This semester, our 3rd and 4th grade students explored the unique ecology of the San Francisco Bay through two great experiential learning opportunities.
4th grade students visited Treasure Island and participated in the “Set, Sail, Learn!” program.
During the first half of the trip, students explored the Bay on sailboats!
They learned how to steer…
And had fun paddling on the side.
They also took turns playing “captain” of the boat…
And found some neat treasures (lots of seaweed!) in the water.
After returning to land, the students continued learning about the complex ecosystem of the Bay Area by studying the Dungeness Crab, an essential part of the marine food web. We were fortunate enough to visit on a day when our field trip guides caught a crab!
They brought it inside for our stay, allowing us to study it up-close!
The students discussed the various adaptations of the Dungeness Crab, including structural, physiological, and behavioral adaptations.
They also determined the sex of the crab by examining its abdomen, and discussed the importance of returning female Dungeness Crabs to the water to prevent population decline. Then they explored how other factors affect the Dungeness Crab population by playing a game called “Oh Crab!”
Half of the students represented different environmental components that crabs need to survive. Students held their hands over their heads to represent shelter, put their hands on their stomachs to represent food, and held their noses to represent oxygen…
The other half of the students were crabs. They turned their backs to the environments and picked one component (shelter, food, or oxygen) to pair with. One-by-one they turned around. If their environment was available they survived, but if it was depleted they died. They repeated this several times, with each round representing one year. They tracked the population throughout the years, then graphed the results in their notebooks.
They wrapped the lesson by discussing how human behaviors can affect the ecology of the San Francisco Bay, and the Dungeness Crab population that lives here.
Our third grade students had similar discussions last week, when the Aquarium of the Bay’s BayMobile visited the school.
They began by learning about animal adaptations, and played a game that illustrated how animals adapt to a changing environment.
Each student had a different type of “hand” (a pair of chopsticks, spoon, or spork) with which to gather food. Initially, large beans were plentiful and all of the students successfully gathered food…
Even those with chopstick hands!
However, as the climate changed, large beans were no longer available and were replaced by small grains. The spoon hands were still fairly successful…
However, the chopstick hands ran into trouble!
They then applied what they learned in the game to understanding a real-life example of animals adapting to climate change.
They all had a chance to meet a red-eared slider turtle.
They agreed that the turtles make for very cute pets. However, they also learned that the red-eared slider is not native to the Bay Area, and poses a threat to the native western pond turtle by competing for resources.
Further, they learned that the two turtles have different adaptations, similar to the different “hands” in the game, and that the native western pond turtle may be less likely to survive in our changing climate, just like the chopstick hands were less likely to survive in the game.
The BayMobile visit and Treasure Island field trip both sparked great discussion with students about ways to “be green” and protect the natural beauty of our wonderful Bay Area.