Natures Engineers....Beavers

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Objective

SWBAT use evidence from adaptations of an animals body to determine the animal's function within an ecosystem.

Big Idea

While beavers seem as though they are a nuisance to some, they also have an important role in the ecosystem of ponds and wetlands. Their body parts play a large part in their function. This lesson offers students an opportunity to learn about both.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

This lesson is designed to build background knowledge for the following lesson....Can You Build a Better Dam?  To understand how to construct a dam that will hold up to the force of nature and powerful moving water, students must understand the animal in the ecosystem that is nature's most effective engineer... the beaver.  As well as, understanding that humans have our own engineers that create strong and powerful dams too...civil engineers. 

In this lesson, students examine the four different body parts of the beaver and discuss the different ways these body parts are essential in helping the beaver to build a better dam.  In turn discussing why it's function in the pond and wetland ecosystem is so important.  

Earlier in the reading block of the day, a newspaper article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, dated January 5, 2015 is read by the class.  A website, called NEWSELA provides current events from newspapers all over the country for classroom use.  

The article provides a rich amount of information that plays a vital role in the children understanding the lesson.  

Engage

10 minutes

I ask the children to look at the screen and wander through the world of engineers with me.  We read about the different types of engineering jobs and what each job is responsible for creating in the world.  Because many of these jobs and vocabulary will be new, I expect to spend some time discussing the engineering world and even explaining a bit of it in greater detail.  Having the discussion, will only enhance what will happen in the lesson. 

The next to last slide to introduce a type of engineers in the power point lands on Civil Engineers.  This is purposeful. The last slide poses a scientific question of can you think of any natural engineers in the world? (SP1)

There is a possibility that you will need to explain what is meant by 'natural.' My intention was that it would lead to animals that are natural engineers.

Explore

15 minutes

I passed out the Discussion Pages with Pictures (SP2) and explain that I would like the children to look at the pictures and discuss why a beaver must have the particular body parts it has knowing what they know about engineers.  

I allow the children to look at the photographs and discuss what they observe.  Many of the children cannot get past the fact that the beaver's teeth are yellow.  

After about five to seven minutes of team discussion, I ring my bell and ask the team leaders to stand and share out their teams thoughts about one body part.  I do this more in the interest of time. Knowing if I allow them to explain each body part and their predictions for the use, the lesson will not move on.  This is pacing issue.  

Explain

20 minutes

I pass out a newspaper article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, dated January 5, 2015.  The article comes from a website, called NEWSELA.  It  provides current events from newspapers all over the country for classroom use.  

The article provides a rich amount of information that plays a vital role in the children understanding the lesson.  The students read the article independently first and then a second time with me.  I want to show the students that quality science research can also come from other sources in the media (SP6).  But that a good scientist can also distinguish between the author's opinion and facts that are cited from other reliable sources. 

A class discussion ensues from the reading.  I lead much of the discussion and ask questions along the way.  

  • How do the beavers use those teeth? 
  • What are they used for? 
  • Why would the beaver need such thick fur?
  • How do think their tail is used?
  • Why would they need to have transparent eyes and noses that close?

Many of the answers are in embedded within the article that help the students to provide evidence to back up their explanations and reasoning (SP7). 

Evaluate

15 minutes

After all the class discussion, I explain to the children that I really would like for them to be able to explain to me, or justify, how they believe beavers are similar or different from Civil Engineers.  I share with them, that we have had some great discussions in class, but I would like for them to share their thoughts in writing.  

I remind them that good scientists need to be able to explain their thinking in many ways and this is one of those ways.  This is opportunity for them to practice this skill.