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 accompanying 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 a 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 animals can cross the road without getting hit by a car.