visiting this portal. The mission of the organization is to help end deforestation, preserve old-growth forests, and foster ecological restoration. The site is updated frequently with new articles and conservation alerts.
Water Quality Program:
Why is the temperature of a stream important? How does pollution affect the pH in water? These and other questions are answered. Nutrients, dissolved oxygen, and suspended solids and turbidity are also presented.
Although the students in this article used the Pasco Datalogger and sensors, there are several companies that manufacture probeware for schools. Many of the products are sold in bundles targeted to specific grade levels and subject areas.
Need a multimedia explanation of the pH scale with lab activities? Drop by Brainpop and view a movie clip on the pH scale that defines acids and bases and gives a technical explanation of hydrogen's role. This highly interactive site is a barrel of fun. Content is based on the needs of its users and the National Science Education Standards. At present, BrainPOP.com has over 80 original animated movies covering health, science, and technology topics. To play more than three movies per day, you need to purchase a subscription. More information about school pricing can be found on the site.
What do cabbage water and litmus paper have in common? Paper strips dipped in cabbage water and dried can be can be used as an indicator of pH. Predict the pH of substances, and then click on the item to see where it falls on the pH scale. In addition to activities and lessons, there is a clear explanation of water and pH. This is a great starting point for elementary and middle school students to learn about pH.
S.K. Worm Answers Your
Questions About Soil and Stuff
Have you ever wondered how many years it takes to form 1 inch of soil? S.K. Worm answers frequently asked questions about soil in a humorous way. This site is brought to you by the United States Department of Agriculture and is geared to elementary students.
Soil Climate Analysis
Compare the air and soil temperatures your students gather with other areas of the country in real time. Sorting out relevant information may be a bit challenging at first because so much other data is included in the tables. However, once you understand the column codes, you will be able to find the information for your comparison study. All temperatures are reported in Celsius. High school students can take this a step further by comparing other soil data like moisture and salinity.
LESSON PLANS AND PROJECTS
The Sensational Soil
Want to participate in a project after you have investigated soil samples? Then join The Sensational Sampling Project sponsored by TEAMS Distance Learning. In this activity, you will share and compare your soil samples with those of other students across the U.S. What predictions do you think you can make about the data?
GLOBE is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program. The program offers students the opportunity to take measurements and report their data through the Internet. Teachers can take advantage of the many teaching guides, Web chats, and videos on scientific topics. All GLOBE texts and other materials can be downloaded or copied without charge. The materials on soil investigation are comprehensive and include activities that teachers can implement readily into the curriculum. From Bricks to Mud Pies, A Field View of Soil—Digging Around, and Soil—The Great Decomposer are a sample of the activities covered. Teachers and other educators who wish to lead students in GLOBE need to attend special workshops in order to fully participate in the program.
Soil Science Education
Wow! NASA and the Soil Science Society of America have produced a tremendous site rich in content and detail. If there is anything you want to know about soil, you will probably find it on these pages. Features include soil songs, a pH chart of forest trees and plants, soil in the news, five soil-forming factors, soil characteristics, a soil cake recipe, and much more.
Our young scientists expertly created an Excel spreadsheet of the data collected from pH and temperature samples. They constructed graphs and charts of temperatures from the woodland, meadow, and stream so they could compare the results and draw conclusions. Another chart compared the different pH readings from each of the ecosystems. They found that air temperatures were very similar for each location and the difference between the surface temperature and the ground temperature ranged between 4 and 5 degrees. The study that captivated students the most was pH. They discovered that pH was more acidic under trees in the woodland than in the open meadow, and the stream was somewhat acidic due to leaves falling into it. Each student kept a folder and disk of the results to compare with those of the next excursion in the winter. Who knows what science treasures students will discover on their next outing?
Biomes of the World
Forest Conservation Portal
Water Quality Program: Streams
S.K. Worm Answers Your Questions About
Soil and Stuff
Soil Climate Analysis Network
LESSON PLANS AND PROJECTS
The Sensational Soil Sampling Project
Soil Science Education Page
Linda Joseph is the author
of Net Curriculum: An Educator’s
Guide to Using the Internet, published by CyberAge Books. The recipient
of numerous awards, in addition to her work in the Columbus Public Schools
and the Library of Congress, Linda is a part-time instructor for Ohio State
University. Communications to the author may be addressed to her at Columbus
Public Schools, 737 East Hudson Street, Columbus, OH 43211; 614/365-5277;
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