Series Ecosystems: An NGSS-Designed Unit : Disrupting Ecosystems with Wolves

Disrupting Ecosystems with Wolves

Lesson Objective: Analyze whether wolves should be reintroduced to the northeastern United States
Grades 6-8 / Science / NGSS


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How do students learn from comparing their predictions to real data?
  2. How do students use the evidence tool?
  3. How can the debate serve as a culmintating assessment?

1 Comment

  • Private message to Cade Patterson

Students learn by comparing their predictions to their data through the scientific method. This allows students to practice making a hypothesis and completing the experiment or task. This project is a great way for students to practice using the Scientific Method. This will also show the students that everyone can have a different hypothesis and opens the floor for discussions. This is a great video and a great idea for the future!

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External Resource Materials


  • Disrupting Ecosystems with Wolves Transcript

    Teacher: Read the introduction for 1.6 to yourself and then we'll share out the things that

    Disrupting Ecosystems with Wolves Transcript

    Teacher: Read the introduction for 1.6 to yourself and then we'll share out the things that we notice.

    The guiding question for 1.6 is Should wolves be reintroduced to the Northeastern United States? This relates back to the whole chapter question of What happens when a predator comes back to an environment?

    This is actually the real data between 1994 and 2014. Reopen your 1.5 analysis, you guys just drew graph predicting, what it would look like.

    Compare and contrast it with this picture.

    In this activity the students analyze a graph about wolf and elk population in Yellowstone, they compared that real data to the predictions they had made at the end of 1.5.

    Then we move on to the explanation tool. The students gather evidence an synthesis all the information that they learn.

    Our room is divided in half ... At the end they have a debate about whether wolves should be reintroduced as the solution to Northeastern United States deer problem.

    1.6 is an evaluate activity where students have a chance to apply everything they've been learning, again to a new situation. They are bringing up all of their ideas throughout the chapter to think about whether or not wolves should be reintroduced into a different ecosystem.

    Turn and talk. Share about how your graph is so different or similar to this real data. How come you think it looks different?

    Connor: Maybe because the wolf population, the wolves don't always eat elk. They also have other things to eat.

    Teacher: Very good point.

    Connor: It was quite surprising to actually see the real data because mostly the wolves never really go much higher than the elk population.

    Student 3: You know that there's a lot of elk when the wolf population doesn't even go to a thousand.

    Teacher: Okay, so let's move on now. In the next part the students had to read a article about deer population in the Northeastern United States in order for them to understand how this connects to the guiding question.

    I give them a graphic organizer to use as I read and I also gave them their own copy of their text to annotate and paraphrase if they needed to.

    As you read about the Northeastern United States, any patterns of interaction you're noticing, jot them down in the graphic organizer that's provided for you.

    I think it helped them focus on the important parts of the reading and I wanted them to see the bigger picture and the connections throughout the chapter.

    We have about 2 and a half, 3 minutes before class ends. Tonight you need to finish whatever you didn't finish. Tomorrow we're going to fill out an explanation tool about this new question.

    Good morning. So we continue the lesson on the next day. The students are given an explanation tool to answer the question, What in fact does a large population of deer have on an ecosystem?

    I explain the tool, and then I also give them the hint of, they should be mentioning some patterns of interactions that they notice in their text about the new ecosystem that they are reading about.

    You can also use the cross cutting concepts, some things that we've been talking about on the posters back here, on the Science Concepts box if you think they're useful information in answering this question as well.

    With this explanation tool, you don't need to figure out your claim in the beginning. Your claim is all the way at the end.

    At first, the students struggled. They only saw evidence in graphs but then as they looked further into the texts, they did see multiple studies found that related to deer.

    And what did they find in those studies about deer?

    Student 3: They found that people killed, a lot of deer from between 2000 to 2013.

    Connor: There were also sort of saying, I read a little part on comparing it 'cause it says somewhere in here that people were killing deer and wolves were killing deer. So it's sort of a competition.

    Teacher: So that would be part of your science concepts, that there's a competitive relationship in some way and explain what the competition is. But in terms of evidence you're going to want to reference things like data in the text.

    Student 4: Okay. So, their feeding can effect the local ecosystem. We do see the diversity of plants and small animals. I think that's the evidence because it says the question about what the effect of large populations have on an ecosystem.

    Student 5: Okay, but maybe that should be the point?

    Student 4: Claim? When it says evidence of data and stuff? Then what's the evidence?

    Connor: Data.

    Student 4: Data. Let's look for evidence.

    Teacher: When there's too many deer, what happens to the birds?

    Connor: The songbird population decreases.

    Teacher: Okay. And why? What does that have to do with answering this question?

    Connor: Well, it's saying, what effect does a lower population of deer have on the ecosystem and that's the effect.

    Teacher: It would make the bird decrease. What does that have to do with the ecosystem though?

    Connor: Because you need, every animal has an effect on their ecosystem. And if the large population of deer is taking out too many songbirds then they're effecting their ecosystem.

    Teacher: Okay, so there's a relationship there, that all the things are related. So part of your reasoning might be making a connection between the evidence and the larger ecosystem, or the answer to that question.

    Student 5: Yeah, on page 3 it shows a before and after of a large population of deer in one area. That's if you're trying to do a negative claim on deer and the ecosystem, large population of deer. Or if you're trying to do a positive claim, it says that deer, when they eat grass, and abiotic factors, they could carry seeds in their manure, so they could actually help regrow trees.

    Those are two pieces of evidence.

    Student 4: Guys, they have [inaudible 00:07:08] because they create when they [inaudible 00:07:11]

    Student 5: I know okay but they're eating all the plants together. It's like a cycle.

    Teacher: Right now, what I need you guys to do is take in your explanation tool, make sure you write it in your planner that you have it to finish for homework. The next part we need to prepare for is our walking debate.

    The last day activity was our walking debate about this new question, Should wolves be reintroduced to Northeastern United States? Which ties back to our guiding question.

    TO prepare for this debate you need to look through this text that we just read on deer population, look back at the text we read so far. Think back to the video on Yellowstone and the wolves.

    Think about every single part of this chapter of everything you've learned and use it for your walking debate.

    Remember for this debate we're in science, if we're making a claim, we need to make sure that we support it with evidence backed up by things that we learned within this chapter.

    Connor: Wolves should be reintroduced because ...

    Teacher: First they were given a little bit of time to prepare their evidence and pick a side.

    Our room is divided in half. Bring anything that you think you need to refer to for your evidence.

    There is no middle, you have to take a side. Turn and talk to people nearby you. You might want to jot down your evidence.

    Student 3: Deer are doing damage, not just to the forest and the ecosystems but also to themselves and to humans. The deer will die more quickly due to wolves if we reintroduce them. Humans, killing them, the winter, disease, and beers.

    Teacher: The reason why it's called a walking debate is, if you change you're mind, you're able to go to that opposite side.

    Once the students had some time to talk with the people that agreed with them, we had a class discussion.

    Remember our words that we've learned throughout this unit. Okay? Our cause and effect, our patterns that we notice. You want to mention some of those things.

    Who would like to share out first their evidence of why they chose their side, okay? Connor, go ahead.

    Connor: The wolf population can help control the deer population which is over grazing in the forest which can cause an unhealthy forest.

    Teacher: Moving on to this side. Go ahead Andreis.

    Andreis: The deer are already being eaten by bears, ticks and people, so they're going to die down more. And because of that it will make the forest more unhealthy because of them not being able to spread seeds by eating.

    Teacher: Augustus, go ahead.

    Student 4: Well I mean, if there are already so many predators then why haven't they kept them under control. It's clearly not working. It's not enough.

    Speaker 7: As Augustus said, it's clearly not working because these studies were pretty recent that all of this was happening.

    Teacher: For the walking debate they did reference specific things that they had read in the text, they referenced different types of relationships which I thought was great.

    So, for our first time doing that kind of activity, I was very impressed with them.

    Student 5: I also want to point out that deer have cost 100 million dollars by eating crop land. So, they are destroying everything. So they need to be controlled by adding wolves.

    Teacher: Ian, go ahead.

    Ian: If you think about it, there's not really a point to reintroducing the wolves because when they eat most of the deer, they're going to start to decrease anyway.

    Teacher: We gotta wrap it up. We will continue this on Monday, and reflect about the arguments.

    What effect did the reintroduction of wolves have ... In the past two weeks, trying to teach the students chapter 1 overall, I think the kids really enjoyed it and I enjoyed teaching it even though it was an overwhelming experience teaching it for the first time.

    I feel like the kids were really passionate about what we were learning because it was based upon real data, they were trying to figure it out.

    There was a lot of turn and talk, they were teaching each other. It was less teacher to student. It was more student to student learning.

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