Reflection: Intervention and Extension Cemetery secrets (1 of 2) - Section 1: FRAME: Cemetery as data archive


This year I taught this lesson without first teaching students about reproductive strategies and survivorship curves. Because this unit emphasizes human population growth, my thinking was that reproductive strategies and survivorship curves, while important as conceptual framework for environmental scientists, were not essential for students to be successful with this unit. Additionally, I reasoned that students would be able to graph collected cemetery data as a survivorship curve and understand that human populations follow a predictable patterns; most people born live to an old age and then, once a certain threshold is passed, people begin to die more frequently. Many students were able to understand this concept and use it immediately, but a large subgroup struggled.

To better meet the needs of this struggling subgroup, I facilitated small group mini-lesson using the following sequence of learning activities:

  1. Introduction to reproductive strategies through discussion of elephants at play (National geographic footage of elephants at play and elephant family bonds). What do you notice about elephant families? How is this different from other types of organisms you can think of?
  2. Transition to direct explanation of r and k species. Is an elephant an r or a k? Are human r or k? What would be an example of an r?
  3. Narrative overview. How do r and k species create different survivorship curves? How do these concepts relate to the growth models that we have studied?
  4. DATA LAB: Survivorship curves. Here are two helpful model resources: 1) survivorship curves and 2) r and k species
  5. EVALUATION: Identify the type of reproductive strategy described in this clip. Also draw the survivorship curve for this population.

This work can be done in a blended, self-paced environment or as a whole group lesson. Students become very excited about being able to classify organisms that they know as r or k!

  Building base knowledge
  Intervention and Extension: Building base knowledge
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Cemetery secrets (1 of 2)

Unit 4: Populations
Lesson 6 of 16

Objective: Students will be able to 1) define demography and 2) collect lifespan data from an internet database.

Big Idea: Cemeteries are rich sources of human population data? How might we analyze cemetery data to better understand trends in human survivorship and mortality over time?

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Science, human population, survivorship
  55 minutes
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