Environmental Literacy                                        

      Michigan State University

Biodiversity and Evolution
Teaching Experimental Materials (10-11)

Diversity in a Leaf Pack

Target Grades: Middle School and High School (modification suggestions for each level are included)
Description: Students will explore functional and taxonomic diversity in a stream ecosystem, learn about food web relationships, and learn about the ways in which abiotic and biotic factors determine what organisms are present a a community.  Students will make and install leaf packs in a stream, wait for the leaf packs to be colonized by stream organisms, measure abiotic variables that could influence leaf pack colonization, retrieve the leaf packs and classify the organisms they find in both taxonomic and functional ways, and discuss how the leaf pack community is situated within a larger ecosystem.
Learning Goals:  The purpose of this unit is to increase students’ ability to apply principles of biodiversity to their observations and reasoning about the natural world, using the freshwater stream ecosystem as the context for learning.   This unit focuses on the following principles of biodiversity: 

  1. Organisms vary genetically, thus also vary phenotypically & functionally
  2. Ecological communities are constrained by: Biotic resources & interactions, Abiotic resources & conditions
  3. Matter and Energy are finite in space and time, and organisms interact with and impact matter and energy resources.

Lesson Plans
– These documents contain teacher instructions and student worksheets for all of the lessons in this unit. (Teacher guide, Student pages )
Support Materials for Lessons
Classification Poster- (accessory for Lessons 3 & 6)
This phylogeny based diagram of organismal relatedness is designed to help scaffold student understanding of the evolutionary relationships between organism groups in a stream ecosystem. Classification poster for board work to project or print large scale. Classification poster for each student group, print on 2 11"x17" sheets and tape together
Food Web Poster- (accessory for Lessons 4 & 8)
This food web diagram will help scaffold student understanding of the feeding relationships between organism groups in a stream ecosystem.  More advanced students may not need this tool, although it might be a useful organizing framework. Food web templates to print on 8.5"x11" sheets or to project or print in large format for board work.  Two scaffoldings included: 1 with some matter and energy transfer arrows included and 1 with none.
Powers of 10 poster
This diagram is designed to help students understand the relative sizes of organisms identified in the leaf pack.
Organism sorting cards
Sorting cards for students to use with the above three posters.  Smaller versions for student desk work and larger versions whole class board work files are provided.
Feeding Groups PowerPoint Slide Presentation- (accessory for Lessons 4 & 8)
This powerpoint introduces different feedings strategies, helps students see the different types of mouthparts present on stream invertebrates, and helps them think about how mouthparts are related to functional feeding groups. 
Decomposer PowerPoint Slide Presentation - (accessory for Lesson 5)
This PowerPoint presentation contains pictures and information about different groups of microscopic decomposer organisms that are likely present in the leaf packs. It is focused primarily on bacteria and fungi and how microorganisms acquire resources (food).
Graphing Template & Instructions- (accessory for Lesson 10)
There are four graphing templates to choose from. Each consists of a workbook with tabs for the data table and a variety of graphs. Please download the instructionsand the appropriate Excel template for your needs. Note that Option 2 & 4 below require a bit more skill with Excel so they are considered more advanced but are an easy way to calculate and graph class averages.

  1. All Organisms (Individual): This template is for use by an individual research team (group of students), i.e. there is only space for data from two bags. The table is pre-filled with all of the organisms described in the Bio Briefs.
  2. Name Your Own Organisms (Individual): This template is also for individual research teams, but allows students (or teachers) to input their own organism names. This option requires naming accuracy in order for automated calculations to work, but it might be useful if you didn’t find representatives from a lot of groups.
  3. All Organisms (Class): This template is for use by the whole class. You can enter data from up to 15 different research groups (2 bags each). The spreadsheet will automatically calculate averages and standard errors. There are two sets of graphs—one with and one without standard error (SE) bars). Again, the spreadsheet is pre-filled with organism names.
  4. Name Your Own Organisms (Class): This option is the hybrid of Options 2 & 3. You can list your own organisms and enter data for many groups of students. Output is the same as for Option 3.

Life in a Drop of Water – (accessory for lesson 5)
This simple identification guide will help students learn about the microorganisms present in water.  Please contact your MSP facilitator or  laurel.hartley@ucdenver.edu for this handout. 
Assessments – Please plan to do the pre-test within 2 weeks of starting the lessons and post-tests within 2 weeks of ending the lesson.  The pre and post test forms are the same. 

If you are teaching in Michigan please contact Jennifer Doherty dohertyjh@gmail.com a week or more before you want your students to take the assessments. (Instructions for KBS teachers)

For all other teachers, contact Shawna.McMahon@gmail.com a week or more before you want your students to take assessments so that she can enter your class into the on-line system.
·      Instructions for having your students use the on-line system (this is much preferred over paper and pencil versions.  We can analyze this data faster and provide feedback to you sooner.)
·      Paper and pencil versions (only use if you don’t have access to computers)
o   Version A (randomly give half the students this form)
o   Version B (randomly give half the students this form)
Teacher Feedback Form – The Environmental Literacy Math Science Partnership is funded by the National Science Foundation to conduct research on student understanding of biodiversity among other topics.  This activity was carefully designed to increase student knowledge, understanding and skills.  We are collecting pre- and post-test data from students.  In order to make proper inferences about student learning, we need to understand what actually happened in each classroom.  In order to make our teaching materials easier to use in the future, we also need teacher feedback. Please fill out this form (download) and return it to your MSP contact.
Contacts for Support or Questions

For Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES-LTER) or New York Teachers: Terry (grantt@caryinstitute.org) or Lia Harris (harrisc@caryinstitute.org)
For Shortgrass Steppe (SGS-LTER) Teachers: Laurel Hartley (laurel.hartley@ucdenver.edu)
For Santa Barbara Coastal (SBC- LTER) Teachers: Scott Simon (simon@msi.uscb.edu)
For Kellogg Biological Station (KBS-LTER) Teachers: Jennifer Doherty (dohertyjh@gmail.com)

For all others: Laurel Hartley (laurel.hartley@ucdenver.edu) or Jennifer Doherty (dohertyjh@gmail.com)