Author:
Eric Cromwell
Subject:
Environmental Science
Material Type:
Unit of Study
Level:
Lower Primary
Tags:
  • Birds
  • Enviroment
  • NGSS
  • Phenomena
  • bcpl-environment
    License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Language:
    English
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs

    Education Standards

    Feathered Phenomena

    Feathered Phenomena

    Overview

    We have a problem to solve in our school community – litter on our school grounds. We know that this litter can have negative effects on our local bird populations. Sometimes problem-solvers, such as engineers, study natural phenomena to figure out solutions to problems.

    Feathered Phenomena

     

    Title of Unit 

    Grade Level 

    Time Frame 

    Feathered Phenomena

    First Grade 

    11 Learning Cycles 

    16 days (30 – minute sessions) 

     

    Project Background

    The Environmental Empowerment Project (EEP) is a project funded by the Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant (CBIG).  There are several goals of this project:

    • Increase the meaningful representation of underrepresented populations in science curriculum.
    • Increase student awareness of environmental issues relevant to their community.
    • Empower students to take action on local environmental issues as part of the curriculum.
    • Inspire students to pursue careers in environmental restoration.
    • Increase student engagement in meaningful watershed environmental experiences (MWEE) within their community. 
    • Increase the awareness of teachers in the role they play in providing equitable outcomes for students.

    The project began in 2022 with interviews from over two-hundred, Baltimore County students ranging in age from seven to eleven.  Schools participating in the interviews were identified based on having at least a 90% non-White population. The results of these interviews were then shared with a community stakeholder group hosted at Morgan State University.  These stakeholders reviewed the student responses and added details to the local environmental issues students identified.

    The resulting list of issues were then aligned to bundles of performance expectations in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  The lessons are also aligned to Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards.  Once aligned, curriculum writers created instructional units around these issues.  The resulting units have several key components: 

    EEP Components

     

     

    Attending to Equity

     

    The Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas addresses equity as a critical issue in science education.  This ideal is further emphasized in the NGSS appendix where the slogan “All standards, all students” has taken hold.  For far too many students, opportunities to learn science have been limited.  As the Framework document points out, this limitation is due not only to an absence of instruction but also to student disengagement brought about by a lack of relevance to their lives.  

    Attending to equity begins with building relationships with students and honoring their lived experiences.  This is one of the reasons for the use of mapping applications in the curriculum.  Not only are they there for students to make sense of local phenomena, but also to acquaint educators with the communities they serve.  This idea of mapping communities is just one of many practices promoted by STEM Teaching Tools.   

    The STEM Teaching Tools collection has a series of briefs to help begin an equity journey focused on improving science learning outcomes for all students.

     

    Historically Responsive Equity Framework

    The following is based on the work of Dr. Gholdy Muhammad and is developed in her book Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy.   This four-part framework provides guidance to teachers on approaching lessons with an equity lens.  The following sections illustrate this framework for the unit. 

    Identities

    During student interviews, birds were a common animal observed by most students.  Students described many different types of birds. In addition, the unit draws students into their community and has them look at the most common nesting birds around them.  Birds are a gateway to nature and can often lead to a greater curiosity about nature for students.  Events such as Black Birders Week have increased interests in birding and bird conservation among people of color.  

    According to the Smithsonian, “Black Birders Week began in 2020 to highlight Black nature enthusiasts and to increase the visibility of Black birders. Beyond observing birds in nature, birding provides opportunities to connect with the natural world and recognize our place in it as humans.” (National Museum of Afterican American History and Culture, 2023)

    Have students talk about their own experiences in nature.  How do they feel when they go outside?  What kinds of activities do they do?  What things do they observe?  That connection to nature is one of the reasons people like Christian seek the experiences in the outdoors.    

    Skills

    The NGSS has a series of Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) which are developed during this unit.

    • Make observations (firsthand or from media) to construct an evidence-based account for natural phenomena.
    • Use materials to design a device that solves a specific problem or a solution to a specific problem.
    • Read grade-appropriate texts and use media to obtain scientific information to determine patterns in the natural world.

    Intellect

    Broadly, this unit is about adaptations, both behavioral and physical.  It is also how people are inspired by nature to solve problems which is called biomimicry. These are summarized as Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI):

    • All organisms have external parts. Different animals use their body parts in different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, protect themselves, move from place to place, and seek, find, and take in food, water and air. Plants also have different parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits) that help them survive and grow. (1-LS1-1)
    • Adult plants and animals can have young. In many kinds of animals, parents and the offspring themselves engage in behaviors that help the offspring to survive. (1-LS1-2)
    • Animals have body parts that capture and convey different kinds of information needed for growth and survival. Animals respond to these inputs with behaviors that help them survive. Plants also respond to some external inputs. (1-LS1-1)
    • Young animals are very much, but not exactly like, their parents. Plants also are very much, but not exactly, like their parents. (1-LS3-1)
    • Individuals of the same kind of plant or animal are recognizable as similar but can also vary in many ways. (1-LS3-1)

     

    Criticality

    The origins of Black Birders Week date back to an incident that occurred in May of 2020.  Christian Cooper, an African-American man who was bird watching asked Amy Cooper (unrelated), a white woman, to put a leash on her dog which is required in the park.  Ms. Cooper’s reaction was to call the police on Christian.  She cited his race and gender as the cause for her alarm.   The goal of Black Birds week is to normalize “the fact that Black people exist in the birding and nature sciences community.” (CNN, 2020)

     The “Black AF in STEM” collective (AF stands for “As F@#K”. For this reason, do not discuss the group with students) assisted other STEM professionals in establishing Black Birders Week.  According to their website, the “Black AF in STEM” collective “seeks to support, uplift, and amplify Black STEM professionals in natural resources and the environment through professional development, career connection, and community engagement. We aim to inspire new audiences to engage in nature and share the stories of Black conservationists from across the African diaspora.” (Black AF in STEM, 2023)

    This unit also delves into the effects of litter on wildlife.  Litter and trash in general are a significant topic in grade two.  During the student interviews prior to starting the Environmental Empowerment Project,  litter was the biggest concern raised by students.  Why is litter perceived to be a problem in certain communities? Psychologists and sociologists have studied the problem for decades.    

    In many cases, problems with litter can be traced to institutional negligence.  People accumulate in public spaces and entities that control the spaces do not provide adequate waste disposal options.  Even if the entities do provide trashcans, they are often not emptied fast enough before they overfill.   In a similar fashion, municipalities may not have consistent trash pickup.  This was the case in Baltimore City particularly during the pandemic.   These factors present people not familiar with the community that there is a general neglect by the residents.  The research contradicts this notion.  Litter concentrations are lower in communities where people feel some belonging to the area. (Murphy, 2012) Lastly, there are instances where education about the impacts of litter on the environment may be a factor which is another reason why units like this are so important. 

    References

    References

    Black AF in STEM. (2023, May 31). Home. Retrieved from Black AF In STEM: https://www.blackafinstem.com/

    CNN. (2020, June 3). These Black nature lovers are busting stereotypes, one cool bird at a time. Retrieved from CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/03/us/black-birders-week-black-in-stem-christian-cooper-scn-trnd/index.html

    Murphy, A. K. (2012). “Litterers”: How Objects of Physical Disorder Are Used to Construct Subjects of Social Disorder in a Poor Suburb. THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY, 1-18.

    National Museum of African American History and Culture. (2023, May 26). National Museum of African American History and Culture. Retrieved from Black Birders Week: https://nmaahc.si.edu/events/series/black-birders-week

     

    Unit Scenarios: 

     

    Part I: 

    When we explored our school grounds, we noticed many living things. In this unit, we will focus on birds in our environment. We will learn how birds’ body parts help them survive, how baby birds are similar to their parents, and how birds’ behaviors help them take care of their babies. What problems might birds in our community face? We will think like researchers to explore these ideas. 

     

    Part II: 

    We have a problem to solve in our school community – litter on our school grounds. We know that this litter can have negative effects on our local bird populations. Sometimes problem-solvers, such as engineers, study natural phenomena to figure out solutions to problems. A phenomenon is an observation that makes people curious. In the second part of this unit, we will use what we have learned about birds in our community to solve a problem. 

     

     

    Unit Essential Question: 

    Part I: How do characteristics of birds help them survive? 

    Part II: How can we mimic characteristics of birds to solve a problem in our community? 

     

    Content Standards for Mastery: 

    Next Generation Science Standards: 

    1-LS1-1. Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of human problems that can be solved by mimicking plant or animal solutions could include designing clothing or equipment to protect bicyclists by mimicking turtle shells, acorn shells, and animal scales; stabilizing structures by mimicking animal tails and roots on plants; keeping out intruders by mimicking thorns on branches and animal quills; and, detecting intruders by mimicking eyes and ears.] 

    1-LS1-2. Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive. [Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns of behaviors could include the signals that offspring make (such as crying, cheeping, and other vocalizations) and the responses of the parents (such as feeding, comforting, and protecting the offspring).]  

    1-LS3-1. Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents. [Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include features plants or animals share. Examples of observations could include leaves from the same kind of plant are the same shape but can differ in size, or a particular breed of dog looks like its parents but is not exactly the same.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include inheritance or animals that undergo metamorphosis or hybrids.

    Maryland Environmental Literacy Standard(s): 

    (1) Environmental Issue Investigation & Action. Environmentally literate students investigate environmental issues in order to develop and implement local actions that protect, sustain or restore the natural environment.  

    (2) Human Dependence on Earth Systems and Natural Resources. Environmentally literate students construct and apply understanding of how Earth’s systems and natural resources support human existence.   

    (3) Environmental Impact of Human Activity. Environmentally literate students construct and apply understanding of the environmental impact of human activities on Earth’s systems and resources.   

    (4) Consequences of Environmental Change on Human Health and Well-Being. Environmentally literate students construct and apply understanding of the consequences of human-induced environmental change on individual and collective health and wellbeing.   

    (5) Individual and Collective Responses to Environmental Change. Environmentally literate students construct and apply understanding of individual, collective, and societal responses to human-induced environmental change. 

    Assessment Evidence: 

    • Part 1: Content Assessment: Students complete a digital or paper-based version of the Part I Content Assessment in Learning Cycle 5.
    • Part 2: Performance Assessment: Students design a device to solve the litter problem. Students must describe the problem the device solves, specify what external feature of the animal the device mimics, and explain how the device solves the problem.   

     

    Learning Plan: 

     

    Lesson/Time 

    Objective and Assessment 

    Materials

     

    Science Standard

    Learning Cycle 1 

     

    Two 30-minute 
    sessions 

    Objective

    Students will observe birds in the environment by taking a schoolyard walk to begin noticing features that help them survive.
     
    Assessment:

    Students complete Student Resource 2 – Schoolyard Walk Reflection.

    • List three living things that you saw during our schoolyard walk.
    • Name one problem that plants and/or animals may face in our community.

     

    For each student

    • Student Resource 1 – Part I Unit Scenario
    • Student Resource 2 – Schoolyard Walk Reflection

    For teacher:

     

    1-LS3-1 

    2.a.iii 

     

    MD Environmental Lit. 1

    Learning Cycle 2 

     

    Two 30-minute 
    sessions 

     

     

    Objective
    Students will identify external body parts of animals by exploring items to make connections between external features and survival.
     
    Assessment

    Play the Animal Parts Song video (1:08).  Pause the video to ask students to name an external part of an animal in the video and how it helps it survive.  Students record responses on SR1 – External Parts Assessment. 

     

     

    For each small group of students:

    • Animal Feature Investigation Bag (one per small group of 3 – 4 students):*
      • one duck feather
      • one 4" x 4” piece of faux fur
      • two seashells
      • four hand lenses

    For each student:

    • Student Resource 1 – Exploration Notes
    • Student Resource 2 – External Parts Assessment

    For teacher:

     

     

    1-LS1-1 

    1.b.iii. 

     

    MD Environmental Lit. 1 

     

    Learning Cycle 3 

     

    One 30-minute 
    session 

     

    Objective
    Students will investigate ways that animal and plant parents and their offspring are similar but not exactly alike by making observations to determine patterns which are related to survival. 
     
    Assessment

    Students are asked to match photographs of adult birds and their offspring. They explain how they know the birds were related and how they can distinguish the parent from the offspring.


     
     

     

    For each student

    For each pair of students:

    For teacher:

     

     

    1-LS3-1 

    1.a 

    1.b 

     

    Maryland Environmental Lit.

    1

    Learning Cycle 4 

     

    One 30-minute 
    session 

    Objective

    Students will explain how adults care for their offspring by reading texts to determine behavioral patterns.
     
    Assessment

    Students will read or listen to a National Geographic text titled “Penguin Parents.” They will respond to these prompts:

    Part A: Adult penguins care for their offspring by _______________.

    Part B: What patterns do you notice in how birds care for their offspring?

     

     

     

    For each student: 

    • Student Resource 1 – “An Eagle Grows Up” (digital or printed version)
    • Student Resource 2 – Birds T-Chart (Word document)
    • Student Resource 3 – “Puffin Parents” (digital or printed version)
    • Student Resource 4 – “Penguin Parents” (digital or printed version)

    For teacher: 

    • Teacher Resource 1 – How Animals Care for Their Young (website slideshow)

    1-LS1-2 

    1.a.i.ii.

    Learning Cycle 5

     

    One 30 – minute session

    Objective:

    Students will show what they have learned about animals and plants by completing an assessment.

     

    Assessment:

    Students will complete Student Resource 1 – Part I Content Assessment. Teachers may choose to modify the assessment to allow for verbal responses/recording or other ways of responding to the prompts.

     

    For each student

    • Student Resource 1 – Part I Content Assessment

    For teacher:

    • Teacher Resource 1 – Answer Key and Scoring Guide

     

     

    Learning Cycle 6 

     

    Two 30-minute 
    sessions

    (including the anchor lesson on the engineering and design process)

     

     

    Objective:   
    Day 1: Students will describe the relationship between nature and invention by identifying examples of biomimicry to prepare to design a solution to a human problem.

    Day 2: Students will explore problem-solving by identifying the steps in the Engineering Design Process to prepare to design a solution to a human problem.

    Assessment

    Day 1: Students will match animal parts with products they inspired by completing Student Resource 2 – Biomimicry Match.

     

    Day 2: Students will put the steps of the Engineering Design Process in order by sorting pieces of a puzzle.

     

      For each student: 

    • Student Resource 1 – Part II Unit Scenario
    • Student Resource 2 – Biomimicry Match
    • Student Resource 3 – Engineering Design Process Puzzle

     

    For each group of students: 

    • pieces of hook and loop fastener* (Velcro)
    • burr*

     

    For teacher: 

    • Teacher Resource 1 - How Litter Affects Birds (Google slideshow)
    • Teacher Resource 2 – Biomimicry (YouTube video) 
    • Teacher Resource 3 – “Where Did Velcro Come From?” (Word document) 
    • Teacher Resource 4 - “Wild Ideas” National Geographic Young Explorer (PDF)
    • Optional Resource – Velcro (YouTube video) 
    • Teacher Resource 5 – Science Basics: K – 2 Engineering Design Process (Google Slideshow)
    • Teacher Resource 6 – Engineering Design Process Graphic

     

    1-LS1-1 

    1.a 

     

    Learning Cycle 7 

     

    Two 30-minute 
    sessions 

     

     

    Objective
    Students will design a tool by using biomimicry to solve a human problem.


    Assessment:

    Students will choose a type of bird foot to mimic so that they can design a tool to help them solve the problem of litter in the school community.

     

      For each student: 

    • Student Resource 1 – Bird Foot Biomimicry (Word document)

     

    For teacher: 

     

    • Teacher Resource 1 - The Biomimicry Song  (YouTube video)
    • Teacher Resource 2 - Bird Feet (Google slideshow)
    • Teacher Resource 3 - Bird Feet Book (PDF)
    • Teacher Resource 4 - Parts of Birds – Feet and Claws (YouTube video)
    • Teacher Resource 5 – Teacher Model (Biomimicry)
    • Teacher Resource 6 - “Wild Ideas” (National Geographic article PDF)
    • Optional Resource: Paddle, Perch, Climb by Laurie Ellen Angus

    1-LS1-1 

    1.b.iii

     

     

    Learning Cycle 8 

     

    Two 30-minute 
    sessions 

     

    Objective: 
    Students will design a tool by using biomimicry to solve a human problem.

     
    Assessment

     Students will choose a type of bird beak that they could mimic to design a tool to help them solve the problem of litter in the school yard.

      For each student: 

    • Student Resource 1 – Beak Investigation (Word document)
    • Student Resource 2 – Bird Beak Biomimicry (Word document)

     

    For each group of students:

    • coffee stirrers (straws)*
    • spoons*
    • binder clips*
    • chopsticks*
    • scissors

     

    For teacher:

    • Teacher Resource 1 – Bird Images (PDF)
    • Teacher Resource 2 – Station Direction Cards (file)

    NOTE:   When printing the station cards, only one set is needed.  When possible, either laminate or place the card in a clear plastic sleeve to keep it from getting wet during investigation.

    • Teacher Resource 3 – Beaks! (National Geographic, PDF)
    • A container for the pony beads 
    • Station 1: cups*, water
    • Station 2: pony beads*
    • Station 3: cotton balls*
    • Station 4: pom-poms*
    • Station 5: oat ring cereal* in water

     

     

     

    1-LS1-1 

    1.b.iii.

     

     

    Learning Cycle 9 

     

    Two 30-minute 
    sessions 

    Objective
    Students will design a device by mimicking a bird’s external parts to solve a human problem.


    Performance-Based Assessment

    On Day 1, students will identify the problem, choose an external feature to mimic, and design a tool that will solve the litter problem.

    On Day 2, students will plan for and build a prototype.

     

     

     

     

     

     

      For each student

    • Student Resource 1 – Performance Task
    • materials for building the prototype (These materials may include items from the science kit, items provided by the teacher/school, and/or items collected from donations.)

    For teacher:

     

    1-LS1-1.2

    1-LS3-1

     

     

     

    Learning Cycle 10

    One 30 – minute session

     

     

     

    Objective:

    Students will evaluate a solution by observing an investigation to determine whether the tool meets the required criteria.

     

    Assessment:

    Students will evaluate whether the teacher tool is successful at picking up the piece of litter.

    Students will improve the teacher's tool by drawing or explaining what could be changed.

    For each student

    • Student Resource 1 – Tool Evaluation

    For teacher:

    • Pre-made teacher tool with chosen bird external feature attachment chosen in previous lesson.

     

    1 – LS1 – 1 3.a.b.

    Learning Cycle 11

     OPTIONAL LESSON

    One 30-minute 
    session 

    Objective
    Students will become stewards of the environment by cleaning up an area to help their community.

    Assessment:

    Display page 7 of the Environmental Stewardship lesson PDF, which has four photographs of human impact.  Ask students to explain what they see in each photo that does not show stewardship for the environment.  


     

     

     

     

     For each student

    • disposable plastic gloves

     

    For each small group of students:

    • garbage bag

    For teacher:

     

     

     1-LS1-1.

    3.a.

    3.b.

     

    MD Env. Lit. Standard

    (1)

    (3)

    *provided in materials kit

     

    National Geographic Young Explorer magazines