Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Case of the Missing Anurans

In planning my unit on Reptiles & Amphibians, I came across this project idea: The Case of the Missing Anurans. Anurans are a subgroup of amphibians that includes frogs and toads - basically, tail-less amphibians. Frog and toad populations have been decreasing in the last few decades, for many reasons. Since amphibians live partly on land and partly in the water, and because their skin is thin and very sensitive, they are considered "indicator species" that are harmed by environmental degradation earlier than other types of animals; when the anurans in an ecosystem are endangered or go extinct, the other living things may soon follow. This project has the students read "clue sheets" about some of the possible causes of anuran population declines, do additional research on their own, and then come up with a theory to explain these population declines. Then they write a research proposal - basically, an experiment to test their theory. I am having my students present their proposals in PowerPoint to the other herpetologists in the class in a "summit" on anurans. You can get some of the materials at the site linked to above; I will post the additional materials that I created at the Teachers' Lounge wiki.

Oh - and while I'm at it, I'll post my next unit plan, which is to have students research the various types of invertebrates (cnidarians and planarians and echninoderms, oh my!) and "teach" their classmates about them. I haven't developed the handouts for that unit yet, but they will be forthcoming on the wiki. This unit is my best shot at compressing a LOT of material into a very short time period. I'm a little sad because there are so many cool things I could do if I took it slowly and went through each group one at a time... but I do have 67 weeks worth of material to cover, so choices must be made.

And speaking of posting lesson ideas on-line, Jenny D. is posting the project ideas she comes up with for her undergraduates, who are studying to become teachers. She's looking for feedback.


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