Data Search





by Nancy Stevick

Lesson 1/Lesson 2/Lesson 3

PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION - I believe that educational activities based on real data have more meaning for students than simple skills and drill. If students think that their work might actually be contributing to a better scientific understanding of a concept, they will be more interested and involved. I am pleased to be a part of the team that has created the WhaleNet web site at http://whale.wheelock.edu. This site brings real data on marine mammals to the general public. Some of the data presented on this site include satellite telemetry data on tagged whales, porpoises, turtles and seals, whale watch data, research cruise tracks, humpback sighting data and much more.

CONTEXT - This curriculum was created to accompany the WhaleNet on-line Humpback Catalog. The WhaleNet site gets up to 10,000 hits per day, and many of these users are educators looking for ways to make their lessons more interesting and informative. Teachers of all levels use this site in their classrooms. I have geared the activities included in this curriculum toward middle school level. Most of the activities could easily be revised for elementary and secondary level. This curriculum is meant to be used as a resource and guideline, and must be adapted by individual instructors to best meet the needs of their students.

DESIGN - This is an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to meet objectives for middle grades (5-8) as outlined in the State of Maine Learning Results. Individual teachers can adapt this design to meet their school's curriculum goals and objectives.

Aims - Upon completion of this unit, students will have a basic knowledge of humpback whales in the North Atlantic. They will understand how the research technique of photo-identification (photo-id) works, be able to plot latitude and longitude points on a navigational chart, and have a general understanding of the life history of the humpback whale. Additionally, they will have improved their skills of using the Internet as a research tool.

Goals - Students will be able to discuss the natural history of the humpback whale, explain the technique of photo-id, know the geography of the North Atlantic, especially the Gulf of Maine and the area off the Dominican Republic where humpbacks spend the winter. They will have researched one issue regarding humpbacks in depth and presented their findings orally, graphically and in writing. They will have designed and conducted a research project using photo-id, analyzed data from the WhaleNet On-line Catalog on an individual humpback and used that data and additional environmental information to write a narrative about their whale.

Cognitive Objectives - At the end of the unit, students will be able to:

1. Locate the Gulf of Maine on a map and describe its climate, oceanographic currents, productivity, and some of the larger marine life.

2. Describe and use the research technique of photo-identification.

3. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of photo-id as a research tool.

4. Employ simple statistics to determine a population in a closed system.

5. Collect and analyze sighting data for one or more humpback whales from the WhaleNet On-line Catalog.

6. Create their own chart of the North Atlantic and plot their whale's sighting.

7. Research a current issue about humpback whales and create a presentation for a general audience using written reports, oral and graphic representations.

8. Utilize a variety of resources such as web sites, books, journal articles, environmental and governmental agencies to obtain information for their presentations.

9. Learn about the research organizations which have contributed data to the WhaleNet on-line catalog.

10. Develop a research hypothesis and design a research experiment using photo-id to test that hypothesis.

Affective Objectives - By the end of the unit, students will have

1. Gained group process skills while sharing computers to access the On-line Catalog for data.

2. Gained valuable research and analytical skills in designing and implementing their own photo-id studies.

3. Improved critical thinking skills in interpreting their humpback's sighting data.

4. Gained self confidence in public speaking.

Psychomotor Objectives - During the unit, students will

1. Create their own navigational chart of the North Atlantic and use navigational tools to plot humpback sightings on this chart .

2. Use a variety of tools to measure the distances traveled by various humpback whales.

3. Create a 2-dimensional model of a humpback fluke and graphic illustrations for their presentations.

Time Allotment - To do all the activities contained in this curriculum could easily take a full semester or more. While some teachers might have the inclination or luxury for this, others might include some of the activities as part of a larger marine studies curriculum. Time spent on each activity will be determined by the individual teacher.

Scope and Sequence (Vertical organization) - The scope of this unit depends on the needs and objectives of the teachers using it. Teachers using the curriculum in its entirety, can expect students to have a general knowledge of the North Atlantic humpbacks (migration routes, feeding grounds, wintering grounds, prey, reproduction), the research technique of photo-identification, the WhaleNet web site and all it has to offer.

The sequence of this unit moves from the general to the specific. Students first learn about photo-id, use this tool to study a subject of their choice, then advance to the study of North Atlantic humpbacks and the data included in the on-line catalog.

Horizontal Organization - Students will learn field research techniques of photo-identification, then will analyze the data from the on-line humpback catalog. The estimation activities and mark/recapture activities both include mathematics as a major component. Activities for the Gulf of Maine include math skills for plotting and navigation, as well as social studies skills in investigating the cultures of communities along the Gulf of Maine and the Dominican Republic. Many of the activities include language arts components such as library and Internet research and writing. Art or photography will be a component of the photo-identification studies.

Centeredness and Roles of Teacher and Students - The way it is designed, this unit is a combination of teacher and student-centered activities. While the teacher directs the general progress of this unit, students chose the specific topics they research and study. The teacher is a facilitator and resource while students are the researchers and presenters. Students work individually and in groups for these activities.

Sources of Content and Procedures of the Lesson - The sources for this curriculum are science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts, visual arts, Internet research, library research, observations by the students, and information from marine mammal experts.

Materials and Formative Evaluation- Materials needed are listed under each activity. Evaluation is listed at the end of each lesson.

Summative Evaluation - At the end of the unit, students will be evaluated on their photo-id research projects, charts and plots of whale sightings, interpretation of data and their narrative. They will be evaluated on the originality of their research topic and their research methods for their own photo-id studies and on the accuracy and imaginative analysis of the data from the humpback catalog. The knowledge they have gained throughout this unit should be reflected in their narratives and presentations on productivity. These will not be compared to each other, but will be evaluated on their own merits using the following criteria

How much each individual student progressed

Accuracy of measurements

Content of presentations and narratives

Imagination used for narratives and interpretation of data

Aesthetic qualities of graphics

Effort of student

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ORDER a Humpback Whale Catalogue CD-ROM. Natural histories of 20 marine mammal species common to the North Atlantic Ocean, software for YOU to photo-identify your own humpback photographs, and sighting histories of each humpback whale in our catalogue.


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