How can you measure the things you cannot see? If land vegetation dies off how will our oxygen be generated? Is it enough to continue to support life on Earth? It is challenging to “see” both very small, and very big things—from the tiny Prochlorococcus introduced in Lesson 2, to all ocean phytoplankton that produce fifty percent of the world’s oxygen. The “Exploratorium” introduces the world of discovery of oceanographers’ Anne Thompson and Sally Chisholm. The six hands-on stations explore the current technological tools that oceanographers, biologists and physical ocean scientists use to study the dynamic ocean and living organisms. The Exploratorium shows how they can measure what “we cannot see” at global scales. Students deepen their understanding of Earth’s systems and develop understanding of how explanations are built from data when they see how scientists use the tools in the field. It is a good way to introduce genetic diversity, evolution, or a deeper study of genetically diverse microbes. After this lesson, use Lab 3.5 to experience the phenomenon of phytoplankton fluorescence as a tool for measuring chlorophyll distribution. Later, in Lesson 4 and the more advanced Lesson 5, apply knowledge of these tools through data-driven activities that exemplify oceanographic research of the Invisible Forest.
All the tools introduced in the “Exploratorium” are referred to throughout the Module. PLEASE NOTE – we are field testing both in-person and virtual versions of this lesson. Please refer to this spreadsheet (or use this link – https://tinyurl.com/u6ylcqm) for a compilation of all links and updates. We will also update this lesson webpage and information as materials are finalized.
- For remote/virtual learning there are two options to choose from. One is fully teacher-led and the other starts as a teacher-led activity and then students finish moving through the stations with a partner.
- For both options, you should start the lesson as written with Part 1 (see instructions in table and text below). For remote classrooms, we recommend using the Pre-assessment and the NOVA Video: “Earth from Space” (show from 1h13m to 1h23m).
- Then for Part 2 (the Stations Activity) decide if you’d like the fully teacher-led option or if you want to get them started with the Stations and then have them complete them with a partner.
- Fully Teacher-Led:
- Teacher-Introduced with Student Completion in Partners:
- For in-person learning, set up the progressive series of 6 stations in advance, gather materials and print out the cards.
- Tools of the trade: Exploratorium stations – This PowerPoint gives an overview of the stations for teachers and students. This teacher background handout gives an overview of oceanography and biological measurement tools.
- Tools of the Trade HOW TO SET UP – This document provides instructions for setting up the stations. Make sure to organize stations by scale and focus (eg microscope to satellite imagery). When stations are visited sequentially it helps scaffold learning. If non-sequential, connections can be made during review.
- Print out 1 per student:
- Print 1 set per group of 4 students:
- (optional) Collect 1 liter of fresh or saltwater diatoms/phytoplankton from nearby water source (see Lab 3.5 Phytoplankton Spectrophotometry Lab for more information).
Plan time: Optimizing time and combining Lab 3.5 with Stations
Table 1 – Overview of Instructional Activities:
Part 1: Introduction (~5-10 min.)
Take students from the very small microscopic scale to the very large macroscale and ask them to think how to measure and answer questions about the deep ocean.
Step 1: Introduce the Essential Question(s) using NOVA Video: “Earth from Space” (show 1h13m to 1h23m) OR the first three slides of: Tools of the trade: Exploratorium stations powerpoint. Follow up the teacher-led discussion in the powerpoint with: Activity 1-3_ Tools of the Trade — How will we monitor and protect the ocean? Ask them to Pair-share, then write in lab journals.
Activity 1 (1 min): Ask What does the ocean do for us? Observe and compare [slides 1 and 2] the two images [at different scales] in the powerpoint and the two samples of water containing tiny aquatic organisms (mostly diatoms). As learned in Lesson 2, phytoplankton abundance and scale is varied, we are going to study them in macro-scale as well as nano-scale. One kind of ocean data is ‘Observational’ data, as you see in these slides.
Activity 2 (1 min): Ask Does it matter what we measure? Students are introduced to the questions of measuring at both very large and very small scale by briefly sorting the Explorer Question CARDS using Explorer questions_sorting organizer.
Activity 3 (3 min): Does it matter where we measure? As students observe the two satellite images (‘remote sensing’) it gives them a first glimpse of the macro scale and global observation. Ask What other ocean data is available? Write a list of their ideas on the board. Ask as formative assessment: Do satellite images provide measurable data? quantity? Stop here. [The remaining slides in the powerpoint are printed out to be displayed as information at each station of the “Tools of the Trade: Exploratorium”.]
Part 2: Tour of the Tools Exploratorium (Stations Activity) (40-60 min)
Introduction: Tell them they are about to enter the “Tools of the Trade: Exploratorium” a self-guided experience—a mini science center.
Step 1: Divide students into groups of 2-3 and start each group at one of the 6 stations to begin their exploration. Along the way they can discover how oceanographic data collection is possible with current technology.
Step 2: Ask them to think about this Focus question: How are we going to protect, manage, and monitor changes in the ocean system? What evidence would you collect to answer your investigation questions [either their own PBL questions or ‘Explorer questions’]? We can collect cells living in a drop of seawater. How do we know how many and what kind of cells they are? Give them a little background for how they will apply their learning later:
The tiniest Prochlorococcus, was discovered only in the last 30 years, because new technology allows oceanographer Sally “Penny” Chisholm PhD [winner of the 2019 Crafoord science prize] to “see” the cells that are 5000 times smaller than a chloroplast. Others like Anne Thompson, PhD continue to ask new questions and make discoveries. What tools do oceanographers use to learn about these cells on the larger global scale and the very small scale to help answer research questions?
Step 3: Hand out Tools of the trade_Exploratorium_Stations_Organizer (PDF) worksheet or record in lab journals. Student reminder: How do we measure in science? [Take a moment to remind students that when using calibrated tools, scientists measure to the last unit of certainty and estimate to the next decimal place. UNITS of what you measure (“grams of salt”) matter!]
Step 4: Working in groups, visit each of the 6 stations. Allow 5-10 min per station (stations vary in complexity). Encourage independent exploration, while circulating to help develop thinking (examples of teacher questioning strategies are in station preparation notes).
Step 5: Students with extra “downtime” may work on writing descriptions into their “Stations Organizer” worksheet or lab journal. Which of their investigation questions can they begin to answer? Do they need to collect more evidence?* (*If finished early or concurrently, students may begin preparing phytoplankton samples to use in Lab 3.5 Phytoplankton Spectrophotometry and Fluorescence for more in-depth, hands-on learning.)
Part 3: Review and Apply Exploratorium Tools (10 min)
Introduction: Read about Sally “Penny” Chisholms’ [winner of the 2019 Crafoord science prize] Tools of the Trade—Story of Discovery to learn about her work and apply learning from this lesson:
Step 1: Hand out (blank) version of Tools of the Trade—Story of Discovery. Students work in groups of two to read the story using the descriptions to help ‘Fill in the blanks’ with the name of the tool that she used for each new discovery in the story.
Step 2: As students read ask them to take notes, to build understanding of how the various tools were “bundled” (used in combinations) over time and what they contributed to making the discoveries about Synechococcus* and the huge final Discovery of the very small Prochlorococcus(?) (*single-cell cyanobacteria).
Step 3: Conduct a student self-check for understanding by reviewing the story. Ask for students’ help to fill in the answers on the overhead (formative assessment).
Step 4: Discuss these questions with the whole class [pair-share first, from ideas they compiled on the back of their sheet]:
- What part of the scientific question did each tool help to answer? [Remember this happened over many years, and many expeditions.]
- What were the big questions “The Story of Discovery” investigations helped to answer?
Step 5: End with Video: Annenberg Learning —Unit 3: Oceans // Section 1: Introduction (show minutes 13- 15) (2 min) —an introduction to scientist Penny Chisholm in her lab talking about Prochlorococcus
Step 6: [PBL Option] Review learning (10 min) Use PBL reflections ‘Know /Need to know’ and the PBL summary table to help formulate ideas, before adding new components to their ‘Drop of Seawater’ art.
Final Step: Go on to Lab 3.5 Phytoplankton Spectrophotometry and Fluorescence