Lesson Plan 2: Population Ecology

On April 4th, 2019 I taught Ms. Dougan’s seventh grade class at McDonough Middle School in Hartford, Conneticut. My lesson plan is focused on introducing and helping the students understand population ecology and the elements that influence a population such as carrying capacity, limiting factors and population size. It is focused primarily on science learning but uses some math to assist with that understanding. In order to execute this plan I focused my lesson around the video game fallout shelter and a role playing game that was developed by the students as we went along. This was the students first introduction to population ecology so I only had to cover the basic concepts of population ecology and following my lesson, the students would dive deeper into the concept and terminology surrounding the subject. The classroom itself is a 7th grade science class, composed of roughly 15 students. In the classroom, I had access to a smart monitor which allowed me to display the game onto a bigger screen for the students to view. The learning objectives for my lesson plan are as follows.

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to- 

  • Understand how resource availability affects populations of an ecosystem.
  • Develop/create own functioning ecosystem, and recognize key terms.
  • Demonstrate understanding of population ecology through summative and formative assessments.

Key Terms- 

  • Limiting Factors- The environmental factor that is of predominant importance in restricting the size of a population
  • Population Ecology-Population ecology is a sub-field of ecology that deals with the dynamics of species populations and how these populations interact with the environment. It is the study of how the population sizes of species change over time and space.
  • Carrying Capacity-The number of people, other living organisms, or crops that a region can support without environmental degradation.
  • Population Size– Current amount of people living in the community
  • Biotic– Are all of the living things in an ecosystem, such as plants and animals. These living things interact with one another in many ways. Biotic factors and their interactions can be broken down into three groups: Producers, Consumers, Decomposers
  • Abiotic– Are the non-living parts of the environment that can often have a major influence on living organisms. Abiotic factors include water, sunlight, oxygen, soil and temperature.
  • Communities– Group of different species living in the same area at the same time

Assessment- A website called Quizzes.com, which contains various level quizzes on multiple topics. I used this site to find a quiz on population ecology. to test students understanding of the topic. I also asked them questions during the lesson and posed various situations to test their knowledge on population ecology.

Lesson Plan:

Preparation for lesson- Prior to the lesson I had to download the game Fallout Shelter to my laptop and develop my own shelter enough to contain enough people and rooms that show the reason and need for resources. Also, to be developed far enough in the game that I could be attacked by predators.

At the start of class I was at the front starting up the Fallout Shelter game on my computer while it was simultaneously being displayed on the monitor.  The students immediately came into the classroom attentive, focused and quiet. I pretended to be absorbed in the game for a little less than a minute until all the students had finished filing into the classroom and everyone was seated. Students began to ask questions and once I knew they were curious and I had their attention, I asked them if they played video games. I then had them name some of the games they played and wrote them on the board. From there I asked if anyone has ever seen the game Fallout Shelter. Nobody had, which I had hoped for, and so initially I planned to play this short clip from YouTube about the game but due to WiFi restrictions at the school, I was unable to play the video. To recover from this I used the game instead and while the game was running I had the students talk about their observations.

Observations and Terms

As students were discussing what they observed, I wrote it all down even if it sounded crazy or did not make sense. Once they had made enough observations I felt I could use to bring up the key terms, I then asked them what questions they have. Once answering them I asked them about population ecology and how they would define it. After some technical issues that were resolved, I then proceeded to discuss the observations they made and tied them to the key terms for the lesson.

After drawing out the definition of carrying capacity and limiting factors through their observations, I had them give examples of what these terms meant in relation to the game. Following this, I then decided to test their understanding of how limiting factors affect a population and create the carrying capacity. To do this I created a scenario where each person needs 1 shelter, 10 food, and 5 water and all we have is 13 shelter, 1000 food, and 50 water. l had the students name a range of numbers of what they think the most people they think they could sustain are and the least amount that they could sustain. From there we went on to calculate the maximum number of people that can be supported and the carrying capacity. Following this activity I then went on to develop our own scenario where I had the students decide where their class was going to be located. A student stated outer space so our class was positioned in outer space.

They then had to come up with the resources that they would need in order to survive which then became their limiting factors. This can be seen in the picture below.

Our Class population size, chosen scenario, and limiting factors.

We then went on to calculate how much resources we would need to sustain the classroom. This involved more math and it was also at this point that a student became confused with their  math calculations and so I had them explain how they got to their conclusion and wrote it out for them. Once I did that they were able to see how their answer was wrong and we continued moving forward with figuring out the amount of resources we would need for the rest of the factors. A video of this situation can be seen below.

Once our scenario was completed I then challenged the students to answer questions to a quiz and by getting a certain percentage of questions right would allot them a specific amount of resources for their class to survive. I also warned the students that we might get questions about things I have not taught yet so they were welcome to ask questions. I did this specifically since I wanted them to feel like they were also free to learn still while taking the quiz. This got the students interested since they were now involved in a game to keep their class alive. Using the site quizizz.com I had the students look at quizzes but ultimately decided to have them take the easier quiz to start since I already knew what to expect from it. During the quiz we encountered something new, abiotic and biotic factors. I already knew this but pretended I did not know what what these were so I looked it up on google and clicked on a link that took me to a document that defined these terms. Throughout the quiz students would debate about the answers for the questions and would ask for help. I would draw pictures to help explain some questions or ask them to explain their reasoning for the answer to help them understand where they might have gone wrong or to prove they are right to help me know they are understanding the material. An example where I had to help explain a question can be seen below in the video.

Once we finished the quiz I then did a recap of the lessons we learned. I asked them to say all the terms they learned today and posed more situations to gauge their understanding. I asked them what would happen if someone got sick. I also asked about what would happen to their population if a natural disaster struck. With those situations and review we finished the class. An example of the terms they remembered and what the board looked like at the end can be seen in the picture below.

Our Goals and Terms we remembered

Equity:

For my lesson plan I am aware that not all students have access to gaming consoles so I chose a video game that is free and available on multiple platforms. This game is called Fallout Shelter which can be downloaded on phones, computers, or gaming consoles. I also chose this game since it was likely that none of the students have ever played before, which allowed for all the students to learn and problem solve together on equal footing. In order to ensure the equal footing I asked them to simply talk about what they observe about the game which allows for all answers to be correct and nobody to be wrong. I encouraged them to ask questions about the game by asking them what questions they may have about what they observe. I believe with the first part of my lesson I was successful in creating an environment where all the students felt comfortable about asking questions and speaking up about what they were thinking. For the second part of my lesson I also tried to address equity by having them make up their own role playing scenario so that the lesson was generated more by them. By having them create the scenario it addressed my own concern that they may not fully understand the scenario I create and allowed them to relate to the problem better.

Reflection:

I planned my lesson 2 plan around my experiences from my first lesson plan with the core 5 class. After my first experience with the class, I learned that several students were uncomfortable with writing and this kept them from participating and demonstrating understanding of the material. I also recognized that students would disrupt the class and say random things to try and be funny. I also learned that the students enjoyed playing video games and several would ask to use their phones. With this knowledge I decided to base my lesson around discussions, use a video game (that is free and accessible to all the students) to explain the lesson and have the class lead their own learning by creating the scenarios. I wanted students to create the scenarios so that way even the most ridiculous things students could say would become part of the lesson and get them actively participating. The start of my lesson went very well since students were instantly hooked by the video game being projected onto the monitor. Students came into class quiet and attentive versus the first lesson where students were noisy and it took a while for the students to settle down. The observation aspect also went well since multiple students were interested in saying what they observed and asking questions about the game. The participation for this lesson plan was much higher although there were still some students who were not engaged at all and had their heads down. One unexpected thing that occurred in regards to my observation part was the video I had chosen previously to be viewed by the class. I had planned to watch a video of a video game with the students and have them observe and ask questions about it. Since the video did not work, I had to resort to playing Fallout Shelter for a longer period and using that as my observation piece. Another aspect that also went well was the role playing scenario. Since the students created the scenario, they were able to relate to the problem better and understand what the limiting factors were for the situation they created. Another aspect that went well was the Quiz portion where the students had ten questions to answer. For each question the students would debate with one another one on which one was the right answer and explain to each other their reasoning. I would also question their understanding as they were defending their answers to assess the depth of their understanding of the key terms in relation to the question being asked. The majority of the students learned all of the key terms described in the Learning Objectives section and met the goals. I can only speak about a majority of the students since not all students participated and participation was key to knowing whether or not they understood the material. This is certainly an improvement I will have to work on for future lessons in figuring out how to assess the students that do not engage or what can I do to get those students engaged. I knew the students understood the material through the role playing scenario and quiz that we took online. Students were able to create their own scenario and understand the resources needed and how those resources are the limiting factors for their population.  By then end of the class the students were able to name the key terms and when asked what happens when a natural disaster occurs, how would this affect the population? The students were able to answer, knowing that the population would decrease and this can also affect the resources for the population. A student was also asking about biospheres since it was a term that popped up in the quiz we took. This showed students were interested and learned about population ecology while also meeting the objective goals. There was also one point where the students showed mathematical confusion. In the hypothetical situation I posed the students with, they had 14 people and each person needed 10 food. I asked how much food do they need and a student responded 1400. So I then wrote that down as an answer but other students so no it was not the answer. So I began to work through the problem with them as they told me what to write down and state how they came to their solution. While writing out what they were saying and being able to see the problem, the student who shouted out the wrong answer realized why they were wrong and they were able to correct themselves. Overall, I think this lesson went well. Students were engaged, interested, and achieved the objectives I had set out for them. Moving forward I have to figure out a better method for getting the whole class engaged or assessing those students who are less engaged.

Resources:

Curriculum Standards used for Student Learning Objectives :
https://www.nextgenscience.org/pe/ms-ls2-1-ecosystems-interactions-energy-and-dynamics

Site with Quiz on Population Ecology:    https://quizizz.com/join/search/population%20ecology (Site)  https://quizizz.com/join/quiz/59309a8fe15d85170045a0b5/start (Quiz Used)

Document used to research Biotic and Abiotic Factors:  https://peabody.yale.edu/sites/default/files/documents/education/Abiotic%20and%20Biotic%20Factors%20DF.doc

Observation Video I intended to use:         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhOM8dGuHgM

 

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