Curriculum

Trees on the Move

This activity set helps students examine the climate niches of the sugar maple Acer saccharum and the Ohio buckeye Aesculus glabra, and see how some global climate models predict those niches are likely to change. We will observe examples of how plants migrate, and predict some possible impacts on the North American economy and culture as maple and buckeye ranges shift. Finally, examination of research on tree seed germination offers insight on one way temperature affects trees.

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What is the Ecological Role of an Estuary?

To most people, an estuary (es-chew-airy) is a place where fresh water meets the sea. In its broader meaning, an estuary is that part of the mouth of a stream in which the water level is influenced by the lake or sea into which the stream flows. The Great Lakes have some estuaries.

Old Woman Creek on Lake Erie has an estuary that has been set aside by the state and federal governments as a “state nature preserve” and “national estuarine research reserve.” The St. Louis River Estuary on Lake Superior is currently listed as an “Area of Concern”by the EPA and is undergoing remediation for pollution. Why should the government bother to preserve an estuary such as Old Woman Creek or the St. Louis River Estuary?

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What Are the Characteristics of the Great Lakes Exotic Species?

This puzzle activity is designed to help students review facts and information about the characteristics of the Great Lakes exotic species. They also learn about origin and introduction methods.

Students will be able to match an exotic species with its characteristics, classification, origin, and introduction to the Great Lakes.

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What are the Characteristics of Some Great Lakes Fish?

If you know how to construct a dichotomous key, you can make one that classifies real organisms, some fish in the Great Lakes. For this activity you will work in groups of 3 or 4. Your group will construct a key to identify some fish families and learn something about them.

Lake Erie has a larger variety of fish life than any other Great Lake. Scientists believer this is because of the southern position of the lake and because it is shallow. Lake Erie has 138 species of fish. These species can be grouped into 27 families. All of the fish in a given family share certain characteristics.In this exercise you will learn how to use these characteristics to identify the 27 families.

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Indoor Dunes

Students study Creature Cards at sand dune ecosystem stations and determine what adaptations help the organisms to live in their environments.

Objectives:

  • List organisms that live in the dunes.
  • Describe the specialized adaptations of sand dune organisms.
  • Explain the different habitats in sand dunes.

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Invader Species of the Great Lakes

Learners will work in small groups to organize scrambled exotic species cards. Each group will present a different exotic species in a poster or fact sheet to the class, and then the group will act out (charades) a way to avoid the spread of their exotic species.

Objectives:

  • name and visually recognize some invader (nonindigenous/ exotic) species of the Great Lakes
  • understand and analyze the positive and negative impacts of invader species on the Great Lakes ecosystem
  • explain the ways in which invader species are introduced into the Great Lakes
  • describe and act out ways to avoid the spread of exotic species

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Revival for Survival

This game presents real-life choices involving exotic species found in the Great Lakes, such as zebra mussels and purple loosestrife. Students are to analyze a situation related to ecology and make an environmentally sound decision. After playing the game, students organize what they learned into a concept map.

Objectives:

  • Analyze situations and factors affecting ecosystems.
  • Recognize exotic species found in the Great Lakes.
  • Create a concept map that interrelates the topics presented in the game

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Wetland in a Pan

Students review a selection of career profiles and play a lively classroom game to find out more about marine and aquatic science professionals.

Objectives:

  • Observe building a model wetland.
  • Understand that wetlands are defined by plants, soil and water.
  • Identify some wetland types and their location.
  • Relate importance of wetland function to people’s needs and daily lives.

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Seeing Purple: A Population Explosion

Through a simulation, sampling, and estimation activity, students learn about the impact of purple loosestrife on a wet land due to its exponential growth. They learn about purple loosestrife’s life cycle and appreciate how scientists determine population size in an ecosystem.

Objectives:

  • Recognize purple loosestrife and tell how the seeds are dispersed.
  • Describe that purple loosestrife produces over 2 million seeds and have a concept of how much that really is.
  • Determine the population of purple loosestrife seeds for their wetland ecosystem through sampling.

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