The students are introduced to the scientific method by examining primary source materials consisting of archived habitat photos from teh Ano Nuevo elephant seal rookery. A CSUMB project led by Mr. Jotham Fisher-Smith captured images over 2 1/2 years of the elephant seals via web cam.
The laboratory presents students with an essential question and a dataset for student analysis that leads to the discovery of patterns present in the elephant seal life cycle and habitat: "What time of year are elephant seals born?".
By the end of the lesson students will:
- Use the scientific method to make an initial hypothesis from data.
- Analyze data to support or refute their hypothesis.
- Collect and analyze data to form conclusions.
Scaffolding & Differentiation:
High School: Form essential questions independently by observing the photo data and then moving through individualized topics using the scientific method.
Gifted and Talented: Students may work individually or in pairs to choose a research topic and presentation choice about elephant seals, after going through lessons and videoconference. Recommended time frame for culminating projects is 3-10 days after class lessons.
ELL: Students may organize photos into timelines and construct a flow chart that depicts key words to convey changes over time. Spanish speaking students may take notes on the video in their primary language, discuss the facts in Spanish, and then summarize in both Spanish and English, focusing on learning of academic vocabulary and communicating verbally and visually using standard structure of English.
Special Education: Students may choose 1-3 pictures to study closely, describing the habitat and elephant seal details. Students may go through the scientific process by asking their own essential questions based on the picture, or an essential question posed by the teacher that aligns with individualized learning levels.
Computer lab, student tablets or alternatively a digital projector and computer in the classroom.
Elephant Seal Scientific Method (Digital Lab worksheet)
Scoring Rubric (PDF for Highlighting)
900 Days at Año Nuevo Quicktime video.
The teacher can download 900 Days at Año Nuevo or send/preload the Quicktime video onto each student's computer. This will allow the students to individually observe and manipulate the video.
Alternatively, view the 900 Days at Año Nuevo video as a class. The following procedures are based upon the teacher manipulating the video and showing it to all students on a screen. If you choose to have each student work from their own computers, you can verbally guide them as they move through the procedure.
Be sure to test the video link and projection capability before class begins. Read through all directions prior to leading the class, unless students are working independently. The first run through of the slides should be like a "quick read."
- 1. Pass out and go over instructions on the Scientific Method lab worksheet before students begin. This exercise works best when students work in pairs.
- 2. Summarize the exercise to students. Point out the elephant seal pup, cows and bulls in the picture on page 1 of the worksheet. Stress the fact that when pups are small their fur is black and they are usually found next to their mothers.
- 3. Read aloud from the worksheet, going over the scientific method and definition links (optional). Guide students as they fill in the hypothesis section.
- 4. Demonstrate the controls on the Quicktime video or have a student lead this.
- 5. Advance through the images to reach the photo dated January 1, 2000. Tell the students that the exercise will begin at this slide.
- 6. Move forward through the slides, keeping each image on the screen for a few seconds. Don’t prompt them too much at this point, because some students will unintentionally let the others know when they have found pups.
- 7. Students should record year, date, and number of pups observed on the data sheet. The entries don’t have to be sequential. Tell students to only record 4 or 5 dates for each year.
- 8. Work through the images until you arrive at the last image, dated December 21, 2001.
- 9. Many students will finish collecting their data in plenty of time to write their conclusions and comments. Some will require more time or help. If students do not complete the write-up, allow them to finish the worksheet and turn it in as homework the next day.