Monday, August 13, 2012

Into the Ocean

Several years ago, I started teaching earth science. Like so many teachers, I tried to fit everything we could possibly know about earth systems into 180 days. I was overwhelmed and my kids left shell shocked. The vocabulary alone sent more than one student into tears.

When we transitioned to a trimester schedule, I convinced my administration to let me break out my earth science into its components. So now, I have Geology, Meteorology, Astronomy and Ocean Science as separate classes. The plan was to add in an Environmental Science and Climatology in a couple years, but a series of scandalous events found Chemistry taking up all my "extra" time slots.

Ocean Science has turned into my biggest challenge yet. As it turns out, not too many teachers have a separate elective entirely devoted to the subject. This has made it a little more difficult to collaborate and find out what works best. That and my limited knowledge of the ocean doesn't help either.

I live a short drive to the geographic center of the (contiguous) United States, and as a result, am about as far away from any ocean that you could possibly get. As you might guess, many of my kids have only seen an ocean in pictures and have no real concept of its splendid enormity or it's important impact on them.*

This puts my kids in a pretty unique position when they walk in my room. For one thing, this isn't something they have ever really learned about. There is no review in my class; everything is new. The flip side of that is that everything is new and pretty darn interesting.

I have had this class for a couple years now and am at least a little more familiar with the material. This is my year of the ocean and my plan is to really think about how to approach it. This has been a lecture class for the most part with some labs thrown in. Makes me want to cry. Ideally, I would like to use more of a modeling approach and have kids discover these ideas through observations and data interpretation. Again, without an actual ocean, that makes it a little more difficult.

So I started with my standards. Then I rearranged them. Then I rewrote them. I am sure they will change before the year is out. I need a new verb as there is a whole a lot of describing going on. I am finding it much more difficult to write standards for my earth sciences. These classes are based more on big ideas than skills and so the target for assessment doesn't seem to be as cut and dried, as well as a lot more subjective. At the same time, this makes for wonderful opportunities for students to connect ideas together.

One concept I don't have written up yet is Humans and the Ocean. I want kids to make connections between how humans impact and are impacted by the ocean. I have an idea that this will sort of be like a capstone for each unit, but haven't really fleshed out a plan for that yet.

So, here's what I got...

Unit 1 Water Movement
1.       I can describe the relationship between global wind patterns and the horizontal and vertical circulation of the oceans.
2.       I can explain the causes of El Nino and La Nina and their effect on world climatic patterns.
3.       I can describe the effects of upwelling and downwelling on various populations.
4.       I can distinguish between deep-water, shallow-water and transitional waves.
5.       I can describe the process of refraction as it relates to coastlines.
6.       I can describe the effects of storm surges and tsunamis.
7.       I can use the equilibrium theory of tides and the dynamical theory of tides to describe diurnal, semi-diurnal and mixed tides at various locations on Earth.
8.       I can explain how the Moon-Sun-Earth alignment affects tidal patterns.
9.       I can describe why tidal bores, ebb and flood currents and maelstroms may occur.

Unit 2 Water Properties
1.       I can recognize the factors that affect the density of seawater.
2.       I can describe the factors that affect the salinity of ocean water.
3.       I can predict and explain the changes in salinity, density and temperature of the ocean at different depths and latitudes.
4.       I can describe the significance of dissolved nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide.
5.       I can describe the molecular structure of water and relate it to the properties of water.

Unit 3 Productivity
1.       I can list and describe the marine classifications by light in terms of wavelength penetration, photosynthesis and bioproductivity.
2.       I can contrast the bioproductivity of the tropical, mid-latitude and polar oceans in terms of temperature, density, accessibility, upwelling and nutrient availability.
3.       I can describe the pelagic and benthic zones in terms of depth, proximity to shore, photosynthesis, key physical factors and limiting factors.
4.       I can describe the coral reef environment in terms of key organisms, bioproductivity, physical factors and key limiting factors.

If anyone out there does something similar, or if you know of someone who does, I would love to hear from you.

*I had a plan to take my kids to the ocean as part of their final. My principal laughed until he realized I was serious.


Bryna Goeckner said...

Sorry I can't be much help in the ocean science department, but here's a link to a Bloom's Taxonomy list of action verbs that I have used and might be helpful if you want to get away from "describing"... Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs from Clemson (may likely be something you already have, but...

Tracie Schroeder said...

Yeah, I'm not finding much in the way of ocean science teachers. When I was writing these, I just got in a rut and decided to describe and describe and describe some more. One thing I want to do this year is pay more attention to how I have assessed those ideas and rewrite my standards from there.

Anonymous said...

At Del Valle HS in Texas, the I worked with a great science teacher who taught Aquatic Science. I think he would have some great resources if you are interested in any. The direct link to his syllabus page is below:

Also, the textbook he used had some great simple experiments that the student could create (ocean tides, etc.), so the students could see what they were learning and apply concepts.

Good Luck!

Tracie Schroeder said...

Thank you so much! I will definitely check into that.

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