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

3 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


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

Big Idea

How does ocean acidification affect the biosphere? Students investigate the effects of acid on shells, and construct models to describe sphere interactions.

Setting Up the Investigation

This is Day Two of a Two Day Lesson.  Click here for Day One of Plaid Pete and Friends Take a Field Trip to the Biosphere Reserve.

On Day One of this investigation, students engaged in a guided exploration where they learned about acids and bases, and dissolved carbon dioxide in an indicator (cabbage juice), to discover that it reduces the pH of liquid and makes it acidic.  On this second day, students will further their understanding by learning that excess amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are dissolved in the ocean, creating ocean acidification.  They will take part in an investigation to determine the impact of ocean acidification on the shells of marine animals.

Note:  The majority of this lesson was taught early in the day, and finished at the end of the day to allow the eggshells to remain in the vinegar and water combination as long as possible.  

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 13 is 740 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.

The experiment is adapted from the Corals and Chemistry experiment at change

Materials Needed:

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 5

Pieces of clean, empty chicken eggshell (serve as marine eggshells)



1 graduated cylinder for each group

4 clear cups for each group

1 balance and mass cubes for each group 

Cups for balance

paper towels

tongs to remove egg shells

Day One

Materials Needed:

The preparation time for this investigation is approximately 30 minutes (Includes boiling the cabbage).

The experiment is adapted from the Corals and Chemistry experiment at

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

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 vials for each team

1 straw for each student


baking soda

Focus & Motivation

15 minutes

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 have gathered my students in our meeting area.  I share the learning objective and success criteria, and explain that they will be constructing their models by the end of the period today, using what they have learned in this two day investigation:  

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.

I explain that the model they will create will be on the second page of their lab sheet.  I say, "Your model should pass the "stranger test."  That means a stranger could look at it and clearly see by looking at the pictures and labels that there is an interaction between at least two of Earth's spheres.  You may even need to include some text boxes in order to sufficiently explain those interactions."

Review Prediction Chart

After I share the learning objectives, I refer to the prediction chart that we created yesterday.  I share some of the predictions that students have made about how other Earth Systems may interact with the biosphere.  

Share Video

I tell my students, "I have a short video that I would like you to watch.  This is a video you have seen before.  It is about The Carbon Cycle.  Before when we viewed this video, we were mostly concerned with the basics of the carbon cycle - how the element carbon cycles through nature and stays in balance.  Now, I want you to watch the video with different eyes.  This time I want you to watch the video asking yourself these questions - How does the carbon cycle get out of balance?  Which of Earth's Systems or spheres are affected when this happens?  Be thinking about these questions because we will answer them later, after our investigation.  When the video is over, I would like you to go quietly back to your teams so we can begin our investigation."  

Guided Exploration

15 minutes

Introduce the Activity

I pass out a copy of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 5 to each of my students.  We read through the directions completely to ensure they understand them.  As with previous multi-step investigations, I insist that students create a job list.  They know they will not be allowed to retrieve their materials and begin the investigation until they have a job list that each team member agrees upon.

I ask my students to pay particular attention to the Data Table.  Today, I have given them a Data Table because it is giving them specific information on when and what data to collect.

Students Conduct the Investigation

After ensuring that teams have their tables constructed, I hand out materials and then circulate, watching to ensure that my teams are following the steps carefully.  I am paying particular attention to students as they measure and record their measurements, as these concepts still have not solidified with some of my students.  I know the best way for them to really understand measurement, is to have ample opportunities for hands on experiences to measure things in real world contexts.  



When all students have their eggshells in their solutions, I tell them to let them "sit and soak" a bit, while we go on our "virtual field trip to the biosphere reserve.  We will retrieve the cups of eggshells later in the day to see what has developed.


30 minutes

Introduce Biosphere Reserve

I explain to my students that like Plaid Pete shared yesterday in the scenario, a biosphere reserve is an area that is protected by law - and there are over six hundred of them all over the world.  These areas were designed to find a way to protect the natural world, while promoting the use of nature in a way that keeps these areas for future generations.  I project the UNESCO - MAB Biosphere Reserve Directory Map for my students to see.  By clicking on the United States, I can show them all of the Biosphere Reserves in the U.S. (There just might be one near you!).  Many of these are run by the National Parks Service and have great educational materials.  I explain that since we can't get in a bus and go on a field trip to the biosphere reserve that is closest to us - Olympic National Park - we will be visiting there "virtually."

Play the Video/Go On A "Virtual" Field Trip

I tell them that as a matter of fact, there is a study going on in Olympic National Park, that looks at this very issue of ocean acidification that they have been studying.  I tell them that as we go on our "virtual field trip" today, they need to listen carefully to what the scientist, Dr. Steve Fradkin, has to say.  I go to the Olympic Park Website, to their Science Minute Videos and play Tides of Change.  It is about 14 minutes long and gives a beautiful visual tour of the Olympic Coastline, as well as a scientists observation of how they are monitoring the effects of climate change in the intertidal ecosystem.   

Class Discussion

After our virtual field trip, we get ready to engage in a class discussion.  I have determined before this investigation that there are four things I would like my students to understand:

#1 - Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is dissolving in the ocean.

#2 - The dissolved carbon dioxide is increasing the acidity of the water in the ocean.

#3 - The increased acidity of the ocean water is affecting the life forms that live there - and in this particular case, the intertidal zone.

#4 - The intertidal zone is a part of the biosphere.  It is not the only part of the biosphere that is being affected by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - it just happens to be the one we are studying today.

I begin the discussion by asking my students to make a prediction about what they believe will happen to the shells that were placed in vinegar and water.  I ask them to turn and talk in their teams.  I call on a student to respond, and we have this discussion:  Academic Discussion Clip 1.

Then I ask my students, "How is the investigation you are doing today similar to what is happening to the Intertidal ecosystem in the Olympic National Park?"  I ask my students to turn and talk to the person next to them.  I call on a student to respond and we have this discussion:  Academic Discussion Clip 2.

I tell my students, "It will be interesting to see if the hypotheses you made are correct.  I can't wait until it's time to check in on your investigation and see what happened!"

Finish Observation, Data Collection & Model

At the end of the day, I instruct my teams to go back to their cups and collect their final observations, as well as calculate the change in mass (if any) from the beginning of the investigation.  I have to caution them to gently pat the eggshells dry with a paper towel.  By this time, some of the eggshells have become very fragile.

I stop by as one team is examining their shells and have a discussion with them about what has occurred, as seen in this Video Clip.

I tell my teams it is now time to begin their models.  I repeat my earlier instruction that this model should pass the "stranger test."  That means if a stranger came into our classroom, there should be sufficient explanation and detail in the model that they could perfectly understand what this model is about.  This means that they will need to include the informational text feature of text boxes to explain their thinking.  I point to the learning objective:  I can develop a model to describe the interaction of Earth's biosphere with at least one other Earth System. I tell them that in this particular case, they really should include 2 other Earth Systems, because it would be difficult to explain fully otherwise. I let them get to work, sharing that we will be gathering in the meeting area at the end of class to take another look at the predictions we made yesterday.

Reflection & Closure

5 minutes

Review Prediction Poster

We gather back in the meeting area, around the prediction poster we created yesterday.  I have a big green marker.  As I quickly read each prediction, I turn to my students and ask, "Is this prediction correct, incorrect or does it need revising?"  I call on students to comment.  We go through each prediction in this way, until our poster has been completely checked and revised.  We look at this prediction:

We compare it to a number of other similar predictions and are pleased to see that scientific prediction skills are improving.  Students are using what they know!