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Updated by emlygren on Jan 27, 2020
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BEETLES Resources for Classroom Teachers

BEETLES Project outdoor science and environmental education student activities that can be used in classrooms, schoolyards, and community spaces to engage students in nature-centered learning experiences.

I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of - BEETLES Project Exploration Routine

Many outdoor educators and classroom teachers cite this as their most effective outdoor teaching tool. This foundational routine helps students develop a mindset of curiosity, and provides language and tools they can actively and directly engage with the natural world. Students can call on these tools again and again in any outdoor learning experience.

Walk and Talk - BEETLES Project Discussion Routine

This simple and easy to lead routine is like a mobile Thought Swap. It's ideal for engaging students in discussion as you are heading out to the schoolyard for an outdoor science experience, or on a field trip as you are traveling between sites.

Discovery Swap - BEETLES Project Exploration Routine

This student-centered, flexible Exploration Routine can be used with any type of organism or phenomenon you choose for students to focus on, such as types of plants, insects, seed types, or any category of organisms and natural phenomena.

Hand Lens Introduction - Beetles Project Exploration Routine

This simple, short introduction to using hand lenses gives students the know-how and autonomy to use hand lenses in any future outdoor (or indoor) learning experience.

Bark Beetle Exploration - Beetles Project Focused Exploration

In this activity, students study bark beetle galleries– tunnels left underneath the bark of sticks and trees– and make explanations about the beetles' lives and behaviors.
This activity includes an extension where students discuss the impacts of bark beetles on forests, the benefits and drawbacks of potential environmental management strategies, and connections to climate change. This is a great opportunity

Argumentation Routine - Beetles Project Discussion Routine

This activity helps students learn to be open-minded and to participate in respectful discussion using evidence and reasoning. These are great life skills that any citizen of the world should have. They’re also scientific argumentation skills.

Fire Management Discussion - Beetles Project Discussion

Thinking about complex issues while engaging in respectful discussion is an opportunity for students to develop skills that are important throughout life. In this activity, students discuss the question, “Should humans stop wildfires?” At first, students typically respond, “Yes! Fires are bad!” In reality, fire management is a challenging environmental management problem, and the question has no simple answer. Students get to engage with this dynamic and complex topic through small group and full class discussion.
This activity can be used with Argumentation Routine to create a "mash-up" experience where students engage in argument from evidence regarding different possible solutions to wildfire management.

Lichen Exploration - Beetles Project Focused Exploration

Looking at lichen through a hand lens can be like looking at life-forms from an alien planet. In this activity, students closely observe lichen, look for patterns in where lichens grow, and think about the interactions between lichen and the ecosystem. Lichens are common in urban areas, and can often be found on fences, buildings, or rocks in addition to trees. After this activity, you and your students will notice lichen everywhere!

Spider Exploration - Beetles Project Focused Exploration

Many students are squeamish about spiders. But when you spray spider webs with a water mister, they are easy to see and gorgeous, and just about anyone can get caught up in exploring them! After this activity, students will probably notice and appreciate spider webs everywhere, including when they return home. In this activity, students search for and compare different kinds of webs in the area, then regroup to discuss their observations and think about how different types of webs help spiders catch different kinds of prey. Students learn about different web types, then return to the field to use a key to identify different kinds of webs and look for patterns in where webs are found. They also make explanations about how the structures of the webs they find function to catch prey.

Exploratory Investigation - Beetles Project Investigation

Scientists can spend years planning, conducting, analyzing, and publishing the results of their investigations. If students only get an hour to conduct a science investigation, the investigations are often messy, and data can be inconsistent and fairly inconclusive. But scientists often do “messy” exploratory investigations before doing a full investigation. The goal of an exploratory investigation is to observe and record basic patterns in nature, as well as to explore various methods and improve the ultimate design of an investigation. Exploratory studies can be “quick and dirty” but are important to understanding a phenomenon well enough to develop a testable question and appropriate methods for investigating. Similarly, the goal for students in this activity is not coming up with great data, but to observe and record patterns in nature, and to think about how the investigation could be improved in the future. This activity offers students fundamentals and tools to engage in the practice designing and carrying out investigations.

What Scientists Do - Beetles Project Assessment & Reflection Routine

Science literacy is of great value for any citizen of the world. For students to develop science literacy, it’s important that they not only engage in science practices, but also that they take time to reflect on practices they use. This short and simple activity engages students in reflecting on science practices, and making connections between their learning behaviors and what scientists. do.

What Lives Here– BEETLES Project Ecosystems, Matter, & Energy Activity

“What lives here?” is a question that students love to wonder about. This activity taps into that natural curiosity. Students can look for evidence of organisms in your schoolyard or at a local park. Then, they make ecosystem models from their notes and, through discussion, use their notes as evidence to try to better understand the ecosystem. This activity gives students practice developing and using models in a rich, dynamic, real-world context.

Evaluating Evidence– BEETLES Project Classroom Activity

Every day we’re faced with competing explanations. The ability to evaluate the strength of evidence is an important part of constructing and critiquing scientific explanations (as well as an important life skill). Yet it’s not just a matter of which explanation has more evidence. In this activity, students learn a criterion for evaluating the quality of evidence-based on how connected the evidence is to a claim. This activity is designed to prepare students for an outdoor science experience (but can also be done after such an experience.)

Evaluating Sources - BEETLES Project Classroom Activity

We are all exposed to information (reliable and unreliable) every day, and this information shapes our decisions and worldview. The
ability to evaluate the quality of sources of information is an important part of constructing and critiquing scientific explanations (as well as an important life skill). Students, and even many adults, can sometimes base their explanations on evidence from unreliable sources, and can learn to think critically about the reliability of sources and to cite their own sources of information whenever they share ideas. In this activity, students sort different sources of science information from most to least reliable, discuss their rationale with their peers, and come to a deeper understanding of what makes a source reliable. This skill prepares students for science discussions both in the classroom and in their outdoor science experience. This activity is designed to be done before an outdoor science experience, such as outdoor science school, but can also be done after such an experience.

Indoor Field Observations - BEETLES Project Classroom Activity

Observing live organisms can be a highlight of students’ time in outdoor science programs. Indoor Field Observations is designed to follow an outdoor science experience by giving students time to practice observation skills they learned and get a closer look at organisms they may have only seen briefly in the outdoors. In this activity, students make observations, ask questions, make connections, and construct explanations as they watch a nature video with the narration turned off. Next, students record their observations and thinking in journals, discuss their observations and ideas as a class, and make connections to science ideas (such as structure and function). This activity should be completed after students have had an outdoor science experience in which they participated in the BEETLES Activity I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of.

Food Web - Beetles Project Classroom Activity

Seeing live organisms can be a highlight of an outdoor science experience. Food Web builds on this excitement and deepens students’ understanding of ecosystem interactions. In Session 1: Building a Food Web, students think back on an ecosystem they visited and build a food web from their observations, reasoning, and knowledge. Then, students use their food webs to make predictions and answer questions about the ecosystem. In Session 2: Adding a Predator, students read about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park and discuss the possible consequences of introducing/reintroducing a predator into the ecosystem they studied. Finally, students reflect on the usefulness and limitations of food webs as models for ecosystem management. This activity was designed for classroom teachers to use after students had an outdoor experience where they observed many organisms within an ecosystem.

Environmental Detectives Festival: Lawrence Hall of Science School Program

Students love engaging with mysteries! The Mystery: Fish and other wildlife are dying. The Investigation: Perform chemical and biological tests to determine what could be causing the situation. In this mystery festival, students get to work together and engage with intriguing hands-on test stations as they gather clues, analyze data, and research the history of an area to become an environmental detective. The mystery continues back in the classroom, as teachers choose a follow-up activity from the packet provided, and as students pool their results and attempt to solve the mystery. This dynamic experience gives students the opportunity to engage in multiple science practices, and practice collecting evidence and considering the needs of a range of community organizations in order to solve an environmental problem.