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ESS Jigsaw Team Formation

ESS Rubric

What are some interrelated teaching opportunities?
This module has been designed for the middle school science curriculum. However, given the issues that will arise during student research, students will engage in a variety of academic disciplines. This module lends itself to an interdisciplinary approach with the following curriculums in mind:

social studies, history, & geography
math
language arts / writing
art

Providing for Reflection
Despite a limited level of commitment while working on a module, students can still experience significant learning if they enter into the reflection process. Ideally, reflection occurs at various points during the module; however, reflection done only at the close of a module can also be a powerful learning experience.

 

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What is the focus of this module?
The Florida Everglades module is an inquiry project that uses Internet technology to explore the dilemma of wetlands management. The module is based upon the continued debate over the restoration of the natural cycle of water to the Florida Everglades.  During the latter part of the twentieth century, Congress sanctioned the restoration of the natural cycle of water through the Florida Everglades. The Everglades Wildlife Refuge is worried about how the restoration of the natural flow of water through the Everglades will impact the endangered Florida Panthers that live there. The Everglades Wildlife Refuge has challenged your students to perform an ESS analysis of the restoration of water level and flow to the Everglades ecosystem. Your students will predict the future survival of the Florida Panther.

What are the student's procedures for this module?
By following the steps outlined in the Protocol below, the students should generate the information necessary to make predictions about the future of the Florida Panther.

Protocol: First, you will do an Earth system science analysis. Then you will make predictions based on the results of your ESS analysis concerning the future of the Florida Panther. Following the steps below will help you accomplish your task for the Everglades Wildlife Refuge.

Step 1 List what is known.
Step 2 List what is needed.
Step 3 Gather information to complete an Earth system science (ESS) analysis.
Step 4 Present your findings.

A Comprehensive Sample of ESS Protocol has been created for this module. The sample includes an ESS analysis of the restoration of water level and flow to the Everglades ecosystem. It also includes predictions, based on the results of the ESS analysis, concerning the future of the Florida Panther. This comprehensive sample contains a broad spectrum of potential impacts of the event on Earth's spheres and the subsequent feedback and potential interactions that might result. Most students will not present this much information. In addition, although it is comprehensive, it is not necessarily complete. The students may provide an ESS analysis with explanations of their predictions regarding the future of the Florida that are not listed in the sample.

What are the teacher's procedures for conducting this module?
The "Florida Everglades" Module is based upon Earth system science (ESS) thinking and Problem Based-Learning (PBL) pedagogy. The students are asked to examine the potential impacts of restoration of water flow to the Florida Everglades on the Earth's spheres and the subsequent feedback and potential interactions that might result. Rather than formulating "right" or "wrong" answers, the learners should be able to provide an ESS analysis that explains their predictions regarding the future of the Florida Panther.

Your students can use this module independently (independent research) or collaboratively as a community of learners. You can find information about how to organize "jigsaw" cooperative group learning with this module.

What science content and issues will students encounter as they work through the module? As students examine the spheres that comprise the Earth's system, they should be able to understand the effects of natural events and human activities on wetlands. The main content issues students raise are:

  • Human actions and natural changes affect the balance within the Everglades ecosystem.
  • There are positive and negative impacts associated with passing environmental laws and regulations.
  • Changes in the Everglades affect the Florida Panther.

Students may also encounter a variety of related science content issues you may wish to reinforce depending upon the content you are teaching:

  • basic needs of plants and animals and how these needs are met
  • energy flow in a food chain through an energy pyramid
  • the common types of wetlands plants and animals
  • the different functions of a wetland
  • adaptations of plants and animals to their environment
  • cycles within an ecosystem -- the water cycle, the rock cycle, or the carbon dioxide/oxygen cycle (photosynthesis) as well as the reproductive cycle of the Florida Panther
  • effects of limiting factors on an organism and carrying capacity of an ecosystem
  • niches for producers, consumers, and decomposers within the Everglades

How is remote sensing used in this module?
Maps and remote sensing images can provide significant amounts of information in a compact form about the situation in south Florida and the panthers' environment.

Land-Use Maps The three land-use maps, while not remote sensing images, illustrate how the environment has changed in and around the Everglades in the last century. The land-use base image is a recent map showing major cities, roads, county, and park boundaries in south Florida. The 1900 map shows that the Everglades were originally a swath of sawgrass and "wet prairie" curving south and then southeast from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico. The ecology of the entire area depended upon the flow of water that came out of the south end of the lake and flowed through the area as a broad, shallow river. The soil to the south of Lake Okeechobee was very rich. As people moved into the area, they drained the land for farms and sugarcane plantations. Similarly, cities grew along the beautiful sandy beaches and pinelands of the eastern coast. The growth of the farms and the cities appear vividly in the 1953 and 1973 maps in reds and purples, respectively. Switching quickly between the maps in sequence provides an almost movie-like effect that shows the changes in land use.

The land-use maps do not show the diversion of water away from the Everglades and into agricultural and municipal water systems, or out into the Atlantic. Nor do they illustrate how the panthers deal with the restricted environment. The panther habitat maps and satellite images show these aspects of the situation.

Florida Panther's Habitat The base map for the Florida Panther's habitat overlays a false-color Landsat mosaic. In this rendition, vegetation appears in natural greens; cities are pink; agricultural fields are red; and water is black. Most of the Everglades appear black because of the shallow sheet of water that covers the area. Both cities and farms extend up to the edge and, in some cases, into the Everglades along most of its circumference. Some forest still borders the area, but much of the green to the northwest of the park is pastureland as may be seen by overlaying the 1973 Land Use map.

The Roads overlay option adds roads (brown), park boundaries (green and yellow), and canals (blue) to the satellite image. Note how the roads and canals cut the Everglades into many small pieces. The roads and canals act as barriers to water flow, and divide up the panther habitat.

The Range overlay option shows locations of radio-collared panthers over a period of several years and provides an overview of how the panthers use what is left of their habitat. Comparison with the Land Use overlay shows that the panthers tend to stay in densely forested areas. However, the close proximity of the panther range to farms and cities shows that some farmers and city dwellers should not be surprised to occasionally find a panther in their backyard. Comparison of the panther range with the Roads overlay shows that some major roads act as barriers to panther movement. Although the panthers do not like moving through water, the range map shows some movement into and across some of the flooded sections of the Everglades. The red square at lower left is 250 square miles in area - the approximate range of a single male Florida panther. Given that there are about 50 panthers left, of which perhaps one third are adult males, comparison of a single panther's range with the remaining panther range on the map shows just how crowded the panthers are and suggests how stiff the competition for food must be. It also indicates how continued development of the forest and swamps of the area would easily squeeze the panthers to extinction.

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Grade Level: 5-8

What are some hands-on activities?
For teachers who use hands-on activities along with minds-on activities to ensure that students grasp the concepts, visit these websites for a variety of activities:

The Fragile Fringe

BellNet: Case Study in Wetland Management

NWF: Animal Tracks - Wetlands Activities

The Wetlands Network

EPA Teacher Resource Center

EPA Wetlands

Athena: Learing About Wetlands

 

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Last updated April 28, 2005
   

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