Discussing a Science Article from the Popular Press

Discipline:

This activity engages students as critical readers of popular science writing. Any recent article will do, as students will seek out the methods, assumptions, and evidence in the piece. This task works especially well as a warm-up in the first meeting of a small class, but suggestions for an expanded assignment are given.

Divider

Discipline:

This activity introduces students to experimental design, data collection, data analysis, and interpretation of findings. Students gather data on people's sensitivity to touch. This task works especially well as a warm-up in the first meeting of a small class.

Back-of-the-Envelope Calculations: National Debt

Discipline:

This brief activity acquaints students with rough estimation through problem solving and discussion. This task works especially well as a warm-up in the first meeting of a small class. Though the task is written around the case of national debt, a list of alternative cases is provided.

Invasive Species and Population Dynamics

Discipline:

Time series plot of wolf and moose populations in Isle Royal National Park 1959–2003.

In this assignment, students will consider the effects of invasive species on ecosystems and look at population dynamics in predator-prey relationships. In examining data from previous studies, students will apply their understanding of graphical displays of data and of statistical concepts (mean, standard deviation, variance, correlation, significance) to interpret research findings. This document serves as an answer key; a student handout is provided in an accompanying document.

Invasive Species: The Cane Toad Crisis

Discipline:

In this class activity, students will consider the impact of invasive species by examining the ecological and evolutionary interactions between Australia’s cane toads and their predators and prey. This document serves as an instructor guide; student handouts are provided in an accompanying document.

Biodiversity of Pollinators

Discipline:

Cumulative estimated mean pollen deposition.

In this class activity, students will analyze data from an investigation of the relationship between bee diversity and pollen deposition in farms and natural areas. Students will learn about the effects of biodiversity in a given ecosystem, and will apply their understanding of statistical concepts (mean, median, standard error). This document serves as an instructor guide; student handouts are provided in accompanying documents.

Bird Conservation

Discipline:

Relationship between persistence and species-specific levels of mobility.

In this interrupted case study, students will play the role of conservation biologists interested in the ecology and population viability of birds in a fragmented habitat. In addition to engaging with ecological concepts, students will consider research methods and will analyze data from a previous study. This document serves as an instructor guide; student handouts are provided in an accompanying document.

Conservation Reserve Design

Discipline:

This unique field ecology experiment engages students with the processes of scientific research methods and testing hypotheses about conservation reserve design. The activities involved are novel—students will gather data on the relationship between biodiversity and patch size and shape. As designed, this activity takes place in Manhattan; the relationship under investigation has not been studied in a human-dominated urban setting like Manhattan, so the outcome of students' investigations is not known in advance. The activity may easily be adapted to another setting or research questions, and so provides a useful example for instructors wishing to engage undergraduates in original fieldwork. This document is a teacher guide; a student guide and data analysis example are available in accompanying files.

Galaxy Evolution

Discipline:

In this activity, students will explore types of galaxies, the evolution of galaxies with respect to their stellar populations, and where metals reside in different types of galaxies. Students will also relate their learning about galaxies to the HR diagram.

Outrageous Fortune

Discipline:

In this activity, students will learn a little about string theory and will consider debates about the place of string theory in science. This discussion engages students with a current issue in astrophysics and with ideas about the nature and practice of science.