Key Topics: Food Webs, Environmental Variability, Marine Ecology
Target Grade Range: 5th-9th (many materials can be used for a wider range of grades)
Full lesson plan
In this set of 6 activities, students explore a marine food web in the Northern Gulf of Alaska through an immersive video game and short film. They work individually or as a class to make a model food web using illustrated species cards representative of Northern Gulf of Alaska organisms. Students then utilize the example of a recent marine heatwave (also known as “The Blob”) to investigate how changes in the marine environment can affect different types of organisms and ripple through the food web. They compare the marine food web to a food web they are familiar with in a local ecosystem, and reflect on their learning and lingering questions.
Link to: Full Lesson Plan
NGA Food Webs Short Film
Dive into the Northern Gulf of Alaska with this 6-minute film. Students will be introduced to the concept of food chains and food webs. Support student learning and reflection with some of the following questions:
- What do you notice about the organisms in the video?
- What do you wonder about the Northern Gulf of Alaska?
- What are your experiences with the Northern Gulf of Alaska or these organisms?
- What do you want to learn about the Northern Gulf Alaska?
- What do you know about food webs?
- What would you like to learn about food webs?
- What do you notice about the environment in the video?
- What does this place remind you of?
NGA Food Webs Video Game
Students (or adults!) can use this fun, immersive video game to learn more about an example food chain and how organisms interact in the Northern Gulf of Alaska. To support learning, prompt students with some of the following questions:
- Based on the field notes, what types of food or resources does each organism need?
- Where in the environment do you think these resources or food sources would be most available?
- Does the video game provide a good representation of what the organism needs to do to get those resources or food sources? Explain your reasoning.
- How was life as an organism in the Northern Gulf of Alaska? This video game is a very simplified model of the real ecosystem. What other challenges do you think these organisms would have to face in real life?
Link to: Food Web Video Game
The full lesson plan, film, and video game are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, particularly at the middle school level. The full lesson plan for the virtual field trip integrates place-based learning approaches and engages students in connecting their lived experiences and observations with learning about the Northern Gulf of Alaska.
NGSS Performance Expectations
MS-LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
MS-LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
NGSS Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts
Science & Engineering Practices
- Constructing explanations
- Engaging in argument from evidence
Disciplinary Core Ideas
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
- Cause and effect
- Mechanism and explanation
- Systems and system models
- Energy and matter
- Flows, cycles, and conservation
- Stability and change
Other Selected Relevant Standards for Alaska
Alaska Reading Standards for Literacy in Science & Technical Subjects 6-8th grade standard #1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
Alaska Writing 6th grade writing standard #1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
AK.Cultural.E.2 (Alaska Cultural Standards):
Understand the ecology and geography of the bioregion they inhabit.
Supporting Activities & Resources
We’ve also selected a number of lesson plans from the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council that complement this virtual field trip:
Phytoplankton are a hugely important part of the NGA Food Web. In this activity, students design, test, and “race” model plankton with the goal of achieving neutral buoyancy.
This lesson guides students through learning about human connections to place and highlights their own connections to seasonal cycles and the ecosystems in which they live.
Solo Spot and Sound Mapping
These activities encourage learners to make observations about their local environment. Either activities can be used as a way to make comparisons between the NGA and students’ local environment and/or to engage in hands-on science practices with observations, evidence, and claims.
Invent an Invertebrate
This fun activity is a great way to reinforce student learning about the biodiversity and interesting adaptations of organisms in the NGA. It was designed for use with intertidal organisms, but can easily be adapted to focus on marine organisms of the NGA.
Adapt this scientific sketching activity to guide learners through visual observations and documentation of organisms or objects in their local environment. You can use the gallery of species profiles as examples of scientific illustration!
Food Web Fallout
Students learn about local organisms and work together to create their own food web model. The latter portion of this lesson focuses on impacts of an oil spill, but you can skip this part if it is not relevant.
Stake A Claim
This lesson takes place outside and focuses on the habitat needs of selected local organisms.
Download all activities in a ZIP file.
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