Monthly Archives: November 2012

What is Hibernation? An Activity Using Discussion Frames (November Study #3)

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A discussion frame is an organizational tool that helps learners prepare a well-supported argument. By considering both sides of a provocative issue or claim, students are better able to build a case to support their own stance on the issue.

In this lesson, students will use a discussion frame in a group activity designed to help them compare hibernation and sleep. In the process, they will learn the defining characteristics of hibernation, and the different types of hibernation exhibited in the animal kingdom.

This lesson will also demonstrate the use of a simple monitoring technique using colored index cards, which students and teachers can use to check on student progress in discussion groups

discussion frame compare and contrast

Photo credit: (c) Michael Himbault, 2010 via Creative Commons

Materials Needed

  • Copies of the discussion frame (one per group of students)
  • Non-fiction resources (texts, articles, web resources) on hibernation and sleep
  • Writing tools
  • Colored index cards (red, yellow, green) – one set per table group

autumn nature study

Background Information for the Teacher

Before assigning the task to students, you will need to do your own research, to determine the following pieces of information:

  1. Are sleep and hibernation the same thing?
  2. What are the essential features of hibernation that I want students to understand?
  3. What key vocabulary do I hope that students uncover during their research?

Do not provide the answers to these questions to students, but use the information to guide discussion as students work, and when you debrief after the learning task.

What is Hibernation?

Most biologists define hibernation as “specialized, seasonal reduction in metabolism, concurrent with scarcity of food and cold weather (“Hibernation”. Bear.org. 2004-07-19. Retrieved 2012-11-27).

Some key physiological changes that occur in mammalian hibernation include the following:

  • Significant decrease in body temperature
  • Onset of a coma-like state, from which an animal has difficulty arousing
  • Cessation of eating and drinking
  • Cessation or drastic decrease in frequency of defecation and urination

States Similar to Hibernation

Estivation is a hibernation-like state that occurs during the summer, usually during extremely hot or dry periods.

Brumation is the term used to describe the winter physiological changes in reptiles, which cannot regulate their own body temperature. During this hibernation-like state, reptiles find refuge from freezing temperatures, as their surroundings cause decreases in their body temperature.

Torpor is a short-term period of reduced body temperature and metabolism, in response to diurnal or weather changes, such as extreme hot spells or the heat of the day in the desert.

So What is Sleep, Then?

While hibernation is characterized by significant changes in physiology, especially body temperature, sleep primarily brings on changes in brain activity, and only minor changes in physiology.

During sleep, heart rate and breathing rate decrease slightly, and body temperature decreases, but the changes that occur in these are not nearly as dramatic as the changes seen in hibernating animals, where one of the most marked changes is in body temperature. Sleeping animals can resume normal activities within minutes of being aroused, while an animal coming out of hibernation often acts sleep-deprived, and needs extra sleep over the next several days.

Conversely, a sleeping animal demonstrates dramatic changes in the amplitude and types of its brain waves, and different phases of sleep have their own characteristic patterns. Studies of the brain waves of hibernating animals show their brain activity looks much like the brain activity of wakeful animals.

Important Tier 2 Vocabulary Words:

  • Hibernation, sleep
  • Physiology, neurology
  • Rate, frequency, duration
  • Increase, decrease

Helpful Resources

autumn nature study

Building Background Knowledge

On the SmartBoard, on chart paper or on the board, write the word, hibernation. Invite students to share everything they think of when they think of the word, hibernation. As students share ideas, create a concept web, grouping like responses together (e.g., “sleep,” “body slows down,” “body temp drops” will be grouped together, as will responses like “bears,” “toads,” and other hibernating animals) – see diagram, below, for an example. It is not important to “edit” student responses at this time, as you will return to this concept web to revise it, after the students complete their research.

 

simple science strategies describing

Use a concept web to gather students’ prior knowledge about a scientific concept, such as hibernation. Ideas can be revised after further study. Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Post the completed web in view of all the groups.

A Note on Forming Groups

The focus of this learning task is on building an argument using evidence. This skill is accomplished through the use of cooperative structures which use discussion as an oral rehearsal for producing a written argument. So groups should be structured in a way to provide language models for students who are not as skilled in oral presentation, and to provide peer scaffolding for making meaning from a variety of non-fiction texts. See “Creating Mixed Instructional Groups” for more information on forming cooperative groups for activities such as this.

Cooperative Learning Strategies

Mixed ability instructional groups can provide peer scaffolding for comprehension, oral language and team building.

 

Having students assign team roles is helpful for all ages of student. Roles that will be helpful for this task include a time keeper, a recorder, a task master, and a materials manager. Some teachers add an encourager, wordsmith or illustrator, when working with groups of five. A wordsmith might be helpful when working with science texts.

The Discussion Frame: A Comprehension Tool

When posed with a provocative issue, students will quickly decide what their stance is on the issue. This is problematic, for several reasons:

  1. Their quick response is often based on emotion, misconception, or a limited amount of (often “popular”) information about the topic;
  2. Once committed to a view, it is difficult to persuade students of another viewpoint, even if their own turns out to be in error;
  3. The highest quality arguments anticipate alternative viewpoints, and prepare evidence to address these views ahead of time.

So, when using a discussion frame, students must use the text available to gather evidence both in agreement with and opposed to the central view or argument. Only when the teacher approves their evidence, is a group allowed to proceed to deciding on a stance on the issue. In this way, their view is more well-informed, has considered multiple possible views, and is prepared to address any dissenting views with appropriate evidence.

building an argument using evidence

 

The Discussion Frame: A Cooperative Learning Tool

Each group should receive the appropriate text materials (which, ideally, have been previewed by the teacher for their appropriateness for the task), as well as a copy of the discussion frame. If possible, enlarge to frame on 10” x 13” paper, to enable the whole group to more easily see the chart.

In the center of the discussion frame, have students write the statement: “Hibernation is simply a type of deep sleep.” (NOTE: When using discussion frames, using a declarative statement as the argument provokes more discourse than a question, which can lead to “yes” and “no” responses.).

You may print out the hibernation discussion frame, or the blank discussion frame, and edit as desired.

Provide students with enough non-fiction resources (ideally, previewed by the teacher for their appropriateness for the task), for all groups to have an assortment of reference materials to complete both the “Evidence to Support” and “Evidence to Refute” sides of the frame. They may use their concept web as a starting place for their research (as they will need to find evidence to support (or not) the ideas they have on the web. Remind students that they are NOT to take a stance until you approve their research.

building an argument using evidence

As a means of monitoring groups’ progress, pass out three colored index cards to each group: one pink, one yellow, one green. Prior to the groups beginning their discussions, instruct students to use the cards to indicate how their work is going: green if things are going well, yellow if they need clarification or some guidance, and pink if they are confused, or have reached an impasse in their team work. Periodically during the discussion period, use questioning to elicit a response from teams. Here are some examples of questions you might use:

  • [Before beginning]: “Show me with your cards how well you understand the task I have given you.”
  • [During discussion]: “Ok – just checking in. Use your cards to show me how well the team roles are going.”
  • [During discussion]: “Can I have your attention for a moment? Just doing a time check – use your cards to show me how close you are to finding evidence for both sides of the argument: green if you could stop now, yellow if you need a few more minutes to finish up, pink if you think you have a long way to go still.”
  • [After discussion]: “Ok – before we debrief: use your cards to show me how comfortable you are with the stance you have taken, how well you think you can defend it with the evidence you have. Green if you are confident, yellow if you think you have a good case, but could use some feedback, pink if you know that you need more or better evidence.”

Debrief

As students are winding down their discussions, pass word to each group, via the task manager, that each group should be taking a stance, based on their evidence, and that they should indicate what they feel are the three strongest pieces of evidence to support their stance (they do not need to write their argument at this time – just choose their evidence).

Begin by asking for a show of hands indicating whether the groups believed that hibernation was a kind of sleep, or not. Then ask groups to share what they thought were the most significant pieces of evidence. Project an image of the discussion frame, and record these pieces of evidence for all to see.

If time allows, discuss any evidence they recorded which they determined wasn’t strong or supporting evidence, and talk about why they decided so.

Return to the concept web, and invite students to revise their thinking about what hibernation is, and isn’t. Record changes to the chart in a different color.

 

building an argument using evidence

Photo credit: (c) Gilles San Martin, 2010 via Creative Commons

 

Possible Follow-up Tasks for Individual Student Research & Response

  1. Create a written argument, using the information on the discussion frame
  2. Conduct further research on any evidence which seems controversial or contradictory (e.g., black bears do not reach a coma-like state – are they true hibernators?)
  3. Conduct further research on one of the hibernation-like states (torpor, estivation, etc.)
  4. Create a double bubble map comparing hibernation and sleep
  5. Investigate the hibernation habits of an animal species of student’s choice, indicating specific environmental triggers and the animal’s response to them
compare and contrast

Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

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Aside

  Just because the leaves have fallen, and the greens of summer and golds, reds and bronzes of October have given way to the drab browns and grays of impending winter, doesn’t mean there are not delightful things to see … Continue reading

The Art of “Blending” – Winter Camouflage (November Study 1)

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What is Camouflage?

cam·ou·flage

  1. concealment of things: concealment of things, by disguising them to look like their surroundings
  2. concealing devices: devices designed to conceal by imitating the colors of the surrounding environment
  3. protective coloration in animals: the devices that animals use to blend into their environment in order to avoid being seen by predators or prey, especially coloration

Fall provides many opportunities to observe how living things prepare themselves for winter. One topic we will explore this month is how animals’ coloration can aid in their protection during the fall and winter months.

This article will focus specifically on how animals’ coloration protects them in the fall and winter months. The larger topic of coloration will be reserved for another month.

Types of Camouflage

Animals exhibit several types of coloration, each of which protects them from harm in a different way.

  1. Concealing Coloration
  2. Disguise
  3. Disruptive Coloration
  4. Mimicry
  5. No Camouflage

Each of these methods will be examined more closely as it applies to fall and winter protection.

Concealing Coloration

When folks think of camouflage, this is the type of camouflage that probably comes to mind first, and is probably one of the most common, especially among prey species of birds, insects and other prey animals.

When an animal exhibits concealing coloration, it is colored or patterned in such a way that it blends into its surroundings, looking very similar to its environment.

Many animals adopt a different coloration in the winter. Some adopt the drab browns and grays of the fall and winter woodlands, such as many sparrows, winter goldfinches, and winter starlings.

Here’s a fun birding note – there are so many small birds that move fast, hide undercover, and are hard to tell apart unless you get a good look at them through binoculars: warblers, sparrows, finches, buntings… birders refer to these as “little brown jobs” or “LBJs.”

 

Camouflage Concealing Color Fall Nature Study

Many sparrows and other small birds use concealing color year-round, or just in the winter, to hide among the brown leaves of the forest floor. See “Little Brown Birds: Sparrows and Friends” for a study of brown birds. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2010.

 

Disguise

Overwintering insects are at great risk of being someone’s wintertime food. In many cases, they disguise themselves as dead leaves or twigs, to avoid being noticed. This is the case with many of the giant silk moths, whose caterpillars overwinter in cocoons wrapped in dead leaves and twigs, effectively blending them into the leaf litter. This is even more important, when you consider that some, such as the Luna moth, must overwinter, then remain in the pupa until nearly the end of July, before the adult moth emerges – a long time to remain hidden from view, and from potential predators.

 

Camouflage Fall Nature Study

Many caterpillars cover their cocoons with dead leaves, to look like leaf litter, as they overwinter. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012.

 

Disruptive Coloration

In the fall and winter, some birds don’t change color drastically, but become a little more striped or spotted, and begin to congregate in large groups. The combination of the markings and the masses of birds make it hard for a potential predator to pick one bird out of the group, similar to the way that the stripes on zebras make it hard for a lion to pick one zebra out of the herd.

This type of camouflage is called disruptive coloration. By adopting a pattern of stripes or spots, the “edges” of the animal become less distinct, making it hard for a predator to zero in on one animal, or on an animal’s vulnerable spot (head, neck). Gathering in a large group makes this even more effective.

European starlings don’t change color dramatically, but, in the winter, become much more spotted. Similarly, juncos have a strikingly white belly that blends in with the snow, making them look like a cluster of black dots hopping over the snow.

 

Disruptive Coloration Nature Study Fall

Juncos’ white underparts blend in with the snow, making their vulnerable underside indistinguishable from their environment. (c) Phoenix Wolf-Ray, 2008 via Creative Commons.

 

Mimicry

Sometimes, animals have markings that resemble other, less “edible” or more dangerous creatures. The Viceroy and monarch butterflies are a classic example of this, as are caterpillars that have markings and “horns” to resemble more menacing creatures. While not a true mimicry, there is a subtle version of this “look-alike” phenomenon seen in winter birds.

If you have been watching your feeding station (that you assembled last month), you may have noticed a few days when you had huge flocks of black birds that descended on the feeders, stayed for an hour or so, then left as quickly as they arrived. This happens in my feeding area sometime in September or October. I usually see a huge flock of grackles, but, amongst the grackles, there will be a few starlings, some red-winged blackbirds, and maybe a crow or two.

While this isn’t true mimicry, the species that are in fewer numbers gain protection from looking like, and joining, the flock of grackles (a species that commonly gathers in large numbers in the fall). This association doesn’t affect the grackles, but benefits the other bird species. Would-be predators are less likely to attack the raucous grackles than they are the more timid starlings and blackbirds. So there is protection by association.

 

camouflage fall nature study

Birds such as red-winged blackbirds and starlings, will sometimes join large flocks of similarly colored birds, such as these grackles, for safety in numbers. (c) Rich Anderson, 2005 via Creative Commons.

 

No Camouflage

Not every animal uses camouflage as a protective measure, in winter or any other time of the year. Just one look at your bird list from your bird feeding station, and you can see a number of common species that remain brightly colored, year round:

  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Evening Grosbeak

There are also some common feeder birds that are brightly colored, but migrate to warmer, or even tropical, regions during the winter, so they continue to blend in with “summery” surroundings:

  • Scarlet Tanagers
  • Northern Orioles
  • Many warblers
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak

For these birds, the advantage of bright colors to attract a mate outweighs the risk of being easy to spot, or the bird has other means to protect itself from predators.

 

Blue Jay No Camouflage

Blue jays keep their bright blue coloration year-round. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2010.

 

The Learning Task

The Key skills and concepts

  • Dimension 1: Science ProcessEngaging in Argument from Evidence
  • Dimension 2: Cross-Cutting ConceptCause-and-Effect: Mechanism and Explanation
  • Dimension 3: Scientific DisciplinesLife Sciences: Biological Evolution – Unity and Diversity
  • Cognitive Process: Comparing & Contrasting

If you are not a member of Project Feeder Watch, consider donating your time (and a few dollars) to become a citizen scientist, and contribute your observations to a scientific project. For your subscription, you’ll get a poster of common feeder birds in North America, data sheets and/or access to electronic recording forms online, and a subscription to a monthly newsletter that is chock full of great information for homeschool, birding enthusiasts or classroom use.

If you’re not a member, you can use this procedure to study the fall and winter coloration of your feeder birds:

  1. Find a place to observe birds for about 15-30 minutes. [Your bird feeding station is a good place]. It is good to pick the same time each week, so that you get a true representation of the kinds of birds that come to your feeder.
  2. Print out copies of the camouflage recording sheet (enough for pairs or small groups of students).
  3. Note the date and weather conditions or any other important factors that might affect bird numbers (e.g., disturbances in the environment; a new feeder or food; the presence of a dog or cat in the area).
  4. Record the species of birds that come to your feeder during this time in the first column.
  5. Record the maximum number of that bird that you see at any one time (use a pencil so you can erase).
  6. Check off what kind(s) of camouflage you think the species uses in the next columns (NOTE: Only the most common winter camouflage types are listed).
  7. Record any other interesting observations in the last column.
  8. Summarize your observations about birds and coloration on the lines at the bottom of the page.

NOTE: There are no right answers to this task. The point is to begin to examine the coloration of birds, compare them, and draw some inferences about the relationship between the birds’ coloration and adaptation to changing seasons.

 

Share

Post your observations, photos and links to your blog post to the November edition of the Simple Science Blog Carnival! Make sure you include a link back to this post or the blog carnival in your blog post.

 

Backyard Birds of North America: An Introduction to Familiar Species — Perfect for bird lovers, this informative pamphlet details more than 140 urban avian species and provides instructions on attracting and feeding backyard birds. Laminated for durability, this handy guide is ideal for field use by novices and experts alike. $2.71, Barnes & Noble.

 

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The November Simple Science Strategies Newsletter is Here!

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Well, this is not the United States Postal Service…

Weather events, loss of power, school cancellations and other unforeseen events DO affect the schedule here at Simple Science. And we apologize for it!

Winter Storm Ali 2012

We’re done making our snowman… here’s the next newsletter!

Without further ado (or TOO much delay) here is the November edition of the Simple Science Strategies Newsletter.

In it, we will use November nature events as a springboard for conversations about some big science ideas:

Topic — preparing for winter

  • camouflage
  • hibernation
  • evergreen and deciduous trees
  • fall and winter nature finds

Science processes, concepts and disciplines

  • Building an Argument Using Evidence
  • Stability and Change
  • Life Sciences: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

Strategies and tools

  • Comparing and Contrasting
  • Using Argument (Discussion Frames) to compare sides of an argument
  • Creating Double Bubble Maps to compare two things
Simple Science Strategies November Newsletter

Click image or link to download the November edition of the Simple Science Strategies Newsletter (2012)

Don’t Forget!

Share…

Please post your work on our Blog Carnival. See the link for important details about the November blog carnival.

Give us feedback…

Take a few moments to complete a very brief survey about your experiences on this blog.

win! (who doesn’t like free?)

Enter on our sister site, A Child’s Garden, for a chance to win an All-Season Indoor Composter, by UncommonGoods. Entries will be accepted through the end of November. No purchase necessary. Click here to enter.

 

The All-Seasons Indoor Composter, $48 at UncommonGoods.
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