Rutgers University Problem

How will the different zoning options affect the Bay?

Investigation Explanation Journal COOL New Terms Index Unit Plan Back to COOL Classroom

Spatial Literacy

1) Your Problem...

Make sure that the students understand what is a zoning decision.

2) Town Zoning Commission Meeting

Have the students view the town Zoning Commission board meeting as a class. They can select which members they want to listen to first, but they need to listen to all of them. Stress with the students that this is to help them get a sense of the controversy. They do not need to remember all of the points made by each representative. The students are not going to be making a decision yet, only getting an impression.

Once they have heard everyone speak, in groups the students should discuss their initial opinions of what the town should do. Students should think about the advantages and disadvantages of each development option. For example, the hotel might not be as good for the environment but will bring in economic revenue to the town. Then they should record their initial opinions in their journals. Afterwards, have a brief class discussion of the students opinions of the issue. Help students understand that in order to make the decision they need more information about the town, the location, etc. In the next section they will get to learn more about the area and issue.

3) Barnegat Bay

Prior to watching the video, have the students be reflective and predictive. What is a bay? What is the ocean? What are the basic differences between a bay and the ocean? What are they looking for about the Bay to make decisions about the area? Have them turn to their neighbor to discuss these while you get the video ready to play.

After showing the movie, ask of the students if anyone has visited a bay or the Barnegate Bay. What can they say about it?

4) First Things First...

Before moving forward, have the students work in pairs to review the notes from the town Zoning Commission meeting, or if desired re-listen to the representatives. What do the students need to know about the Bay to make a recommendation to the Zoning Commission?

Students should come up with questions similar to the following:

  • What is the habitat like in Barnegat Bay?
  • Seagrasses – what are they, why are they important?
  • What is the relationship between people and seagrasses?

5) STOP: Group Discussion

Have two pairs join to form a group to discuss the questions.

6) STOP: Class Discussion

Lead the first two parts as a KWL brainstorm (What do you Know, do you Want to know, what have you Learned?).

The following three points should hopefully emerge from the KWL brainstorm as the unit addresses each of these in turn.
• What is the ecosystem like in Barnegat Bay?
• Seagrasses – what are they, why are they important, where do they grow?
• Would development affect the Bay ecosystem?

Seagrasses can serve as an indicator species for the health of the Bay. To help students think about seagrass in this way, ask questions such as: What would make a species a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem, like a bay? (A species needs to be sedentary.) If they are struggling to understand that seagrass is the indicator species, refer them to the DEP board member in the town hall meeting.

A possible question that may come up is what is an ecosystem. Make sure to define it and emphasize that humans are a part of the ecosystem.

At the end of the discussion, help your students see that in order for them to make the development decision, they first need to determine what’s happening within the ecosystem. In the next section, the students will be learning about seagrasses (what are they, why they matter, etc.).

7) Ecosystem Health

Ask the students to list characteristics of a healthy ecosystem and write them on the board. Then sort and prioritize the list. This exercise is to help the students realize that seagrasses are critical part of the ecosystem and that their health is essential for ecosystem health of the Bay.

If the students focus on the fish, lead the students back to what the fish need (food, shelter, space) and that they get this from the seagrass beds.

8) STOP: Class Discussion

Recap what the DEP representative said at the town Zoning Commission meeting, noting the potential affect to seagrass of development. The heath of seagrass beds might be at stake. Health of seagrass can be used as an indicator of general Bay ecosystem health. Ask: what questions do you have about seagrasses? Try to list their questions under these categories:
• What are seagrass beds?
• Why are they important?
• Where are they?
• How might land development impact them?
These questions mimic their learning in the rest of the unit, until the final decision chapter.

If there are questions that don’t fit under these categories, you can shelve them and address them at a later point. You will also need to add any questions or sections that are missing. See Additional Resources for examples of questions.

9) What Are Seagrass Beds?

We have chosen to focus on seagrass to monitor the health of the ecosystem, but where can we find them? There are two main types of macro-plants in the bay: seagrass and seaweeds. It is important to understand the differences between them.

This interactive has multiple components and the students should explore all of them, either in a group, individually, or as a class.

10) Dichotomous Key

Have the students work through the Dichotomous Key with a couple different samples (either real or images). Images for teachers who cannot obtain real samples and the answer key can be downloaded here.

See Additional Resources if you would like to turn this into a wet lab and receive specimens for the activity.

11) Seagrass Benefits

Have the students look through the different parts of the interactive and discuss the information.

12) Seagrass Damage

In pairs, have the students discuss the question and summarize what they have learned in the previous interactives. Then have them write down their answers in their journals.

Afterwards, do a spot check of the journal entries to make sure all the students understand the importance of seagrass in the Bay ecosystem.

13) Where Does Seagrass Grow?

A list of resources about the Barnegat Bay are included in the Additional Resources section.

14) Identifying Features

Ideally, the students will work in pairs at this stage. The next step is to review their choices in a class discussion.

If you do not have computers for each student, have the students think about where they would place the different icons while looking at the projection of the image. Then have the students make suggestions of where you should place the icons.

15) STOP: Class Discussion

Have students come up to “board” and label the features. Have students agree on where features are in the picture and discuss how they know the location of the different features.

Then have students discuss:
• Why do you think the seagrass is where it is?
• What do you think affects where the seagrass grows?

This is a brainstorming session. Do not correct their answers. The students may be noticing that the seagrass grows in a band off of the shore, not super close into shore but also not at great depths. Students may also bring up other factors such as wave activity, light, predators, etc.

16) Bathymetry

This activity helps the students understand that depth is a factor in where seagrass can grow.

We recommend that you demonstrate Location 1 to the class.

Make sure to switch between the three “Scientific Datasets” and point out the seagrass (dark stuff): True Color, Color Enhanced (helps you see the seagrass better), and the Bathymetry. Help the students understand the bathymetry map: relate the key to the map (green color is land, purple/blue colors are water depths) and the darker the color the deeper the water. Engage the students in the map by asking questions. If the students are struggling with the color scale, remind them that weather maps uses a color scale to demonstrate precipitation strength or temperature ranges. In the bathymetry map, the color scale represents the water depth.

Then chose the “Compare Images” button at the bottom. Move the cursor along the bottom slider, so the students can see how the image changes from the “Color Enhanced” to the “Bathymetry” map. Somewhere in the middle help the students look for a pattern between the location of seagrass beds and bathymetry. You can see that the seagrass grows in the 2nd and 3rd purples (middle shades of depth).

Then have the students work in their pairs to complete Locations 2 and then 3 (Location 2 is the easiest to identify the seagrass). First have the students find the seagrass in the next two locations. If the students are getting stuck, pull the class together to discuss where the seagrass is located. Have the students determine if the relationship between seagrass and depth they found in Location 1 holds true in the other two locations.

17) Stop: Class Discussion

When students are done with the interactive, pull them back together as a class to review the patterns between the location of seagrass growth and depth that they observed. Have the class come to a consensus about what are the depths in which seagrass grows? (about 1-5 m)

The students should understand that bathymetry can influences where the seagrass grow.

18) Light versus Depth

19) Measuring Light Penetration

20) Secchi Depth Map

Have the students look at the map and answer the questions.

  • What do you see?
  • Where do you think seagrass will grow?

After the students have completed their journal question, engage them in a brief class discussion about their responses.

21) STOP: Group Discussion

Students should work in pairs to describe the relationship between where seagrass grows and bathymetry. It is important for the students to struggle through determining the mathematical relationship, there will be a class discussion to follow.

If the students are struggling provide the students with an example. Talk with the students about how to look at changes in a population size. When thinking through what affects the population size, two main factors are births and deaths of individuals within the population. So you could say that the increase in a population of individuals (I) is equal to the birth rate (b) minus the death rate (d) for the population or as a mathematical equation: I= b-d.

22) STOP: Class Discussion

Students need to come to the idea that seagrass grows at depths equal to or less than the deepest depth where the light can penetrate. And that both bathymetry and water clarity influence how well seagrass can grow.

Use guiding questions to help students understand the relationship.
1) If the bathymetry is 5 m and the water clarity is 3 m, can seagrass grow? NO, because the light does not penetrate to the bottom.
2) If the bathymetry is 3 m and the water clarity is 5 m, can seagrass grow? YES, because light penetrates to the seafloor.
3) If the bathymetry is 3 m and the water clarity is 3 m, can seagrass grow? YES, because light penetrates to the seafloor.

This activity is trying to help students to come up with the model of light penetration: Zc (depth to which light penetrates) > Zb (bathymetry/depth of seafloor) or Zc – Zb > 0.

23) Building a Model

24) Other Factors

In the class discussion students will have determined that although we investigated water depth, how clear the water is also affects the amount of sunlight reaches the seagrass. Help the students to think about what factors may influence how clear the water is in a particular area. For example, the amount of particulates in the water.

25) STOP: Class Discussion

26) Has Seagrass Growth Changed?

Knowing the new information about where and why the seagrass grows, help the students make the transition into understanding the need to know about how seagrass beds have changed over the past ten years. This should lead into a discussion about how can we quantify this? How can we tell how much seagrass there is overall in the Bay?

Help the students understand that in order to figure out the health of the ecosystem and how development might impact seagrass beds we can look at data over the past decades to see if there have been changes. We need to analyze the monitoring data to understand where we have been to understand how future actions may affect the health of the seagrass beds.

The goal is for kids to realize that by just looking at a photo its hard to say accurately whether seagrass coverage is changing. These images are hard to make a clear distinction of changes in seagrass beds, this is on purpose. It is designed to motivate students to want to quantify seagrass beds and to help them realize that they need more information and an additional method to quantify seagrass coverage in the Bay.

Also, this activity demonstrates that scientific data can be messy, that there are not clear answers, and that is a natural part of science. That is why scientists develop methods and tools to better quantify trends and patterns in data through the noise.

27) STOP: Class Discussion

We hope that the students will have differing views, which will spark a discussion among the students. If this does not happen, play the devil’s advocate to get the students to defend their opinions.

These images are hard to make a clear distinction of changes in seagrass beds, this is on purpose. It is designed to motivate students to want to quantify seagrass beds and to help them realize that they need more information and an additional method to quantify seagrass coverate.

28) How Can We Measure Seagrass?

Since we know we need to quantify the amount of seagrass, using quadrats is one way of measuring the amount of seagrass. Ask the students if this seem like an effective method for measuring seagrass across the whole bay? This is obviously not an effective way of measuring the entire bay.

If the students bring up that they could repeat this process in different parts of the bay and then extrapolate out to the entire bay, that is great. If not, no worries this will come up later in the unit.

29) Coverage Quantification

Have the students complete the interactive. The students need to come to a consensus about what criteria they want to use for each category and then use those criteria throughout the activity.

Students should work in pairs and come to an agreement on what the map would look like.

30) STOP: Group Discussion

While it may seem that there is no “objective” way of measuring seagrass coverage, we can as a scientific community agree on a specific set of criteria for measuring and use it consistently. This is like the peer review process for journal articles, we need to agree as a group on what counts as good measures.

Have the students work in small groups to agree on what each category is – spares, moderate, and dense – and then generate a single consensus map for the group.

31) STOP: Class Discussion

Now as a class the students need to agree on what each category is – sparse, moderate and dense and then generate a single consensus map. Discuss what are good ways to reach consensus- do we let the biggest student choose, do we go with the prettiest maps? No- we need to make reasoned and well justified choices. With time, these choices may change. Scientists engage in this type of activity (arguing and coming to consensus) all the time.

32) Computer Assignment

This slide provides information to the students about how scientists make the same decisions that they just did in the interactive to quantify seagrass bed coverage in the Bay, while showing them an actual map made by scientists of a seagrass bed.

33) Seagrass Changes Over Time

Now that the students know how to measure seagrass bed coverage, they will need to use that information to answer the journal questions about the seagrass distribution data from 1979 to 2009.

Allow the students to explore the interactive. If they are really struggling, then you can model how to look at the data from the different years for one of the study areas, then the students can do it themselves for the other two study areas.

Students should notice that the biggest change in seagrass distribution was between 1987 and 1999, and that there were fewer changes between 1979 and 1987 or between 1999 and 2003. Have students notice that the trend is not always loss of seagrass, some places actually have more seagrass in later years. However, overall there is a decrease. Have kids come up with hypotheses as to why the seagrass distribution and coverage in certain areas changed more than in other areas.

After the students have completed the interactive and written their journal question answers, lead the students in a discussion about their answers. Make sure the answers are plausible.

34) STOP: Class Discussion

Discuss with the students what might be causing changes in seagrass distribution over time. Ask the students what human activities might have also changed during this time period. If the students do not come up with land use, you may want to bring it up as a possibility. Students should begin to think about how the land use or human use of land development has changed.

35) Does Land Cover Affect Growth?

Engage the students in a discussion about what they see in the image. Have them come up with at least three different types of land cover in the image.

36) Land Cover

Remind the students of the previous investigation in which they figured out how seagrass coverage changed over time. In this investigation, they will look at changes in land cover over time in the Bay watershed.

Ask the students what land cover they think may have changed over time? Just get general ideas from the students.

37) Identifying Land Cover

These explorations should raise questions about the characterization for each land cover type. Why is a specific area classified as a particular land cover type. For example, what is Bare Land? Would a baseball park be Bare Land? Would a parking lot? Would an open field? How could the students get answers to these questions?

38) Land Cover Data

These maps show you where on the map the land cover types occur for each time period over the past few decades.

39) Land Cover Data (Cont)

This line graph shows the total area, across the whole Bay watershed, of each land cover type for each time period.

The students should observe that the amount of Developed Land has increased and the Upland Forest has decreased over time.

40) STOP: Class Discussion

Discuss the students’ answers to the questions on the previous page. What overall patterns did they find within specific land cover types and across the different land cover types?

41) Finding Development

This activity is asking students to look at the extremes of the Development Land data from the two farthest apart years in the data set. This is another way of looking at their observed trends from the previous line graph.

42) Seagrass and Land Cover

We suggest having the students pick an area (i.e., start with Study Area 1). First go through the Land Cover data, then the Seagrass Coverage data, and then through both datasets together. Ask if the students see any relationship between Land Cover and Seagrass Coverage or are there patterns over time.

Then break the students into two groups and have one group look at Study Area 2 and the other Study Area 3. When they have repeated the steps for the new study areas, have the students report out to the class what patterns they observed in the Study Area 2 and 3. How are they similar or different from one another? How are they similar or different from the patterns you all discussed about Study Area 1?

Students may ask why if most of the development is in the north, are seagrass beds in the south of the bay suffering? The answer is that what affects the north portion of the Bay will travel to the south portion of the Bay over time. Use the watershed activity or the Discovery on the next page to demonstrate how this happens.

43) STOP: Class Discussion

Make sure the students understand that as the development on land has increased the amount of seagrass has decreased over time in Barnegat Bay.

It is possible to also do the Discovery on watersheds here.

44) How Do Humans Affect Seagrass?

In this chapter, the students will explore the relationship between human development and seagrass density.

The students should be brainstorming ideas to answer the question. After the students think about the question individually, have them turn to a partner to share their ideas. Following will be a class discussion.

45) STOP: Class Discussion

We suspect that the students will come up with multiple ideas about what factors affect seagrass coverage. For example they may think jet skis can harm the grass beds, or plastic bags (floating waste) may hurt them too. Write students ideas on the board and try to categorize them under the following 4 headings:
a) trash and waste floating on water
b) damage from boats and jet skis
c) damage from piers/docks and boardwalks (human infrastructure)
d) damage from pollution (invisible waste in water)

46) Ask the Experts

Let the students go through the videos in whatever order they choose, but urge the students to watch all of the videos.

If you will be showing all of the videos to the class on a projector, ask for input from the students which order they would like to watch the videos.

All of these factors cause damage to seagrass, but help your students understand that they are looking for the factor that has the largest impact on seagrass coverage (i.e., water quality because the water stays in the bay due to the long residence time- doesn’t flush out).

47) STOP: Class Discussion

Review the students’ responses to the journal question on the previous page (What factor do you think is the primary reason for seagrass decline in Barnegat Bay?). Make sure students are supporting their answers with evidence from the expert videos (if need be return to the videos). The students should conclude that invisible waste- pollution, mainly nitrogen, is the main cause of the decline in seagrass coverage in the Bay.

Ask students to begin to get them thinking – where is the nitrogen coming from? What human activities may increase nitrogen load in watershed (the next investigation summarizes the answer)?

48) Do Nutrients Affect Seagrass?

In this investigation, students will learn more about the affects of nutrients (especially nitrogen) on the decline of seagrass coverage in the Bay.

49) Nitrogen Inputs

Have the students go through each of these sources in whatever order they would like. The students should conclude that fertilizer is the main source of nitrogen entering the Bay.

It is important for the students to understand that the murky water is not murky because of sand, but rather from living organisms within the water. See Related Activities for a suggestion of a hands-on activity to demonstrate this to your students.

50) Investigate the Mechanisms

The students should explore all six sources of data, in whatever order they choose. The students will be using the information they collect from these sources of data to make a diagram (model) of how all of this evidence and the decline of seagrass coverage in the Bay over time.

51) Put It Together

The students need to create an explanation (textual or pictorial) that explains why an increase in nitrogen affects seagrass coverage. This model should include the following mechanisms: nutrients are taken up by alage, resulting in an algal bloom at the water surface, which makes the water murky, which shades the seagrass beds, which prevents the seagrass from growing, which leads to a decline in seagrass coverage.

52) STOP: Class Discussion

53) What Other Factors Matter?

It is important to print out the downloadable information that are included on each page of the first half of the Explanation section (Development Options, Economic Impact, Environmental Impact, Stakeholder Information) for each student group prior to class starting. There is a lot of important information to digest on each page and students may want to move back and forth between the pieces of information when making their decisions later in the Explanation section, so printing out the materials will make it easier for the students.

Provide students with the autonomy to navigate through the following pages by themselves at the pace that works for them as they learn the information and make their decisions. By available to answer questions, but let the students
work at their own pace.

There is no correct decision to make about the development options. The important aspect is that the students back up their decisions in the science and the value they place on each of the aspects that are included in the Decision Making Matrix. Meaning, two groups will most likely come up with different decisions but each will be grounded in their knowledge and values placed in the decision making process.

54) Development Options

Encourage the students to think about the various development options in terms of their environmental impact (i.e., density of population and nature of land use) and the economic benefit to the town.

55) Economic Impact

Make sure that the students understand the different components of the economic benefit of each of the development options.

They do not need to completely understand all of the text on taxes, the important information is included in the table (and the text provides the background information to understand the table).

56) Environmental Impact

Ensure that students understand the different components of the environmental impact due to nitrogen from each of the development options. Each development option includes all of the Nitrogen Sources, but the quantity of each varies among each development option and these variations result in different environmental impacts for each option.

57) Weighing the Options - Impacts Chart

Students complete the Impact Chart to help them pull all of this information together and compare the important features of each development option. This will help the students summarize the information they have learned about in the previous 3 pages objectively into the Impact Chart.

58) Stakeholder Information

The students should click through each of the stakeholders to learn their perspective on the town, tourism, and what matters to them in terms of people moving into the town.

It is likely that students will identify with some stakeholders more than others. This will help the students understand what their values are that will be driving their decision making later in the Explanation section.

59) Decision Making Matrix

The final two steps in the decision process involve determining how each zoning option will affect each stakeholder and then combining this rating with a value judgment about the relative importance of each stakeholder (in score form). This second step is entirely subjective and reflects each student’s view about the merits of the various stakeholders.

It is important that students use the “Click here for Instructions” button to ensure that they understand how to use information from the Impact Chart and integrate it with their new knowledge about the perspectives of the stakeholders to fill out the table in step 1.

In step 2 they rate the stakeholders and the software will use the rating (step 2) and the impact on stakeholders (step 1) to figure out the highest scoring option- the optimal solution.

There is NO correct answer for this Decision Making Matrix. Groups that rank the order of stakeholders in step 2 differently will come up with a different preferred development option. This is a purposeful aspect of the design; in real-life there is no objective best option. The best option depends on your values and what (or whom) you care about. The decisions are not easy. This is why it is important to hear from multiple stakeholders.

60) STOP - Group Discussion

Have the students discuss their decision matrix process and outcomes in a small group. Are they satisfied with the outcome? If not they can go back and review how they rated the impacts on stakeholders, and the stakeholders themselves. Ultimately, each group must reach a consensus on the best zoning solution they would recommend.

61) STOP - Class Discussion

Have a few groups share their optimal choice and how they rated the stakeholders (which ones were most important to them). It is very likely that groups differ in their ranking and optimal solution. Groups can argue with each other and try to persuade each other to adopt their optimal solution. If there seem to be 2 or 3 “camps” then the class can break out into groups with representative from each camp (jigsaw) and try to persuade each other.

It is not necessary that the class reach a consensus optimal solution, but that they engage in the process of debating, providing reasons, and using evidence to justify their claims. These are important learning experiences. Ultimately, each student can justify his/her own decision (whether they have changed their minds or not) in the final journal question.

This activity is analogous to many decision-making situations in real life, such as voting for a president. Discuss with the students how science can inform, but isn’t the sole factor, in making social decisions like this one.

62) Thank You for Your Help

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