During the winter of 2014 I developed and taught a course for Elementary school children and their families at the New York Hall of Science. The course was five sessions long and featured five hands on projects to teach children and their families about invasive species.
Each session was taught on a Saturday morning for two hours. The two hours were broken down like this:
- 15 minutes - families arrive and participating in an activity to get them introduced to the concepts for the day
- 15 minutes - presentation filled with activities and demonstrations to teach families concepts about invasive species
- 75 minutes - families build a hands on challenge and participate in the engineering design process: build, test, redesign
- 15 minutes - families share out their projects and reflect as a group
Each lesson and hands on project was designed to build on concepts that families had learned the previous weeks. The themes for each week were as follows:
- Week 1: Balanced Ecosystems
- What does a balanced ecosystem look like? What different parts are included in it?
- Design: Create a mobile of different animals and plants that you think come from the same ecosystem.
- Week 2: Survival of the fittest
- Why are invasive species? Why makes an invasive species good at taking over an ecosystem?
- Design: Create a machine that is able to adapt to eat all three types of food in an ecosystem.
- Week 3: Transportation in Ecosystems
- Theme: How do invasive species get around? How do humans contribute to the spreading of invasive species?
- Design: Create a car that can transport objects out of a sandbox without picking up sand.
- Week 4: Bioindicators
- What are the warning signs of an changing ecosystem?
- Design: Create a device to light an LED when your ecosystem is in trouble.
- Week 5: Modifying our Environment
- How can humans help protect our environment and native species?
- Design: Create a wildlife crossing so you animals can cross the road without getting hit by a car.