Bringing the Urban Environment Into the Classroom: Learning From an Estuarine Mesocosm

Appendix A: National Science Education Standards

This appendix indicates that this lesson meets the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996). Italicized text from Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 2000) is followed by a plain text description of how this lesson plan supports the specific standard.

Standard A—Teachers of science plan an inquiry-based program for their students. In doing this, teachers

  • Select science content and adapt and design curricula to meet the interests, knowledge, understanding, abilities, and experiences of students.
    By teaching general concepts of biology and environmental science through urban organisms and ecosystems, the lesson utilizes preexisting knowledge of the students' surroundings. By requiring students to conduct observational and literature research, the lesson utilizes the abilities of the students and leads to understanding and knowledge of the lesson content.
  • Select teaching and assessment strategies that support the development of student understanding and nurture a community of science learners.
    The students are given an excellent starting point for their independent work through the prepared fact sheets (Appendices C–F). By requiring independent research to complete the performance objective, teaching and assessment strategies are utilized that will greatly enhance student understanding. By requiring groups that have become student experts on one organism to teach other students during presentations, a community of science learners is developed.

Standard B- Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning. In doing this, teachers

  • Focus and support inquiries while interacting with students.
    This lesson enables students to be the primary scientific investigators through their own data collection and literature reviews. In this inquiry, teachers play a supportive role working alongside, not in front of, the students.
  • Challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their own learning.
    In addition to questions posed by the instructor(s), students are expected to develop their own questions to research about the organisms. In addition, because students are expected to peer teach the rest of the class on the group's independent work, each group is held responsible by the rest of the class.
  • Recognize and respond to student diversity and encourage all students to participate fully in science learning.
    This lesson plan is written for classes with a wide range of skill levels. The observational and group nature of the lesson plan encourages all students to participate; for example, students who might have strong observational skills but have difficulty conducting a literature review may be aided by other students who might have poor observational skills yet strong research skills.

Standard C- Teachers of science engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning. In doing this, teachers

  • Use multiple methods and systematically gather data about student understanding and ability.
  • Guide students in self-assessment.
  • Use student data, observations of teaching, and interactions with colleagues to reflect on and improve teaching practice.
  • Use student data, observations of teaching, and interactions with colleagues to report student achievement and opportunities to learn to students, teachers, parents, policymakers, and the general public.
    As part of the lesson, the instructor(s) is expected to continuously monitor and probe student progress through questioning. Furthermore, the culminating presentation, the use of self-assessment or peer assessment, and the use of a homework sheet to integrate concepts allows instructors to utilize a wide range of assessment strategies. Completion of the performance objective also creates a result that can be archived electronically to allow instructors to refine the lesson plan to better serve their needs.

Standard D- Teachers of science design and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science. In doing this, teachers

  • Structure the time available so that students are able to engage in extended investigations.
  • Create a setting for student work that is flexible and supportive of science inquiry.
  • Make available science tools, materials, media, and technological resources accessible to students.
  • Identify and use resources outside the school.
  • Engage students in designing the learning environment.
    The inquiry-based and student-designed nature of the project fulfills this national standard. By allowing groups to organize their own time between the tasks of observation, literature review, and presentation development, the lesson "create(s) a setting for student work that is flexible and supportive of science inquiry." By including as part of the fact sheets (Appendices C–F) Internet websites as resources and providing the students with computers that they can use to search those sites, technological science tools and outside resources are made available to the students. By asking that students design as a class the sampling procedure, and allowing individual discretion as to pertinent topics to be covered in group presentations, the students are engaged "in designing the learning environment."

Standard E- Teachers of science develop communities of science learners that reflect the intellectual rigor of science inquiry and the attitudes and social values conducive to science learning. In doing this, teachers

  • Display and demand respect for the diverse ideas, skills, and experiences of all students.
  • Nurture collaboration among students.
  • Model and emphasize the skills, attitudes, and values of scientific inquiry.
    This lesson relies heavily upon group work conducted by the students. As such, they must be collaborative. Within groups, each student is likely to posses a different "competitively advantageous" skill. That is, since the project requires observational work, literature review, and technical proficiency with Internet exploration and Microsoft PowerPoint software, the lesson "display(s) and demand(s) respect for diverse ideas, skills, and experiences of all students." By necessitating collaboration and rewarding a diverse skill set, the lesson also emphasizes the "attitudes and values of scientific inquiry."

The Essential Features of Classroom Inquiry

Learners are engaged by scientifically oriented questions:

  • Learners give priority to evidence, which allows them to develop and evaluate explanations that address scientifically oriented questions.
  • Learners formulate explanations from evidence to address scientifically oriented questions.
  • Learners evaluate their explanations in light of alternative explanations, particularly those reflecting scientific understanding.
  • Learners communicate and justify their proposed explanations.
  • In this lesson, students are engaged by scientifically oriented questions posed by the instructor(s) as well as by each other during their observation. They collect their own evidence to answer some of these questions during observation and perform literature reviews to research other questions. As per the performance objective, students are required to communicate and justify their research results through an oral presentation.