With the focus on the earth in April (Earth Day on April 22 and all of April as Earth Month—who knew?!), the time is ripe for some life science discussions, ecological explorations, and of course, a podcast or two! Take a break from end-of-year test preparation. Instead, enjoy the opportunity to dive into our Science Career Series, and meet a microbial ecologist. Just what is a microbial ecologist? Well, it’s someone who studies the relationships between microorganisms and their environment.
In one of The Walking Classroom’s Science Career Series podcasts, you can hear from Julia Stevens, a postdoctoral fellow in the Genomics and Microbiology Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The podcast is easily accessible, either via our website or on WalkKits in all three of The Walking Classroom’s program offerings:
• Program 4 – #102
• Program 5 – #108
• STEM – #58
As she has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in coastal marine and wetland studies, and a Ph.D. in biological sciences, introducing your students to Julia Stevens opens doors into deeper exploration in several areas of the sciences. Her main area of interest is the microbes in invasive species, and not just in one environment. Her investigations cover plant and animal kingdoms, as she has studied both the lionfish and the dandelion!
Because microbes are minute, there’s little chance for your students to really encounter them face-to-face. However, understanding these tiny organisms is important to understanding larger ones, so it’s well-worth making that introduction! After all, microbes are not hard to find! These microorganisms are everywhere. They are all around us and even in us!
You can introduce your students to the world of microbes with an array of lesson plans, classroom activities, experiments, and more! And if they’re into getting down and dirty (and you have a nearby small body of water), why not poke around and investigate some pond scum and see what you can learn?
Looking at Lionfish
Finding out more about one of Julia Stevens’ interests might be fun too! Dive into a study of the lionfish to learn where this invasive species originated, how and where it spread, and the problems it has created. Then discover more about these and other fish invaders with a special activity!
Investigating Other Invasive Species
If time allows, introduce your students to other invasive species. You may want to share a special “top ten” list — The 10 Most Invasive Species. Have your students work in pairs or small groups, and assign one invasive species to a group. Then invite your students to create “Wanted” posters. Maybe you can arrest that pest!
Provide a template and instruct students to include an image and bullet points (or a paragraph!) highlighting the species’ features, its place of origin, its new habitat, and the problems it creates. Then have them share their findings!
And, when you’re done learning more about these invasive species, why not play a game?
Environmental Activities Abound
Now that you’ve opened those doors, there is plenty more to explore. You can easily find environmental lesson plans and ideas for additional Earth Month activities. Better yet, check out the EPA’s educational materials and try them out with your students!