Day One of Plaid Pete and Friends Take a Field Trip to the Biosphere Reserve

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SWBAT develop a model to describe how the biosphere interacts with at least one other Earth System.

Big Idea

What is ocean acidification? Students learn about acids and bases and use an indicator to help them understand what happens when carbon dioxide is dissolved in a liquid.

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students begin the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Earth's Systems:  Earth Materials and Systems -  that Earth's major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans).  These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth's surface materials and processes.  The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes landforms, and influences climate.  Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the atmosphere to determine patterns of weather.  (5-ESS2-1); The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes:  Nearly all of Earth's available water is in the ocean.  Most fresh water is in glaciers or underground:  only a tiny fraction is in streams, lakes, wetlands, and the atmosphere.  (5-ESS2-2)  and the Crosscutting Concept of Systems and System Models  - A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions (5-ESS2-1), and Scale, Proportion, and Quantity - Standard units are used to describe and measure physical quantities such as weight and volume (5-ESS2-2)

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 4 is 650 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010 - Although this is below the Lexile Band, there is a enough Science content that I know it will be sufficiently difficult for my students).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 30 minutes (Includes boiling cabbage).

The experiment is adapted from the Corals and Chemistry experiment at

Materials Needed:

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 4

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 4

One set of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Word Wall Cards - Lesson 4

One paper copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Word Wall Cards - Lesson 4

Cabbage Juice (You will need to prepare ahead of time by boiling 1 large red cabbage with the lid on until the water is a dark color.  Strain out the cabbage and save the juice.)

3 small cups (for the cabbage juice demonstration)

2 small cups or containers for each team, with lids - 1 lid with a hole or insert for a straw to fit

1 straw for each student (they will each need their own straw because it takes a lot of blowing carbon dioxide in the container to create a color change)


baking soda


Focus & Motivation

5 minutes

Introduce the Scenario

I tell my students, "It looks like Plaid Pete and his friends are going on a field trip - and we are going with them, virtually speaking!  I explain that the first stop on our tour of Earth's Systems is the Biosphere, and that Plaid Pete and his friends are going on a field trip to a "biosphere reserve."  I tell them to pay careful attention to the scenario today, as it will give them some important information about what this is.

Students Read the Scenario in their Teams

I hand out a copy of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 4 to my students.  They get their highlighters out and get ready to highlight their parts so that they can read them "Reader's Theater" style.  I explain that today there will be 3 parts - Plaid Pete, his friend Navjot, and a narrator.

Once the text has been highlighted, my students are off and reading!  The text is more dense than usual, as I have included some important Science content, so there are a few students I have to prompt to slow down!

Learning Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the learning objective and success criteria:  

Learning Objective:  I can develop a model to describe the interactions of Earth's biosphere with at least one other Earth System.

Language Objective:  I can record information in organized notes, with charts, tables, or other graphics, as appropriate.  [ELP.4-5.5]

Success Criteria:  I can correctly complete my lab sheet and construct a model to describe the interaction of Earth's biosphere with other Earth Systems.

Guided Exploration

25 minutes

Introduce Acids and Bases

I tell my students, before we begin, you need to know some basic information about acids and bases.  These are chemistry terms.  I play the short Acids and Bases Video from the Kids Know It Network.  It presents the information in a simple enough way that they can get a basic (no pun intended!) understanding of these two important chemistry terms.

When the video is completed, I tell my students, "Today you are going to investigate the event that Plaid Pete and Navjot were talking about - ocean acidification, or the process where the pH of the ocean is increased to the point where it becomes an acid."  I show them the 3 cups of cabbage juice I have prepared saying, "In these cups is cabbage juice. Cabbage juice is a good indicator of an acid or a base, because it changes color when exposed to them.  Remember in the video it talked about litmus paper?  Litmus paper is also an indicator.  It changes color when it is exposed to acids or bases."

I have the three clear cups in which I have placed the cabbage juice, approximately 2 inches high.  I demonstrate for them by adding vinegar to one of the cups until it turns a pinkish color saying, "The change in color to pinkish has indicated that this is an acid."  I then take the other cup and start stirring in baking soda a little bit at a time until it turns a bluish-green color saying, "The change in color to bluish green has indicated that this is a base."

I have clearly labeled the cups as Cup A, B, and C.  Now I ask,"Which cup had the acid added to it?"  I call on a student the student answers that the acid is in Cup C.  I do the same for the base, and another student answers that the base is in Cup B.  I also ask which cup is the control, and a student answers that the control is Cup A.  I also ask, "Why do we have a control?"  It's important that my students can articulate that we need to have something to measure our results by.  I make sure this question is answered sufficiently before we move on.

Introduce the Activity

I pass out a copy of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 4 to each of my students.  We read through the directions completely to ensure they understand them.  Since there is very little to do in the way of jobs, I don't require a jobs list.  However, I do point out to my students that this lab sheet now requires that they construct their own table.  I ask, "When does a scientist begin to construct the table?  Do they do it after they begin the experiment, or before?  I receive the correct answer - before.  I tell my students that I am glad they realized that because I won't be handing out any materials until their tables are constructed.  I suggest that the team leaders check those before they come to retrieve materials, as I will be asking.  Otherwise, I know they will rush to do the investigation and will not be prepared to write down their observations!

Students Conduct the Investigation

After ensuring that teams have their tables constructed, I hand out materials and then circulate among my teams.  I haven't tried this experiment before, and I noticed that it takes a long time and a lot of blowing through that straw to create a barely perceptible color change.  The best way to notice the change is to set both of the containers (the control and the experimental container) on white paper.  Then, the color change is a bit easier to see. My students are troopers though - this Video Clip shows them hard at work!

The dish on the left is the experimental dish after about 15 minutes of students blowing into it with a straw.  The dish on the right is the control.


Claims and Evidence Statements

When teams are finished, I give them the signal to clean up, fold the lab sheet "hamburger style" and glue into their Science Notebooks.  They are then to turn to the next clean page and make a Claims and Evidence T-Table.  On the claim side, they are to make a claim about the pH of the cabbage juice, and they will support their claim with evidence from their investigation.  A completed student page looks like this student example.  

When all teams are finished, I give the signal to have them get ready to work on the new vocabulary that we have encountered today!  I tell my students they are in luck because one of the words is a repeat from a previous unit.

Vocabulary Instruction

10 minutes

Consistent with the 5E Model for Science Instruction, I have provided a hands-on opportunity before introducing vocabulary. Introduce Vocabulary

Introduce Vocabulary

I present the words from the Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Word Wall Cards - Lesson 4 using the following instructional routine.

  1. Say the word to students.
  2. Ask students to repeat the word at least 5 times.  For example, I will say, "Say it to the window.  Say it to my hand.  Say it to the door.  Say it to the ceiling."
  3. I say the word in context.  For example, I will say, " The position the plants were placed in was one of the controlled variables in the video."  
  4. I will then randomly call on a student to use the word in a sentence, giving successive prompts to assist them, if needed.

Science Notebooks

I use the following routine to have students write these words into their Science Notebooks:

After introducing the words, I demonstrate for students how to make a three column table with rows for each of the eight vocabulary words.  I model for them in my own Science Notebook how to write the word in the first box, a non-linguistic (e.g. picture) representation of the word in the second box, and work with the class to generate an example sentence for the first word in the third box. Students cut out their copies of the cards and place in the envelope, which they glue on the page behind their table.  They will finish sentences for the remaining seven words either for homework, or for seat-work later.  A completed notebook will look like this Example


Reflection & Closure

20 minutes

Set the Stage for Tomorrow

After I have introduced and discussed the vocabulary that students will need, I call them to the meeting area.  I ask them to bring their clipboards and a pencil.  I have placed several 3" x 5" Post It Notes on each student's desk.  I want to have a discussion to pull together what they have experienced today, as well as set the stage for the kind of thinking they will need to build on for Day Two of Plaid Pete and Friends Take a Field Trip to the Biosphere Reserve tomorrow.

I review their experience by asking, "What happens when you dissolve carbon dioxide gas into a liquid?" One student responds, "It turns the pH into an acid."  I ask if anyone agrees or disagrees - a few students add on to this student's comments noting that the evidence for this was when the cabbage juice changed colors.

Then I say, "We are looking at the Earth System of Biosphere in these two lessons.  Let's think in terms of that.  Plaid Pete and Navjot were talking about ocean acidification.  Let's stretch our learning today to that situation.  What sphere or spheres do you predict would be interacting with the biosphere in that situation?  I want you to turn and talk to your partner. When you have some predictions about which spheres might be interacting in this situation, and how they interact - I want you to stop and jot your thoughts down on the Post-It Notes I gave you.

There is a steady hum of conversation, when it subsides to a lull, I give the signal to start jotting.  As students finish, I collect the sticky notes.  Then I say, "I am going to read some of these notes - as I do - see if they trigger any more ideas that you might have.  I will collect all of your ideas and place them on our Predictions Chart.  Tomorrow, we will be looking at this more closely!

These are a couple of the Post-It Notes that students submitted: