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Changing With the Tide

Teaching materials adapted from Naturescope Kit Wetlands (National Wildlife Federation) by National Geographic - Starting Point page by R.E. Teed (SERC).
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This resource received an Accept or Accept with minor revisions rating from a Panel Peer Review process

These materials were reviewed using face-to-face NSF-style review panel of geoscience and geoscience education experts to review groups of resources addressing a single theme. Panelists wrote reviews that addressed the criteria:

  1. scientific accuracy and currency
  2. usability and
  3. pedagogical effectiveness
Reviewers rated the resources:
  1. Accept
  2. Accept with minor revisions
  3. Accept with major revisions, or
  4. Reject.
They also singled out those resources they considered particularly exemplary, which are given a gold star rating.

Following the panel meetings, the conveners wrote summaries of the panel discussion for each resource; these were transmitted to the creator, along with anonymous versions of the reviews. Relatively few resources were accepted as is. In most cases, the majority of the resources were either designated as 1) Reject or 2) Accept with major revisions. Resources were most often rejected for their lack of completeness to be used in a classroom or they contained scientific inaccuracies.

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Aug 30, 2006

This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


This lesson plan is written around a brief role-play in which students learn about and act out the behavior of plants and animals in a salt marsh habitat as the tides change. An unusual feature of salt marshes is the dramatic daily change in stresses and interactions that the organisms face.

Learning Goals

Students will:

Context for Use

The full exercise is estimated to take 1-2 hours, but the role-playing segment, transferred to a university marine biology or oceanography classroom, should take about 15 minutes. It is a good exercise to break up a lecture because it gets students out of their chairs (very important for those after-lunch classes). It might make a good introduction to a field lab involving a salt marsh.

Teaching Materials

The Changing with the Tide (more info) lesson plan on the web contains all of the necessary materials, including some links, except for index cards. The instructor can copy and paste the roles from the lesson plan onto the cards, which will be distributed to the students.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The class is originally intended for elementary-school children, but the perspective and specific topic of the class (short-term stresses in coastal ecosystems) make elements of it valuable additions to college classes. The role-play in particular can give students a visceral understanding of diurnal salt-marsh changes that is in some ways more clear than an abstract discussion from a textbook.


The recommended one (for the students to write a version of this lesson for mangrove swamps) may be useful.

References and Resources

The following are only general readings. For more on salt marsh biology:


Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Ecology, Geoscience:Oceanography:Chemical, Biological, Biology:Ecology:Habitats:Marine

Resource Type

Activities:Lab Activity, Activities, Classroom Activity

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use, Meets Peer Review Standard:Anonymous Peer Review

Earth System Topics

Biosphere, Ecology, Oceans:Biological Oceanography, Marine Chemistry


Ocean:Chemical Oceanography, Biological Oceanography , Biosphere


Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Ecology, Oceanography

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