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Bioaccumulation: A Case Study of British Columbia’s Killer Whales

Secondary

Description

Bioaccumulation: A Case Study of British Columbia's Killer Whales is a series of five related classroom lessons during which students will learn about the natural history of British Columbia's killer whale population and the threats they face.  Emphasis is on the threat of the build-up of toxins in food chains (bioaccumulation), connectedness through marine ecosystems and the reduction of threats through the Species at Risk Act (SARA). A further strong focus is on individual empowerment to create positive change. The lessons are:

  • Lesson 1: Natural History of British Columbia's Killer Whales.  Students will learn about the three types of killer whales, how to tell them apart, their diet, social structure, and the concept of matrilines. Students will answer questions on their learning and discuss it as a class.
  • Lesson 2: Killer Whale Food Chains and Food Webs. Students will learn about food chains of resident and transient killer whales and their food webs. Students will answer questions on their learning and discuss as a class. As well, students will play the Food Chain Game as a simulation of what is going on with killer whales in the ocean. 
  • Lesson 3: SARA and Threats to Killer Whales. Students will learn about the Species at Risk Act and its purpose, how killer whales are classed accord to SARA, and what threats to killer whales exist. They will answer questions and have a class discussion.
  • Lesson 4: Bioaccumulation and Killer Whales. Students will learn what bioaccumulation is, what persistent organic pollutants can do to an organism, where POP's come from, how levels of toxins in organisms increase up the food chain. They will answer questions and discuss as a class. As well, students will play the Food Chain Game again, but this time with toxins. Students will then reflect on the activity
  • Lesson 5: Ready, Set, Action! Solutions for Killer Whales. Students will discuss what they have thought throughout the lesson; they will reflect on their own lives and think of ten ways that they can make a change to reduce chemicals in the food chain, they will plan to undertake further action to help the whales. 

 

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • analyzing data
  • creating a food web and a food chain

Strengths

  • Each lesson is well planned for teachers
  • PowerPoint slides designed to accompany this lesson are available to download
  • Additional resources and optional enrichment activities are available through this resource
  • A sample of student's assessment is provided
  • A glossary of important terms is provided
  • A phone number is provided to offer support with this lesson plan
  • Clear curriculum links are made throughout the resource
  • All student handouts and worksheets with answer key are provided in this lesson

Weaknesses

  • Some direct links don't work but are able to be found when searching in the resource (ex. the food chain game in activity 2)
  • The lessons are very prescribed and don't give a lot of opportunities to make it personalized for students

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource would be excellent to explain the effects of ecosystems and biodiversity in Science classes. As well, this resource lends itself well for any Math course that needs to analyze data as real graphs are provided and have to be analyzed by students. 

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Themes Addressed

  • Ecosystems (2)

    • Biodiversity
    • Endangered Species
  • Water (1)

    • Marine Environments

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

Through a case study of killer whales in British Columbia, students review the effects of bioaccumulation in Canada's oceans. Throughout the lessons, students form their own opinions and take informed positions on the problem. 

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good

A wide range of information is provided for students to gain a true understanding of the problem of bioaccumulation in killer whales. 

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

The goal of the lessons is to have student's take action to help the killer whale population. The resource has a strong focus on individual empowerment to create positive change. Lesson 5 provides suggestions to undertake further action to help the whales.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good

Throughout the lesson, students are asked to answer reflection questions where they can express their own beliefs and opinions. 

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

This is not a focus of this resource

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

Since the lesson is a case study of killer whales in British Columbia, students will gain an appreciation for the marine environment. 

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Satisfactory

This resource is focused on Canadian information, more specifically killer whales in British Columbia. Therefore, it is made relevant to the lives of the learner. 

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Very Good

The resource explains how human's past behaviour is affecting the whales presently and has students come up with an action plan to create positive change for the future .

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

Students have the chance to voice their own opinions in the reflection questions provided in every lesson.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good
  • Science
  • Math
  • ELA
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good

This resource has a variety of activities that meets the needs of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. However there are no strategies included for learners with difficulties. 

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

This lesson plan is provided through a case study and therefore is mostly an information based lesson. During activity 2 and 4 students will do a simulation in class of food chains in the marine environment. 

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

For some of the activities, students must work in groups of 2 to 4. 

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

A sample assessment is provided in the form of a written test for students to complete at the end of the lesson. However, teachers could also use the students' final project as an assessment of students learning. 

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good

One of the options for a final project is to write a letter to their Minister of Health or Environment or Industry as to their concerns about PBDE's.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

This whole lesson plan is based on a case study of British Columbia’s killer whales 

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

In this resource, students get the chance to decide their own action plan at the end of lesson 5. As well, extension activities are provided for each lesson giving the chance to students to go deeper into the issue.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.