Marine Biology was offered as an eleventh and twelth grade half-year
elective at Friends Select. All the students in the course had taken general
biology and some of them had also taken A.P. biology the year before.
Like all other science courses, marine biology met four times a week for
three 40-minute periods and one 80-minute period. The 40-minute periods
are usually used for lecture, demonstration or assessments, such as quizzes
and tests. The 80-minute period is usually used for labs, although there
was some flexibility in this schedule.
The class had 12 students, only one of whom was male. As in the general
biology class, the desks were arranged in rows in front of a board at
the front of the room and there were lab benches and additional work space
at the back of the room. For lab, there was a wide variety of equipment,
resources and materials available.
Students were assesssed in a number of different ways:
- tests and quizzes (multiple choice and short answer)
- group and independent projects (i.e. Benthic Ecosystem research project
- weekly lab reports
- connducting original research and presenting at the school's annual
Math and Science Symposium
There was a wide range of student ability and interest in the marine
biology class that I worked with at Friends Select. Most of the students
seemed to have a romaniticized, pre-existing impression of what it meant
to study marine biology (i.e. whales and dolphins). It was a challenge
to interest and engage students in material relating to topics such as
microscopic plankton. In addition, most of the students were seniors and
seemed to be having a difficult time reminaing actively engaged in their
school work after having already gotten into college.
There were a couple of students in the class who learned best through
lecture, were easily able to grasp concepts this way and were able to
take detailed notes while asking interesting and thoughtful questions.
However, most of the students struggled with the lecture format and regularly
expessed a preference for interacitve demonstrations and labs. These students
offen also had difficulty on tests, quizes and homework when having to
apply information and concepts they had learned in class to new situations.
The following are the major topics and concepts that were taught during
the three months I was student teaching at Friends Select Upper School:
- Waves, tides and currents
- Unique properties of water
- Marine abiotic conditions
- Primary production in the sea
- Form and function
- Seasonal Patterns (effects on migration)
- Benthic Ecosystems (estuaries, coral reefs, deep sea)
After two weeks of observation, I took over the marine biology class
for the remaining eight weeks that I was student teaching in the upper
school at Friends Select. For the first half of this time, I used the
three 40-minute periods each week for group lecture and interactive demonstrations.
For the second half, I guided students though an independent research
Except when students were invloved in the independent research projects,
I conducted an 80-minute lab once a week. I designed the following labs:
- Phytoplankton: Observing Phytoplankton adaptations
- Macroalgae: Making an identification key for six macroalgae species
- Eutrophication: Measuing dissolved oxygen
Marine Benthic Ecosystems
Five-week Lesson Plan
My goal was to create a unit that required students to take a more active
role in their individual learning processes and gave them the opportunity
to study in-depth one topic that they were interested in. I also wanted
to take the focus off of the teacher and give students the chance to teach
and learn from each other.
- All students will gain an in-depth knowledge of a specific marine
- All students will be involved in the following steps of the long-term
- Designing the focus research questions for all research groups
- Designing the presentation guidelines for all research groups
- Creating and giving a group PowerPoint presentation to their classmates
- Writing test questions about their specific ecosystem that will
be used in evaluating the knowledge of all the students in the class
on all of the presented ecosystems
I wanted to be sure that since this was a long and timely project, that
students would be assessed and receive feedback at multiple points during
the process and not simply at the end.
- Students will be required to demonstrate their understanding by completing
the following work:
- Presentation outline
- PowerPoint slide show
- Lesson plan for presentation
- Class presentation (PowerPoint and interactive activity)
- Test questions
- Cummulative test
- Throughout the entire project, students will be evaluated and receive
- Involvement in structuring and organizing the guidelines for the
- Depth of knowledge and research
- Contributions to the group effort
- Timeliness in submitting work
Week 1: Introduction
1. Brainstorm and Introduction (40 min.)
- Tell the students that we will be beginning a new unit on benthic
ecosystems and that they will be researching a specific benthic ecosystem
and presenting the information that they learn to the rest of the class.
- Since the students have already been introduced to the concept of
a benthic ecosystem, ask them to brainstorm examples of specific benthic
ecosystems around the world. Write these on the board (examples: Great
Barrier Reef, the Florida Everglades, Delaware Bay Esturay, the deep
sea etc). Include more examples of types of ecosystems that students
may not readily think of (marshlands etc).
- Give a PowerPoint presentation that highlights the major groups of
benthic ecosystems and their characteristics and shows picture examples
of specific benthic ecosystems around the world. This introduction should
be short (20 minutes) and is only intended to give students some examples
of ecosystems they may like to research more in-depth and a framework
in which to be thinking about benthic ecosystems.
2. Introduction to the Project (80 min.)
Brainstorming Focus Questions (40 min.)
- Tell students that, as a group, we are going to brainstorm and outline
the focus questions that all the research groups will have to answer
about the specific ecosystems they are researching. Tell the class that
to begin you want to know what questions they have about benthic marine
ecosystems in general.
- Sit in a circle and ask one student to write the questions down, each
on a separate piece of paper, as the class brainstorms.
- After about 15 minutes, collect the papers and put them in the middle
of the circle.
- Ask if there are any questions that are very broad and might act as
topics under which some of the other questions fall.
- Arrange these broad topic-questions (i.e. What is the environment
like?, What organisms live in the ecosystem?, How are these organisms
adapted to their environment) in a row.
- Ask if the remaining questions could be placed as subtopics under
any of the existing broad topics (examples: What is the light availability
like?, Is there high or low species diversity and why?). As students
come up with ideas, arrange and rearrange the papers with the questions
in columns under the broad topics.
- Once all the topics are arranged, ask students if there are any additional
questions that they would add or if there are any questions that they
would take away, keeping in mind that this outline will guide the structure
of their research and presentations. Make any final rearrangements and
ask someone to copy down the topics and questions in an outline format
to be typed and distributed later to the whole class.
Click here to view sample Focus Questions
Creating Presentation Guidelines (40 min.)
- Tell the students that you want to get ideas from them about how
to conduct their presentations.
- Ask them to quickly write down three (3) things that they liked about
presentations that they gave or were an audience for in the past.
- Quickly share some of these ideas with the whole class.
- Give the students the following basic guidelines. The presentation
- Include a PowerPoint presentation.
- Involve all group members.
- Be between 20-30 minutes long.
- Ask the students to work in pairs for about 15 minutes to brainstorm
a set of guidelines for all the group presentations.
- After 15 minutes, bring the group back together and ask each pair
to share their ideas. Summarize the main ideas on the board.
- After everyone has shared, summarize similarities between suggestions
and ask if there were any ideas that seemed especially creative or interesting.
- Have students discuss which elements seem most important to include
and which would be less interesting or necessary.
- Once everyone has agreed (or agreed to disagree), put the final guidelines
on the board and copy them to type out and give out to all the students
Click here to view sample Presentation Guidelines
Week 2: Research
- Students work in pairs or groups of three to select and research
- Students use time inside and outside of class to research and organize
answers to the leading questions.
Week 3: Research and PowerPoint presentations
- Groups turn in outlines of information that follow the format that
they will use during their presentation. I review and return them with
- In class, students begin work on PowerPoint presentations. I spend
one class period teaching those who are unfamiliar with the program
the basics. They then continue to work on them independently. I stress
that the presentations should:
- Be simple and straight forward (not too many pictures or fancy
- Highlight the main points without using large paragraphs of text.
- Be catching to the eye.
- Groups must print out and turn their slide show. I review them and
Week 4: Presentations
click here for refections on the use of PowerPoint
an educational tool in this lesson
- The groups present to each other in class, following the format that
was decided on by the class at the beginning of the project.
- Students evaluate each other using the same rubric that I use. Peer
assessments are averaged as 50 percent of each groups presentation
- The groups provide outlines of their presentations to the rest of
the class highlighting the key points and important concepts. Students
use these outlines to study for the test.
- All groups submit three (3) test questions on their ecosystem and
presentation to be complied into one test that all students take the
Week 5: Test
- All students take the test which covers information on all of the
class presentations from the proceeding week.
Examples of Student PowerPoint Slide Shows