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

Unit Plan

This Human Impact Adventure explores the Barnegat Bay ecosystem and potential land development options around the Bay. During this adventure, students work collaboratively to make a decision in a complex situation by taking into account science, social science, and the points of view of various stakeholders. The overarching question is how should a fictitious town zone a plot of land next to the Bay. Along the way, students learn how to determine the health of an ecosystem, how the Bay ecosystem and land usage patterns have changed over time, and what impacts humans and different development option could have on the Bay ecosystem. Through this unit students learn about what seagrasses are, how and where they grow, if their distribution has changed over time, the relationship between land development and the health of seagrass beds, the effects of nitrogen on segrasses, and the opinions of various stakeholders and human benefits of the different land development options. Students engage in problem-based learning, as they must compile all of the presented information to make a recommendation to the town Zoning Commission on which way the town should zone the plot of land. Data interpretation, model formation, and spatial literacy are just some of the science practices highlighted throughout the unit.

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Overview of Unit Format

The overall format of the unit is first establishing a problem, then leading the students through investigations to learn necessary information to make an informed decision about the problem, and finally supporting the students in developing an explanation of how to address the problem. This format is also mimicked within each investigation, with an introductory engagement, investigations of the topic in depth, and a guided reflection of the topic.

The unit plan is written with students progressing through as a class with the teacher facilitating the rate of progress and shifting between student work at the computer to group and whole class discussions. This unit has been designed for each student to work at their own computer. However, we recognize the reality of practical and resource constraints that many teachers face and thus the unit is easily adaptable to have students work in small teams or as an entire class with a white board.

Journal questions have been strategically placed throughout the unit so students have the opportunity to stop and reflect on their learning. Many of these questions can be utilized as class discussion topics and are a great opportunity for formative assessment.

The unit is designed to allow adaptability and customization to the needs of different groups of students. Core activities and information of the unit (in a recommended sequence) constitute the main flow of the unit, while Discovery activities and readings provide extension opportunities (in green “Learn more about…” boxes at the bottom of select pages).

Throughout the unit we have included Teacher Tips that are only accessible through a teacher account. These tips include “In-Class Notes” that provide content and teaching style recommendations to assist you in leading the page, “Related Activities” that list other activities related to the content covered on the page, “Student Difficulties” that describe known issues or content struggles that students often face with the content or activity of the page, and “Additional Resources” that provide further background information or explanations of the content or activity set-up of the page. All of these Teacher Tips have been designed to provide you with more specific information about the individual pages within the unit.

The following unit progression is suggested (with timing based on a 9th grade reading level and a 45 minute period). Student journals can be printed each day for you to review or can be accessed electronically through your teacher account.

 

Overarching Question for the Unit

How will the different zoning options affect the Bay?

 

New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards – Science

Standard CPI# Content Statement
Earth System Science 5.4.8.G.2 Investigations of environmental issues address underlying scientific causes and may inform possible solutions.
Earth System Science 5.4.12.G.5 Human activities have changed Earth’s land, oceans, and atmosphere, as well as its populations of plant and animal species.
Earth System Science 5.4.12.G.6 Scientific, economic, and other data can assist in assessing environmental risks and benefits associated with societal activity.
Life Science 5.3.12.C.2 Stability in an ecosystem can be disrupted by natural or human interactions.
Science Practices 5.1.8.A.2 Results of observation and measurement can be used to build conceptual-based models and to search for core explanations.
Science Practices 5.1.8.B.3 Carefully collected evidence is used to construct and defend arguments.
Science Practices 5.1.8.C.2 Predictions and explanations are revised to account more completely for available evidence.
Science Practices 5.1.8.D.1 Science involves practicing productive social interactions with peers, such as partner talk, whole-group discussions, and small-group work.
Science Practices 5.1.8.D.2 In order to determine which arguments and explanations are most persuasive. Communities of learners work collaboratively to pose, refine, and evaluate questions, investigations, models, and theories (e.g., argumentation, representation, visualization, etc.).
Science Practices 5.1.12.A.3 Revisions of predictions and explanations are based on systematic observations, accurate measurements, and structure data/evidence.
Science Practices 5.1.12.B.3 Empirical evidence is used to construct and defend arguments.
Science Practices 5.1.12.C.1 Refinement of understandings, explanations, and models occurs as new evidence is incorporated.
Science Practices 5.1.12.D.1 Science involves practicing productive social interactions with peers, such as partner talk, whole-group discussions, and small-group work.
Science Practices 5.1.12.D.2 Science involves using language, both oral and written, as a tool for making thinking public.

 

Lesson 1: Unit Problem

Whole class with whiteboard or individual computers with students working in groups
[1 class period]
5 journal questions, 1 group discussion, 2 whole class discussions, 0 Discoveries

*Web Pages: 1-8

Students are introduced to the problem and then “attend” a town Zoning Commission meeting to hear the development proposals of the four interested parties (6 minutes). Student are then asked to give their first impression of how they think the land should be zoned for development. They begin to learn about the Barnegat Bay ecosystem and participate in a whole class discussion to determine what they need to know before they can make a good decision.

Tasks Include

  • Listening to town Zoning Commission meeting with interested parties development proposals
  • Watching video travel-log of Barnegat Bay
  • Brainstorming needed information to make a recommendation about the zoning options
  • Watching introductory video of the Barnegat Bay ecosystem
  • Brainstorming necessary information about Barnegat Bay ecosystem and seagrass beds

Journal Questions

  • Now that you’ve heard from everyone, what do you think the town should do and why? (page 2) –students should not strive to have the answer but are doing an initial brainstorm to determine what they would need to make a recommendation.
  • What would you need to know to help you answer the question above? (page 4) – addressing “How will the different zoning options affect the Bay?”
  • Enter your answers below. (page 5) – following a group discussion of “What would you need to know to determine how the different zoning options (cluster homes, a hotel, large residential mansions, and a park) affect the bay?” and “What else would you like to know about the Bay ecosystem to help you make this decision?”
  • How might we know if the Bay ecosystem is healthy or not? (page 7) – emphasize that this is a brainstorming exercise.

Lesson 2: Investigation 1 – What Are Seagrass Beds?

Whole class with whiteboard or individual computers with students working in groups
[1 class period]
1 journal question, 0 group discussions, 0 whole class discussions, 0 Discoveries

*Web Pages: 9-12

Students learn to differentiate seaweeds from seagrasses and learn about the different types of each. Then students delve deeper into the benefits of seagrass and begin to think about potential consequences to the Barnegat Bay ecosystem if seagrass beds are damaged.

Tasks Include

  • Learning of the differences between seagrass and seaweed
  • Using the Dichotomous Key interactive to identify different seagrasses and seaweeds
  • Exploring benefits seagrass beds provide to the ecosystem

Journal Questions

  • Answer the question above in your journal. (page 12) – addressing “What might be the consequences to the Bay ecosystem if seagrass beds were damaged?”

Lesson 3: Investigation 2 – Where Does Seagrass Grow?

Individual computers
[2-3 class periods]
4 journal questions, 1 group discussion, 3 whole class discussions, 2 Discoveries

*Web Pages: 13-25

Students learn how to interpret satellite images and how to look at different sources of data overlaid to explore the relationship between depth and the presence of seagrass beds. Students learn about light penetration depth, secchi depth data, and computer algorithms to model seagrass growth. Finally, students brainstorm factors that affect how far light can penetrate into the water and explain the impact that has on seagrass growth. Encourage your students to watch the movie in “Learn More About…a Secchi disk in action.” (page 19) to see how the instrument works.

Tasks Include

  • Identifying features in a satellite image
  • Using color enhanced satellite images to identify seagrass beds
  • Comparing locations of seagrass beds with water depth
  • Explaining the factors that affect where seagrass beds can grow
  • Exploring relationship between light penetration depth and depth of water
  • Understanding light penetration depth and how it is measured
  • Observing secchi depth data on a map
  • Understanding how a computer model for seagrass growth vs. light penetration depth in the Bay works
  • Exploring the influence of turbidity on light penetration depth and seagrass growth

Journal Questions

  • What relationship do you observe between the location of seagrass beds and the bathymetry of the Bay? (page 16) – for the students to complete after doing the “Where Do Seagrass Beds Grow?” interactive.
  • Based upon this map, where do you think that seagrass beds will grow? Why? (page 20) – the students should be responding in general terms of locations around the Bay, not just within the Study Area Boundaries.
  • What relationship did you come up with? (page 21) – with respect to where seagrass is able to grow.
  • Write your answer here to the question above. (page 24) – addressing “What factors could influence how deep light can penetrate in the Bay?”

Discoveries

  • Learn more about…Satellite Images & Remote Sensing (page 15) – explores how remote sensing works, different types of remotely sensed images, and how scientists manipulate images to make them easier to interpret.
  • Learn more about…How to Use Secchi Depths (page 20) – explores how secchi depth data is converted to light penetration depth data for the area.
  • Learn more about…How to Calculate Where Seagrass May Grow (page 23) – explores how scientists create maps of data from computer models.

Lesson 4: Investigation 3 – Has Seagrass Growth Changed?

Individual computers
[1-2 class periods]
3 journal questions, 1 group discussion, 3 whole class discussions, 2 Discoveries

*Web Pages: 26-34

Students learn the methods that scientists use in the field and with computers to quantify seagrass bed coverage in the Bay. Using this information students then interpret maps of seagrass distribution over the past few decades to observe changes in seagrass distribution over time.

Tasks Include

  • Learning how scientists measure seagrass coverage in the field
  • Quantifying seagrass coverage from an aerial image
  • Understanding a computer model that outputs seagrass coverage for the Bay
  • Exploring changes in seagrass distribution over time

Journal Questions

  • Did the amount of seagrass in Barnegat Bay change between 2006 and 2008? If so, how? (page 26) – following the class discussion of the two images.
  • Answer the questions below: For each study area, describe what changes occurred over the 4 time periods. Can you speculate why some places experience larger losses of seagrass bed distribution compared to others? (page 33) – while completing the “Seagrass Coverage” interactive.
  • Answer the question above in your journal. (page 34) – addressing “What might be some reasons why the seagrass bed distribution is decreasing over time in Barnegat Bay?” following the class discussion.

Discoveries

  • Learn more about…How We Make Maps from Data Points (page 32) – explores how scientists create maps of continuous data from discrete data points, with an example of how to do it at home.
  • Learn more about…Comparing Seagrass Data Over Time (page 33) – explains how scientists have tracked changes in seagrass distribution over time and what patterns they have observed.

Lesson 5: Investigation 4 – Does Land Cover Affect Growth?

Individual computers
[1-2 class periods]
4 journal questions, 0 group discussions, 2 whole class discussions, 2 Discoveries

*Web Pages: 35-43

Students learn of the classification scheme that scientists use to quantify land cover types and then practice identifying land cover types from satellite images and data maps. Using this knowledge, students interpret changes in land cover data over time through data maps and a line graph. Finally, students explore the relationship between changes in seagrass distribution and land cover over time.

Tasks Include

  • Learning how scientists classify different land cover types
  • Identifying land cover types from satellite images and maps of land cover data
  • Exploring changes in land cover over time through data maps
  • Interpreting total land cover data over time from a line graph
  • Comparing changes in specific types of land cover among land cover maps
  • Exploring the relationship between seagrass distribution and land cover over time

Journal Questions

  • What has happened to the land cover in the Barnegat Bay watershed between 1986 and 2010? (page 38) – have the students watch the animation of the land cover maps a few times before answering this question.
  • Write your answers to the questions above here. (page 39) – addressing “Which type of land cover changed the most (either increased or decreased)? Which changed the least?” and “Compare the graphs for Developed Land and Upland Forest- do you see any relationship in the trends (graph shape) for these two types of land cover?”
  • In what part of the watershed did most of the development occur? (page 41) – students should answer after they make observations of the 1972 and 2010 land cover maps.
  • Describe the correlation between land cover changes and seagrass distribution. (page 43) – following the class discussion.

Discoveries

  • Learn more about…Land Use vs. Land Cover (page 36) – explains the differences between land cover and land use, as well as provides definitions of the different land cover types.
  • Learn more about…Watersheds (page 43) – provides an interactive to explore what happens to rain in different parts of a watershed.

Lesson 6: Investigation 5 – How Do Humans Affect Seagrass?

Whole class with whiteboard or individual computers with students working in groups
[1 class period]
2 journal questions, 0 group discussions, 2 whole class discussions, 1 Discovery

*Web Pages: 44-47

Students first brainstorm potential impacts on seagrass bed coverage and distribution, then learn from scientists about five categories of potential impacts, and finally make a hypothesis as to the primary impact on seagrass beds in Barnegat Bay.

Tasks Include

  • Brainstorming what human factors may be inhibiting the distribution and coverage of seagrass beds in Barnegat Bay
  • Learning from scientists about five major categories of potential impacts on seagrass beds

Journal Questions

  • What human factors do you think might be inhibiting seagrass distribution in Barnegat Bay? (page 44) – students should be brainstorming at this point.
  • What factor do you think is the primary reason for seagrass decline in Barnegat Bay? (page 46) – have the students complete after they watch all five videos.

Discoveries

  • Learn more about…How Nutrients Make it into the Bay (page 47) – provides an interactive to investigate possible sources of nonpoint pollution.

Lesson 7: Investigation 6 – How Do Nutrients Affect Seagrass?

Whole class with whiteboard or individual computers with students working in groups
[1 class period]
1 journal question, 0 group discussions, 1 whole class discussion, 0 Discoveries

*Web Pages: 48-52

Students learn about different sources of nitrogen into the Bay and then investigate six different data sources of nitrogen and how they may or may not be affecting seagrass health. Using this information, students make a diagram (model) of the relationship between changes in land cover and seagrass distribution over time. Encourage the students to look at the “Learn more about…what a scientific model looks like.” (page 51) to gain a better understanding of how to make their diagram (model).

Tasks Include

  • Exploring different sources of nutrients, especially nitrogen, into the Bay
  • Investigating six different sources of data for evidence of how increases in nitrogen affects seagrass coverage and distribution
  • Drawing a model of how the change in land cover over time has affected seagrass beds in the Bay

Journal Questions

  • Explain the relationship between increasing nitrogen and changes in seagrass beds over time. (page 52) – following the class discussion have students reflect upon each others models.

Lesson 8: Unit Explanation & Recommendation

Whole class with whiteboard or individual computers with students working in groups
[1-2 class periods]
1 journal question, 1 group discussion, 1 whole class discussion, 0 Discoveries

*Web Pages: 53-63

First, students are exposed to a range of other information that should be taken into account when making their recommendations to the town Zoning Commission. They learn about the environmental and economic impacts associated with the different development options and use that information to complete an Impacts Chart (encourage the students to read the “Impacts Chart Instructions” before completing the chart). Then they are presented with the opinions of local stakeholders and asked to reflect upon all of the information they have gathered throughout the unit. Students use the “Decision Making Matrix” interactive to finalize their recommendation of which development option the town Zoning Commission should allow (encourage the students to read the “Click here for instructions” before completing the matrix). Following the students making a decision, they will first present to one another in a small group and then to the entire class.

Tasks Include

  • Researching the development options
  • Exploring the economic benefits and impacts of development
  • Applying knowledge of nitrogen to assign potential impacts of different development options
  • Developing an Impacts Chart for each of the development options based upon a range of criteria
  • Listening to local stakeholders explain their thoughts and opinions of the area
  • Making a decision about what to recommend to the town Zoning Commission
  • Discussing the student’s recommendations within small groups and to the class

Journal Questions

  • Now that you’ve heard the decisions and reasons from other groups, do you still agree with your original decision or did you change your mind? Why? (page 61) – following the class discussion have students reflect upon their learning.

 

Time Planning

Lesson Concept Type of Activity Class Periods Extensions
1 Introduction to Unit Problem Computer Information Gathering / Discussions 1
2 Investigation 1 – What Are Seagrass Beds? Computer Interactives 1
3 Investigation 2 – Where Does Seagrass Grow? Computer Interactives / Discussions 2-3 Reading: Satellite Images & Remote Sensing
Reading: How to Use Secchi Depths
Reading: How to Calculate Where Seagrass May Grow
Video: A Secchi disk in action
4 Investigation 3 – Has Seagrass Growth Changed? Computer Interactives / Discussions 1-2 Reading: How We Make Maps from Data Points
Reading: Comparing Seagrass Data Over Time
5 Investigation 4 – Does Land Cover Affect Seagrass? Computer Interactives / Discussions 1-2 Reading: Land Use vs. Land Cover
Interactive: Watersheds
6 Investigation5 – How Do Humans Affect Seagrass? Computer Information Gathering / Discussions 1 Interactive: How Nutrients Make it into the Bay
7 Investigation 6 – Do Nutrients Affect Seagrass? Computer Information Gathering / Discussions 1 Demonstration: what a scientific model looks like
8 Unit Explanation and Recommendation Computer Information Gathering / Computer Interactives / Discussions 1-2
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