MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Eagles in the Ecosystem Classroom Jigsaw Activity

Eagles in the Ecosystem Classroom Jigsaw Activity

Jessie Bahe, Delano High School, Delano, MN, based on an original activity titled "Bald Eagle Population Graphing" from The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota


In this structured jigsaw, students investigate the role Bald Eagles play in the ecosystem, why they were listed as endangered, the affects of DDT on eagles, and the affects of lead on eagles. Furthermore, students will then graph eagle population data over time, in various states, and in various regions of Minnesota.

Learning Goals

The purpose of this jigsaw is for students to read about and report to others in their group the affect humans have had on Bald Eagle populations. Additionally, the students will practice graphing and data analysis skills with the eagle graph component of this activity. A key concept is that a man-made chemical, which was successfully used to kill insects, was having unanticipated and devastating affects on other animal species. Furthermore, another key concept is that sportsmen are endangering the population of many avian species through the use of lead ammunition and sinkers even though ecologically safe alternatives are available. Vocabulary words that will be reviewed or introduced are habitat and biomagnification.

Context for Use

This activity is appropriate for high school biology (9-12), but can be easily modified for middle school life science. It is a classroom jigsaw activity that would work with any class size. It will take approximately 60 minutes. The necessary materials include the jigsaw worksheet, readings, graph data, and graph question worksheet. This activity should be incorporated into the ecology unit, after food chains have been introduced.

Subject: Biology:Ecology, Environmental Science:Ecosystems, Waste:Toxic and Hazardous Wastes
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science

Description and Teaching Materials

Introduced: use Bald Eagle questionnaires provided by the National Eagle Center as an anticipatory set

Materials: these following readings could be provided in class; otherwise the students could research their jigsaw section online:

Eagles in the Ecosystem reading:, Section titled "population decline and recovery is good"

Graphing activity, "Bald Eagle Population Graphing" from The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota

1. Explain the premise to this activity (see goal section).
2. Hand out attached Eagle Jigsaw worksheet and assign students a number 1, 2, or 3.
3. Read steps 1-4 so students know what is expected.
4. Hand out readings according to which number the students received. For example, students assigned #3, lead's affect on eagles, will receive the raptor, lead poisoning article.
5. Give students time to read and answer questions. As students finish they can collect the "Don't Count Your Eagles Before They Hatch" worksheet (page 5 and 6 from "Bald Eagle Population Graphing" activity) and begin to make their assigned graph. For example, students assigned #3 will make graph 3, the pictograph.
6. Once all the students are finished with the reading and questions, have all the number 1, all the number 2, and all the number 3 students form groups. Then, you can touch base with each section and help answer any questions.
7. Once the graphs are complete, form new groups of three so that every group has at least one member from each section.
8. Students are to share answers and complete their jigsaw worksheet. This will be turned in.
9. Hand out the graphing "Conclusion Question" worksheet (page 7 and 8 from "Bald Eagle Population Graphing" activity), one per group. This will be turned in before the completion of class.

Closure: I will close this jigsaw activity by leading a class discussion on how the eagles were affected by DDT and lead. I will show some additional graphs and X-ray images from Then, I plan on using this jigsaw to discuss lead poisoning, particularly how it affect the nervous system.

Modifications/ Extensions:
- As previously mentioned, this can easily be modified into a computer lab research assignment and, therefore, no reading materials would need to be provided.
- To improve graphing skills and data interpretation, all the graphs and the question worksheet could be completed individually.
- This could lead into a discussion on the affect of lead poisoning in humans, specifically how it affects the nervous system. I plan on using this jigsaw to spearhead an activity on the nervous system, how it normally works and how it is affected by lead. Here is some interesting information:
- Additionally, this jigsaw could foster a discussion on the controversy surrounding DDT: saved 25 million human lives, was it solely responsible for the decline in eagle population numbers? Eagles in the Ecosystem Jigsaw (Microsoft Word 102kB Aug25 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

1. Have them immediately circle which number they were assigned on their worksheet. This number corresponds with the reading and graph. Therefore, each student only has to complete one section of questions and one graph.
2. For the line graph, point out to the group 1 students that they need to pay special attention when labeling the years on their graph! It needs to be plotted in consistent intervals.
3. For the pictograph, I will cut and paste an image of a pictograph next to their data so the students know what one looks like.

I have not done this activity in the past. Typically, I gloss over DDT's affect on eagles and the definition of biomagnifications during my food chain notes. However, I feel that an in-depth investigation into a specific species and how they have been impacted by human actions is necessary.


Throughout this activity I will oversee reading comprehension, graph skills, and data interpretation. Each group will staple and turn in their jigsaw worksheet, one from each student, and their graph conclusion worksheet, one per group. I will then grade graphs and select questions.


Minnesota Science Standards, approved 05/19/03
8.4.C.4- Interdependence of Life
The student will describe how the environment and interactions between organisms can affect the number of species and the diversity of species in an ecosystem.

References and Resources