Students Apply Ecological Concepts to Their "Own" Planet

In Miss DiSantis's ecology classroom students are taking the ecological concepts and applying them in a creative way. Small student groups were challenged to think from the point of view of an ecological astronaut landing on a different planet. They were charged to document and then create a visual aid of their observations after spending a year on their planet.  The project entailed students’ creating, and therefore applying, ecological concepts of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that would exist on their planets. Each biome had to include all parts of an ecosystem, including different organisms, abiotic factors (e.g., salinity, water movement, climate, etc.), biogeochemical cycles, symbiotic relationships, etc.  Students had to answer questions like could your planet be hospitable for humans, could their biomes compare to those that we have on Earth if at all, while also supporting their answers with specific evidence. Finally, students had to give small-group presentations in a gallery-walk format where they described the components of their planets. Other classes and staff members at Patrick Henry were invited to attend their gallery walk. Observers voted on the planet they would most want to visit, and the creator of the planet that received the most votes won a prize of their choice. This project was at first very challenging for students because in a high school science setting, students aren't frequently stretching their extremely creative side, but once the ball started rolling students seemed to enjoy the project. Critical thinking was happening all over the room and students were open to getting feedback from the teacher and other peers to better their projects. Overall, the project turned out really well, and students were engaged the entire time they were working. If you are interested in using this project in your classroom feel free to reach out to Miss DiSantis at cdisantis@wcs.k12.va.us