Module 4 Polar Ecosystems
- Students will be able to describe how light and nutrients change through time in polar systems
- Students will be able to discuss the importance of ice algae and other phytoplankton
- Students will be able to generate a food web for both the Arctic and in the Antarctic
- Students will be able to describe how sea ice impacts the organisms living in polar regions
- Students will compose a thoughtful letter-to-the-editor based on scientific data they find, analyze, and interpret
Context for Use
The content here is intended to span several 75-minute class periods, where students discuss a news article, have a lecture, complete a pair programming exercise with the aid of instructional videos, and conclude with an opportunity to write a response to the author of the news article read at the beginning of the unit.
If adapting this entire course, students will practice what they've learned in the first two modules, as well as expand on the impacts of what they learned in the third module. They will need to use their narrative interpretation skills as well as their R plotting skills to visualize data and draw conclusions. It could be included as part of a different class to start a conversation about polar food webs; however, it will need to be adapted if the previous modules are not included.
Description and Teaching Materials
Students should be given the news story ahead of time and should read it and fill out the Elements of a Story form prior to the first class of the module. The form should be submitted before class, and students should come to class ready to discuss the article.
The first few minutes of class should be spent discussing students' thoughts on the article, and what they thought the heroes, villains, problems, and solutions were. The handout includes several questions on it which can guide how students should be thinking about the article and data as they move forward.
Following this, a lecture can be given to introduce students to the key concepts of the module. This can be done in the same class period or may be spaced out over several class periods to limit the time spent lecturing in any class period. Additionally, the lecture can be removed entirely and replaced with another method of information dissemination, such as an in-class reading and discussion.
Example topics for teaching about the Antarctic food web:
- Trophic transfer
- Functional groups (primary producer, primary consumers, etc.)
- Biogeochemical cycles
- Open versus closed systems
- Productivity versus standing stock
- Food webs
- Communities, populations, individuals
- Key taxa
- Spatiotemporal match/mismatch
- Top down versus bottom up control of processes
- Polar organisms
- Life cycles
- Space/time utilization
This module contains two instructional videos, and it is intended that each video is allotted one class period for students to accomplish via pair programming. The instructor (and near-peer teaching assistants if available) circulate to help students as needed to make their code. If students do not complete their code in class it can be finished as homework, but encouraging students to complete this work as a pair is encouraged. Students will generate graphs in R, and these can be submitted at the beginning of the next class period for a few points, creating a low-impact formative assessment that encourages students to stay engaged in the class.
After the videos have finished and students have generated their graphs, the discussion can return to the article to see if students have different viewpoints after looking at the data themselves. This can occur at the end of the class period after watching the second R video or can happen the following class period. The questions on the handout can help facilitate this discussion, and students should now be able to answer all the questions on the sheet except for the last one which requires work outside of class.
Students next focus on finding more data they can analyze that is related to the news story. Students are encouraged to work in their pairs to do this, but can diverge if they choose. Finally, students individually pen a letter to the editor to respond thoughtfully to the news article. This letter should include graphs of the data covered in class and other data the student finds on their own. This serves as the summative assessment for the module, as the letter will show students' grasp of what the article says, what their data says, and demonstrate the students' ability to critically analyze and draw conclusions from both.