Environmental Literacy                                        

      Michigan State University

Biodiversity and Evolution
Teaching Experimental Materials (11-12)

Diversity in a Leaf Pack

Note: All teaching materials are packaged as a ZIP file. You can download individual files from the following paragraphs, or download the whole package here. Biodiv 2011 TE resources

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 and shaped by: Biotic resources & interactions, Abiotic resources & conditions, and Dispersal
  3. Matter and Energy are finite in space and time, and organisms interact with and impact matter and energy resources.

Lesson Plans
This document includes Teacher Notes, Student Worksheets, Teacher Answer Keys, and Additional Handouts. Power points and other resources can be found below.

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 but there are separate tests for middle school and high school students.

Online Version: Please contact your local researcher a week or more before you want your students to take assessments so that she can make sure you are set up with the online system. Improvements made to the online system have made it unnecessary for students to spend time making and remembering logins and passwords. However, now, before your students take a test, you have to copy and paste your class roster into the system. You can find instructions for the online system here. http://ibis-live.nrel.colostate.edu/WebContent/WS/MSP/Documents/Teacher%20Tutorial.pdf

Link to online system: http://ibis-live.nrel.colostate.edu/MSP/home.php

Paper and Pencil Version (please only use if you don't have access to computers). Randomly give your students each for (A, B, or C); please make sure to use all three forms evenly.

Middle School Form A Form B Form C
High School Form A Form B Form C


Teacher Feedback Form -- We would like your feedback to improve these lessons! Also, in order to make proper inferences about student learning we would like to understand what actually happened in your classroom. Please fill out this form and return it to your MSP researcher.

MSP researcher Contacts for Support or Questions

For Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) or New York Teachers: Lia Harris (harrisc@caryinstitute.org)

For Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) Teachers: Jennifer Doherty (dohertyjh@gmail.com)

For Shortgrass Steppe (SGS) or Wyoming Teachers: MaryAnn Murphy (MMURPHY1@greeleyschools.org) or Laurel Hartley (laurel.hartley@ucdenver.edu)

For Santa Barbara Coastal (SBC) Teachers: Scott Simon (simon@msi.uscb.edu)

For all others: Jennifer Doherty (dohertyjh@gmail.com)

Additional Support Materials for Lessons
Posters and sorting cards:

Food Web Poster- (for Lessons 5 &12)
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 (For Lessons 8)
This diagram is designed to help students understand the relative sizes of organisms identified in the leaf pack.
Classification Poster (For Lessons 9 &10)
This phylogeny based diagram of organismal relatedness is designed to help scaffold student understanding of the evolutionary relationships between organism groups in a stream ecosyste. Classification poster for board work to project or print large scale. Classification poster for each student group, print on 2 11"x17" sheets or 4 8.5"x11" and tape together.
Organism sorting cards (For lessons 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12)
Sorting cards for students to use with the above three posters.  There are smaller versions for student desk work and larger versions whole class board work.

Powerpoint Presentations
Feeding Groups PowerPoint Slide Presentation- (For Lesson 5))
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 - (For Lesson 6)
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).
Biological Classification PowerPoint Slide Presentation- (For Lesson 10)
This PowerPoint presentation contains an introduction to biological classification and what it means for organisms to be related.

Data Resources
Example leaf pack data from New York classroom
Graphing Templates (For Lesson 13)

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 the appropriate Excel template for your needs; there are instructions in the Lesson Plan document. 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 – (For lesson 6)
This simple identification guide will help students learn about the microorganisms present in water.  

Biotic abiotic interactions reasoning tool poster