The "WOW" Factor of Nature by Guest Blogger Amy of "Science Stuff"

The following article is by guest blogger Amy Brown from "Science Stuff." You may be wondering what science has to do with The Hunger Games. Well, a lot, actually. If you are looking for ways to cross your curriculum with the science department (or history department) while teaching the trilogy, read my notes at the end of Amy's article. 

Science Stuff by Amy on www.hungergameslessons.com
  Meet Amy Brown!

Amy is the author of the blog called “Science Stuff”.  Amy has 27 years of teaching experience in high school biology, chemistry, and AP biology.  Her blog is about ways to make your class more engaging and exciting for the students.  You can find her blog at:  http://sciencestuffbyamy.blogspot.com/
The “WOW” Factor of Nature
Connecting Science and ELA through collaborative learning projects on www.hungergameslessons.comThis past week in my biology class was spent on a unit on classification and taxonomy.  This is one of my favorite topics to teach because the diversity of life on Earth is so incredible and amazing.  Just now, I am sitting at my kitchen table looking out over our large back yard.  The evidence of adaptation to our current environment astounds me.  I am making a list to share with my students on Monday:

1.   A hummingbird is at my feeder.  (Yes, in the deep south, we already have hummingbirds back from the winter.)  Its beak is perfectly adapted to extract the nectar from any flower.

2.   The bees are very active this morning, buzzing in and out of every flower in sight.  Flowering plants take advantage of the bee, and cover its body with pollen every time it lands on a flower.  What a perfect way to deliver a sperm cell to an egg cell of a flower a block away.

3.   The birds are singing like crazy this morning!  What a perfect way to find a mate and establish behavioral barriers between the species.

Connecting Science and ELA through collaborative learning projects on www.hungergameslessons.com
4.   I can see beetles who are perfectly camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings.

5.  The fruiting bodies of mushrooms are poking up from the ground to take advantage of the deluge of rain we have had this week.  Water will spread their spores to great distances.

6.  A great blue heron is wading at the edge of our shallow pond.  Its body is perfectly adapted for wading and grabbing up the small fishes it sees.

It is an amazing time of the year to be a science teacher.  Nature is packed full of examples that we can share with our students.  I certainly hope that my students come away from this unit with the same "awe" as I have when considering how natural selection has brought us to this point in Earth's history.  Every organism in our sight is adapted to this particular environment.  All we have to do is to look carefully at our surroundings and we will see a multitude of examples of adaptation.
Connecting Science and ELA through collaborative learning projects on www.hungergameslessons.com

My challenge to you is this:  When Spring hits your particular area of this beautiful earth, take a class period and go outside with your students.  Give them a magnifying glass.  Have them make a list of the living organisms they see, and have them describe how they are adapted to the environment.  Yes, some of them will be "off task" and some of them will misbehave, but some of them will get hooked on nature for life!   I teach high school students, and I am stunned each year at how few of them have ever planted a seed, taken a walk through the woods, hung a bird feeder at their home, thrown "helicopter" seeds into the air and watched them spin, watched a spider spin a web, the list could go on and on!

These children will be responsible for making decisions about our planet in just a short number of years. We better get them excited about nature.  We better make sure they understand how their actions impact our planet. Our students are the future caretakers of this beautiful planet and there is not an "app" for that.  I hope that when they are adults we have taught them enough about science and nature that they can make informed decisions about how to take care of it.

I hope that you will visit my blog and become a follower.  My blog is called "Science Stuff" and can be reached here:  http://sciencestuffbyamy.blogspot.com/

My blog has links to quite a few FREE products that can be fun activities for both middle and high school science students.  I hope to see you there!

Thanks so much, Amy, for this great article. We all need to take time to appreciate nature and talk with students about caring for all life on earth, especially now.

Connection to The Hunger Games Trilogy
   Team up with a science teacher while teaching the novel; chances are you can find many ways to integrate The Hunger Games into the science curriculum. For example, Amy points out taking time to go outside and notice and appreciate nature with your students: Find evidence of the diversity of life. 

Connecting Science and ELA through collaborative learning projects on www.hungergameslessons.com
  The mockingjay bird is evidence in The Hunger Games trilogy of a species that was never meant to exist, but adapted to its environment. Ask your students these questions:
  -Why did the Capitol only create male jabberjays?
  -What traits did the mockingjay get from the jabberjay? From the mockingbird?
  -What are some examples of real-life "mutts" or naturally cross-bred (or hybrid?) species?
  -How does this cross-breeding make life stronger? (Segue into biodiversity.)

 In Mockingjay, the topic of biodiversity is addressed several times. In my unit, I have students discuss why biodiversity is important for sustaining life. Then I go a step further and have them consider genetic diversity  in humans. I ask them to consider the following:  "If it makes us stronger to diversify our genes, does that mean being racist is ultimately making us much weaker as humans?" This is another Holocaust tie-in, as well. Hitler's idea of limiting diversity to create a stronger "Aryan" race was actually doing the opposite. (You can get the history/social studies department in on The Hunger Games, as well.)  

  Crossing and relating your curriculum to your colleagues' allows students to see the value in learning about science and history. It does affect their lives, even if it takes reading about fictional characters to understand that. And if you are a science or history teacher reading this, don't be afraid to ask your English/reading teaching what novels they are reading in class in order to find ways to connect your curriculum with theirs. 

Classroom Connections: Link Science and ELA through collaborative learning projects on www.hungergameslessons.com

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