Hands-on Activity: News Flash!

Contributed by: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

A photo of the American Bald Eagle – no longer on the endangered species list.
Figure 1. Once considered a threatened species, the American Bald Eagle was taken off the endangered species list in June 2007.
copyright
Copyright © United States Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region, http://www.usbr.gov/

Summary

This activity illustrates the interrelationship between science and engineering in the context of extinction prevention. There are two parts to the activity. The first part challenges students to think like scientists as they generate reports on endangered species and give presentations worthy of a news channel or radio broadcast. The second part puts students in the shoes of engineers, designing ways to help the endangered species.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Scientific studies of endangered species can explain to engineers why a species is threatened. Engineers use this information to come up with ideas for products that can help save species. Many projects that environmental engineers work on help save endangered groups indirectly by helping preserve or restore their habitats.

Pre-Req Knowledge

It is important for students to be knowledgeable about global warming and to have had gone through Life Science, Lesson 2, "Extinction Prevention via Engineering."

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Identify cause and effect relationships in a system.
  • Describe data using a graph.
  • Demonstrate the interrelationship between engineering and science in the context of extinction prevention.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation. (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities. Describe patterns such as clustering, outliers, positive or negative association, linear association, and nonlinear association. (Grade 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Brainstorming is a group problem-solving design process in which each person in the group presents his or her ideas in an open forum. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Make two-dimensional and three-dimensional representations of the designed solution. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Interpret and analyze data about changes in environmental conditions – such as climate change – and populations that support a claim describing why a specific population might be increasing or decreasing (Grade 6) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Examine, evaluate, question, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media to investigate how environmental conditions affect the survival of individual organisms (Grade 6) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:

  • Three sheets of poster board
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Writing utensils
  • Writing paper
  • Rulers
  • 3 copies of the Planning your News Report Worksheet
  • Sources of information about endangered species, such as textbooks, magazine articles, or websites (online or pre-printed for students). Note: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has a list of endangered species with links to information about each (http://www.fws.gov/endangered/media/spotlight.html).

Introduction/Motivation

Okay, imagine this: you are flipping channels on the television when you catch a news story on the American Bald Eagle returning from the brink of extinction. How marvelous, you think, that the eagle is no longer on the endangered species list! Then the TV reporter switches to the next big story. But wait! You want to learn more about the eagle. You wonder why they did not give you more background about the people who helped save the Bald Eagle. You imagine that you could do a fine job of telling the story if only you were in charge of the news report. Great news! Today you can be in charge! You are going to create a TV report that explains the science behind an endangered species, and the engineering solutions to help save them.

Both scientists and engineers can help us fight against extinction. Can you tell what the difference is in what they each do? Well, scientists help gather information and engineers use that information to solve problems. Scientists build knowledge in a very specific way. I will bet, based on all the science classes that you have had, that you have an idea of how scientists build knowledge. What do we do in science class that is different than the learning you do in most of your other classes? (Steer students towards the answer that scientists perform controlled experiments and that their results should be repeatable.) As scientists gather data about biodiverse habitats, we learn new scientific facts. These facts contribute to an ever-growing body of knowledge about species and their habitats.

While scientists build new knowledge, engineers design solutions to problems. Like scientists, they have a particular way of doing things. Scientists use the scientific method to discover new facts about our world, while engineers use the design process to create new products. The design process includes: defining the problem, gathering information about the problem, brainstorming ideas, then selecting the best idea from that list, and finally culminating with designing, testing and evaluating. As part of this process, engineers gather information from a variety of sources. Imagine all of these sources as a television that engineers can flip to different channels. Science is one of the most important "channels" that engineers listen to as they gather information to help solve a problem.

In this activity, you will get to play the roles of both the scientists and engineers who solve the problem of extinction.

Vocabulary/Definitions

Endangered: Having the possibility of becoming extinct

Extinction: A species of plant, animal or insect has completely died out and no longer exists.

Habitat: The immediate environment that a plant or animal lives in.

Species: In the classification of living things (e.g. plant, animals and insect), this is the most specific level of classification.

Procedure

Background

In groups of three, students design a news report that they will present to the class. The report will include scientific background information about the endangered species and engineered products that will help save the species (either directly or indirectly). On the first day, students gather information for the science report and brainstorm ideas for the engineering solution. On the second day, they prepare their report, create visual aids and present to the class (as if they are giving a news report).

With the Students

Day 1: Gathering information for the report

Part 1: Scientists

  • Each group should make believe that they are scientists and must provide information for a news report about an endangered species.
  • Give students science resources (e.g., magazines, books or internet access) that they can use for research.
  • Have students use the Planning Your News Report Worksheet to plan their news report.

Part 2: Engineers

  • Using the Planning Your News Report Worksheet as a guide, students now imagine that they are engineers. They design a product that will help prevent their endangered species from becoming extinct. You should explain to students that they will not actually build the product. However, they will present the idea in their news report as if it were a real product being designed and built.

Day 2: Preparing the news report

Using the information that they gathered and the design they came up with the day before, have students prepare a news report to present to the class. One student plays the role of the news anchor, the second is the scientist and the third is the engineer.

1. First, have students create posters to use as visual aids for their report.

  • The science poster should have a picture or drawing of the animal and a plot showing how the population changes.
  • The engineering poster should have a detailed drawing of the device that they have invented. It should also include 2- 3 sentences or phrases that highlight the important features of the device.

2. Next, have students write a brief set of lines for each person to say in their news report. They should do a practice run of the report at least once before they present to the rest of the class.

3. Finally, have each group present their poster.

Attachments

Assessment

Pre-Activity Assessment

Stop and Jot: After doing the associated lesson, students should have some background information on extinction. Ask them to jot down answers to the following questions, and then have them share answers with the class.

  • What is species extinction?
  • What is a great cause of extinction?
  • What can engineers do to prevent extinction?

Activity Embedded Assessment

Planning Your News Report Worksheet: Check each group's progress as students work through their Planning Your News Report Worksheet on the first day.

Presentation: On the second day, have each group present their news reports to the rest of the class.

Post-Activity Assessment

Concept Reflections/Journal Writing: Have the students reflect on the extinction of species, and write a journal entry on their thoughts. Try one of these writing prompts, or create your own:

  • A habitat being destroyed for the development of a city can lead to the extinction of a species. Should humans ever stop building in cities for the sake of an animal? How about for a plant or insect?
  • Should we think of ways to fit more people into our cities, without sprawling into natural habitat? If so, name some ways this can be done.
  • Sometimes the land that an endangered animal lives on has valuable resources that humans could really use. For example, it might be used as farmland or for drilling oil. When is it ok to protect that land for the animal's sake, and when should we instead be more concerned about human needs?
  • As a class, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each group's design. How does it help to maintain biodiversity?

Activity Scaling

For lower grades, provide the research for them in 1-page summaries.

For upper grades, have students write a longer research report for the science section of the Planning Your News Report Worksheet.

References

United States Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region, March 16, 2009. www.usbr.gov Accessed March 19, 2009.

Contributors

Michael J. Bendewald; Karen King; Janet Yowell

Copyright

© 2009 by Regents of the University of Colorado.

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Last modified: August 8, 2018

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