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OPIHI: Extending the learning

Multidimensionality of OPIHI
Scientific investigation incorporates skills from many academic disciplines. Activities that follow up on students' direct experiences in the field are a way to deepen that experience and powerfully move students into other curricula. Some of the activities we have done are listed below:

1. Zonation. As a class, have students reconstruct a picture of the field site. Draw a sketch of their transect lines and the edge of the water on an overhead projector. Have students exchange data sheets and read off where they found key species. Write these in using symbols and/or different colored markers. It's a great way for a class to see zonation patterns and to begin a discussion about the factors that control where organisms live. It's also an excellent way for them to see how the data that they tediously recorded can recreate a picture of the site.

2. Biotic and Abiotic Interactions. Expand ecological knowledge gleamed from the OPIHI project to teach your students about relationships between organisms and their environment. They can use examples from the intertidal to illustrate different biotic and abiotic interactions. Learning about these factors can help explain some of the patterns found in the visualizing zonation activity.

3. Food web creation. Students select an organism that they have seen in the intertidal zone and research what it eats and what eats it. They write this information on an index card color-coded by trophic level. The entire class constructs a food web by placing their organism on a bulletin board with string arrows indicating the direction of energy flows. By removing one or two organisms from the web, the class can see how drastically the rest of the organisms are affected.

4. Interaction web. This is similar to above, but illustrates ecological interactions such as competition, predation, facilitation, commensalism, etc., between organisms. In this case, add pluses or minuses or zeros near the organism's name to the arrows to indicate whether organisms benefit or harm or neither harm nor benefit each other.

5. Threats to Biodiversity. Referring back to your community food and interaction webs hypothesize and model what would happen if one of the threats to biodiversity impacts even one of the organisms in your web? What will happen to the others?

6. Poster or Webpage. Have students design posters that summarize what they've done in the project. The posters should not only give an overview of the project and describe the goals, methods, and site(s) but also incorporate pictures, text, and drawings or other media, to make the poster eye-catching and visually pleasing. Encourage students to explain why they found what they did by analyzing the data and making a graph or chart. Students should also describe things that did and did not work, explain why they did or did not work, and make suggestions for what you could do to improve this project were it to continue. In general, the poster should answer the question "Did you accomplish your goals?" (see another example here)

7. Creation of a field guide or brochure. In small groups, students study existing field guides and identify what is useful and what is not. As a class, they discuss what they would like to put in a field guide. Each student thoroughly researches and writes about 1 or 2 organisms. You can make an online field guide as a class project or a lower-tech paper version, both of which can be used by next year's class and shared with the community.

8. Cultural Survey. As a related social science project, students can create a questionnaire and asked friends, family members and neighbors about how coastal resources were used in the past. The questions can include what kind of organisms were collected, how, in what quantities and when, as well as how things may have changed over time in order to gauge human use and impacts. This can lead into investigations of cultural uses of different organisms that the students have examined within the scope of their project. They may wish to investigate or debate issues such as harvesting or development facing an area or species.

9. Creative writing. You can have your students read passages from fiction and non-fiction literary works that relate to the intertidal such as John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. They can then create their own descriptive paragraph about an organism they have studied. You can ask them specifically to use metaphors and similes to describe the appearance, movement and character of the plant or animal. You can also write poems, haikus, and creative stories (e.g. day-in-the-life journal article) about organisms. They may write newspaper articles or columns about their work, either for submission to a local paper or for their own class publication.

Some Literary Works about the Sea:

  • The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson
  • Waiting for Aphrodite, by Sue Hubbel
  • American Sea Writing, edited by Nathanial Philbrick
  • The Log of the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck
  • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

10. Visual art. Students can document organisms they find by taking photographs. These photographs can be used as the basis for drawings, paintings, or sculpture that creatively explore the organism.

The above two projects were done by the University Lab School as a joint venture with PREL's Picturing Science project. Results can be viewed at http://www.prel.org/picturingscience/intertidal/index.asp.

This project teaches basic concepts of color and visual design within the context of the scientific project that the students are engaged in. To place artistic expression in a practical context students might produce graphically designed products like posters, brochures, or even websites. These projects also emphasize technologic and computer literacy skills.

11. Math. Mathematics skills are a critical component of any quantitative scientific investigation. Basic computational skills are required during the data collection process, and should be emphasized as students double check their data sheets, to make sure that each quadrat has percent cover that adds up to 100%, points that add up to 25, or squares add up to 36. After the data are collected, they can be used in a number of ways to support mathematics instruction. Students may produce graphs to represent patterns seen within their data over space and time. Basic descriptive (mean, median) and comparative (t-test, chi-square) statistics can also be supported using student-derived data.

Some ideas about ways to incorporate math concepts into intertidal counts are detailed on line at:

12. Water loss in the intertidal zone. Nearly all intertidal organisms are thought to have evolved from subtidal marine ancestors and continue to rely on water to keep them erect, deliver food and oxygen, remove waste products, or disperse their gametes or larvae. When they are exposed to sun, wind, and air at low tide, intertidal animals are faced with the problem of water loss through evaporation. Ask students to think about and take notes on body types and animal behavior that conserves water while in the field. What unique adaptations do intertidal organisms have to survive in this harsh environment?

13. Animal behavior. Studying behavior is about asking questions about why animals do the things they do, how they are adapted to do those things, and how their behavior influences their survival and reproductive success. Student can use take both qualitative data, descriptive observations of animal behavior, and quantitative data, data that can be examined mathematically (which can be as simple as making a table or graph). By studying behavior that can be counted or measured we can compare behavior between animals, or compare the behavior of an animal under different conditions. We have developed lessons to study the behavior of fish and well as snails.

14. Scientific reports. When writing scientific "lab" reports, students must practice their writing skills. Although content is often emphasized over style in scientific writing, this can still be a good opportunity for students to practice style, composition, spelling, and grammar. Students can compare data from different sites and from the same site over different years. Lab reports should include descriptive titles, an introduction (e.g. about Hawaiian intertidal ecosystem, intertidal organisms, adaptations, about sites, etc.), a hypothesis, materials and methods, data and observations (including graphs and graph interpretations), results discussion and conclusion (did results support your hypothesis? Why or why not? Include ideas for further research). Sources should be cited in works cited page.

OPIHI: Our Project in Hawaii's Interdental - Contact: philippo@hawaii.edu