Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Finishing Sharks

Today students answered some questions about stingrays based on a short article from the Richmond Times Dispatch. Students then identified which senses a shark could use to detect a person in the water whether they were bleeding, splashing, or just floating.

Students participated in a tough challenge about sharks some students made up during zero block and only Maria S got a perfect score though there were lots of folks who only missed one.

Students tested their knowledge with a shark puzzle and Zac was the fastest. Afterwards students finished up some odds and ends and took the shark test.

We finished the day with a film called Anatomy of a Sharkbite which follows a scientist Erich Ritter and his experience with a Bull Shark bite as well as analyzing shark attacks and bites on others in an effort to understand sharks. We will conclude the video tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Build a Shark

To review shark anatamoy, students constructed paper models and labeled them. The project was simple, but fun, even though some students couldn't remember the last time they cut and paste something. Students were allowed to color their shark any color, so there was a lot of diversity in the sharks. Some students even added some funny things into the shark's stomachs like tires, people, seals, and others.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shark Conservation

Today we discussed conservation of sharks. Millions of sharks are killed each year by humans. Some are caught by sport fisherman, some are harvested for oils, meats, and other things; many of them are being harvested for their fins. Finning wastes 95% of an animal, and the sharks are often tossed back in the ocean alive after being finned to die a slow painful death. For more information, click here.

The fins are harvested for shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in some countries and can sell for upwards of a hundred dollars a bowl.

The next thing we talked about was shark attacks. Most shark attacks are actually provoked by humans. Other shark attacks like bump-and-bites and hit-and-runs are the shark investigating a human to see if it is something good to eat. Once the shark tries it, it finds it doesn't like humans, it will swim away. Unfortunately for us humans, we are not so tough and kind of squishy and shark attacks damage us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Skates and Rays

Today in class we talked about skates and rays. Skates and rays are depressed relatives of sharks that often spend most of their time on the benthos. (There are a few exceptions like manta rays pictured in the upper right)

Skates and rays are really similar and often hard to tell apart. Some rays look like flat sharks and some flat sharks look like rays, so we are going to be general in identifying skates and rays. In general, skates have fins on the tips of their tails.

Only rays can have stingers, and not all of them do. They can have 1 to 3 stingers from 5 to 15 inches long. See the picture below.

I often get asked about Steve Irwin, the famous Crocodile Hunter when we talk about stingrays. Yes, Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray, but his type of accident was very rare. Steve got stabbed in the heart which injected venom right into an important organ. Also, he removed the barb which caused just as much damage going in as it did coming out because of the sharp serrated edge. For more information about Steve Irwin's death check here and here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shark senses

Today we learned about shark senses. Sharks have a large brain to help process the sensory overload they must get from the SEVEN senses they have. They have the five we have plus a lateral line (pressure and vibrations) and the ampullae of lorenzini (electro-reception).

Follow this link for a cool interactive about how shark jaws stick out when they attack their prey! The interactive is down at the bottom.

If you are doing a final project on a shark... check out this new link! www.shark.ch

And once again... one try only... how much do you know about sharks? MsJ scored a 1467. Try Shark Weeks Ultimate Shark Challenge to see how much you know.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Today students learned an introduction to sharks. We talked about the history of sharks, common characteristics of cartilaginous fish and then the reproductive strategies of sharks.

Not a lot is known about shark reproduction because in many cases it has never been observed.

Some sharks are oviparous and lay eggs (pictured). These egg cases are known as mermaid's purses. You can see the baby shark and its nutrient-rich yolk through the leathery egg case.

Some sharks are viviparous and have live birth a lot like mammals.

And some sharks are ovoviviparous and keep their eggs inside the uterus before releasing them... so its making eggs and then kind of having live birth.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fe fi fo fish

Students have finished up fish for now and took their test today. Students have excelled at the many fishy challenges set before them and it would be impossible for me to say who the winners were of the many challenges we have completed.

Next up is SHARKS! Students got a little preview after finishing their tests today. We watched a little video about great whites in the waters off the coast of South Africa that leap out of the water to chase the fur seals they want to eat that also leap out of the water.

Try Shark Weeks Ultimate Shark Challenge to see how much you know. (Play only once) MsJ scored 1370.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fish Review

Today students worked on review sheets for their mid-week test. Then students used matching cards to build fish that satisfied the descriptions I was giving.

Students finished the day by designing their own fish and answering key questions about body shape, tail shape, and mouth shape. First period's are due Thursday and fourth period's are due Wednesday.

Students are being very creative. Here are some fo the ones that are finished. Some even included the biome as the background and those look especially nice.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fishing Methods

Today we discussed fishing methods and the advantages and disadvantages of different methods. Netting is the most popular method of commercial fishing because a lot of fish can be caught in short amount of time without a lot of effort.

One the major problems with most commerical fisheries is the amount of bycatch. Bycatch is anything caught in the net that you do not want. This could include edible fish that your company is just not equipped to process.

Most organisms brought up in nets as bycatch do not survive because they are crushed or drowned. Sea turtles and dolphins sometimes get swept into nets and drown because they cannot make it to the surface to breathe.

Most scientists and fisherman agree that the oceans have been and are being overharvested. People may not like regulations, but without regulations, many fish species that we used to commonly consume would be extinct.

The Unit 7 Test will be on Thursday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday Fishies

Today students did a brief reading on Antarctic Fish and their ability to make antifreeze. They make their own version of antifreeze so that ice crystals do not form in their blood.

Next students participated in a challenge identifying fish mouths, fish tails, and more. Students were very competitive and were trying to get the top score. In first period, Megan scored the highest and in fourth period Terelle beat out Dale by one point. Students were amazed at this picture of the Mekong catfish (which has forked tail).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fish ID and Marine Harvests

Today we started the day with a BrainPop about fish followed by a quiz and an opportunity to earn a fishy sticker. Next students looked at a variety of plastic fish and fish magnets and observed their characteristics - specifically the tail shape, mouth shape, and body shape. Students also looked at other characteristics and tried to pick what biome that fish could be found in.

We started discussing marine harvesting and fishing today by talking about who harvests the most seafood (China), who eats the most seafood (China), and which people eat the most seafood pounds per person (the Maldives). Americans are about sixth on the list as far as consumption, but we are the number one consumer and importer of shrimp. Importing shrimp is damaging to the environment for two reasons.

1. Shrimp that are farmed in other countries are not as regulated as here in the states, so shrimp farm pollution is not as regulated and it damages coral reefs. Also many mangroves are cleared to build these farms.

2. US boats are required to have turtle excluder devices (TED) on trawl nets so that turtles do not get caught in shrimp nets and drown. Other countries do not regulate this and as a result catch and drown sea turtles.

To make a environmentally responsible seafood choices, choose shrimp that are farmed or caught in the US. For more sustainable seafood choices, check out Seafood Watch.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Virginia Aquarium Photos

So I have some photos from some students that I gathered on the bus with my laptop. I put them together quickly so folks can see how much fun we were having. Climbing inside the shark mouth is always a highlight. Thank you to Raven, Steven, Zac, and Jessica for sharing your photos. And thanks to my group for tolerating me and Jess taking millions of photos of you!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fish Spawning & Project DIscussions

Fish reproduce in a variety of ways. Most are broadcast spawners, meaning that when the time is right, the females release their eggs, the males release their sperm and they both meet and mix producing fertilized eggs that develop into fish fry and eventually into adult fish. These snapper are spawning and you can tell by the large cloud of gametes in the water.

By producing a lot of eggs, the snapper hope to overwhelm any predators trying to make a meal so that there is no way all the fry are eaten and some will have a chance of surviving.

Today we also discussed invertebrate projects and upcoming final projects on vertebrates.

Invertebrate projects were graded over the weekend and quite a lot of them were incomplete. We discussed the high quality of their writing and the poor quality of required information. We also discussed how if this quality of work was submitted for final projects, some of the students would have very disappointing grades. Students will have a chance to resubmit invertebrate projects by the end of this week.

Final projects are on vertebrates and will be in powerpoint form. These projects will count as 10-20% of a student's grade depending on if they are exempt from the final. Students will have six to seven computer lab days to work on these projects as well as guidelines to follow. Any additional time will need to be made up by the student during zero block or after school.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Camouflage Hide and Go Seek

Way back in Unit 2 we talked about predator prey relationships and coloration patterns. Some coloration is sued by predators and some by prey to avoid notice. As promised, today we played camouflage hide and go seek. It looked a bit gray and rainy, but it was nice outside and no one complained about being cold. I took my camera, but did an awful job of remembering to take photos.

Many students brought camouflage clothing to wear, but students in tans, browns, grays, and even black did an excellent job of blending in the with the environment. The object of this game is to get as close to the prey (Me most of the time) without being seen. Students hide with one eye on me, and I look for as many of them as I can. I (and all the people I have found) close eyes and count again, and the remaining students move closer until everyone is found or we give up and see who got the closest. Pictured to the right: Ricky, TC, Logan, Jay, and Josh.

In first period, Brooke T won twice with her excellent camouflage and hiding skills. Josh S won the last round. Good times were had by all and an excellent discussion was had back in the classroom.

Fourth period was a smaller class, but we had lots of extra camo to go around, so some students loaded up and made head coverings with extra shirts. We tried a few new areas in fourth period with success. No one got as close, but there were plenty of new hiding spots to find. Here you can see of my fourth period students walking towards the woods.

The first round was a tie between Amber and Luke, the second round Dante won but he was pretty far away, no one won the third round because we found everyone, and the last lightning round was a three way tie between Amber, Nick, and someone I can't remember.

The hardest part is closing your eyes and trying not to look as you listen to everyone move closer. Some students really enjoy looking and some claim they can't find anyone. In first period, I got to hide a few times while Megan and a few others did an excellent job finding their peers. In fourth period, Morgan, Nick, and Luke were excellent spotters. Pictures is Brittany H, Amber, Kaythurn, and some unknowns closing their eyes while waiting for folks to rehide. I took this picture with my eyes closed while I was counting out loud.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Virginia Aquarium

Yesterday, many students had an exciting day at the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach. The bus ride was long, but not as long and boring as most students expected. We ate lunch just as we arrived at the aquarium and then went to look at the exhibits.

Students were divided into groups and looked through the exhibits and examining the animals and answering the questions. The Virginia Aquarium is actually two building separated by a nature trail through the salt marsh and most were complaining how hot it was! It was pretty neat because you could see the fiddler crabs in the mud waving their arms around trying to impress the ladies.

Many students got a huge thrill out of touching the stingrays in the touch tank. I think stingrays feel like hotdogs - slimy but with a stiff structure. Another hit were the otters, which sometimes were sleeping and sometimes romping around. There were a lot of sea turtle fans and students were able to tell which were boys and which were girls (look how long the tail is). Students also learned how to tell boy and girl sharks apart.

After seeing the aquarium, students walked along a local beach completing a scavenger hunt and looking for sea shells. Many were surprised how much you could actually find on the beach and pleased that they knew what they were finding.

After a fast food stop for dinner, students climbed back on the bus for the long ride home. The rest area was just in time for a much needed break in the middle of the trip. Students arrived back at the school a little late, a little tired, but after having a good day.

Pictures will be shared soon. If you took some, please share them with me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jawless Fish

Today we discusses jawless fish. Jawless fish are primitive fish with a notochord instead of a backbone and a flat rasping mouth that cannot close like ours. As a result thes fish cannot bite... only scrape and hold on.

Pictured to the right, you can see five lamprey mouths and one lamprey head with blue eyes and seven gill holes.

Jawless fish include lampreys which are parasites and hagfish which are detritavores. Neither one will ever win a beauty contest.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Finishing up Crustaceans and Echinoderms

Today student's took a practical examination covering crustaceans and echinoderms. Most students thought it was pretty easy, but the ones I thought were hard they excelled at and the ones I thought were simple seemed to stump them. Here Becca puzzles over the bonus question.

First period doubled up and took their regular test today too.

On Monday we start talking about FISH and on Wednesday we will be going to the aquarium in Virginia Beach.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Computer Lab Wednesday

Great start on invertebrate projects with Ning. I left comments for each of you on your page about your progress. Please read these comments and ask questions if you have them.

Today's Goals
  • Drag the 'Latest Activity' to the bottom of your page
  • Finish the TEXTBOX requirements
  • Work on Blog Posts
No videos unless I give you verbal permission. Stay out of YouTUBE... this is your warning.

Before you get started for today, try this out - http://quizlet.com/_r8vz as review for your tests. Review the terms if you need to, but otherwise play scatter and space race.
  • First period I will not see you on Thursday. You have a test on Monday and a practical on Friday.
  • Fourth Period you have a test on Thursday and a practical on Friday.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Computer Lab Day 2 and 3

Today your goals are
  • sign into Gtest (your school email - directions below)
  • Follow the Ning invite for invertebrate projects
  • Set up your Ning Invertebrate profile

Directions for signing into GTest Email
  1. Go to the homepage. Click on the Gmail button and sign into your gtest email.
  2. The login for your gmail (if you have not changed it) is: Last-name First-Initial Middle-Initial so mine is JancaitisKT
  3. The password (if you have not already changed it) is: First-Initial Student-Number Last-Initial so mine would be K46311J
  4. It will prompt you to change your password. Please make it something you will remember.
  5. In your email you should have an invitation to join Ning and the Invertebrate Fakebook Project.Follow the link.
Ning Profiles
When it asks for your name, put in the name of your invertebrate. For your profile picture, put in one of those clear photos that you found last time we were in the lab.

See Miss J for the handout of required parts to include. You need to get a lot accomplished. Do not waste time. If you have questions, get my attention and ask them. You can also put questions on the Green Dragon Nudibranch page online and I will answer them online after class.

Crustacean Echinoderm Molluscs Observations

Today students observed specimens of some of the organisms we have been discussing in class. Many students were surprised that these "specimens" were purchased at the grocery store and that some of them like the squid could be eaten. Perhaps I forgot to mention calamari?

For molluscs, students observed a mussel, clam, oyster, and squid. Students looked in the inside of the bivalves and some questioned why anyone would eat them. I think they were more surprised by how empty the shell actually was. The squid was a hit! Students were able to observe its siphon, the beak, feel the pen (the inner supportive shell), and see all the tentacled arms, plus it was leaking a little bit of ink. Dale, Nick, and Rachael had some excellent squid drawings.

Students observed horseshoe crabs and put together a miniature model. Students observed crustaceans like blue crabs, snow crabs, a lobster and shrimp that still had their heads.
Maria C (with a C) is impressed with the shrimp. Shrimp with heads are not easy to find because we queasy Americans often do not want to eat things that appear to be staring at us. Shrimp with heads have their legs too - those things that are on the tail that you are used to peeling off are actually swimmerets.

On the lobster, students had to identify the two claws - the shredder and the crusher. Students also looked the mouth and decided whether they thought a lobster had teeth. Brittany S, Luke, Kaythurn, and Raven get a closer look at the lobster and its claws.

Students compared two crabs - the blue crab and the snow crab. On the blue crab, they correctly identified it was a male and then took a look at the three types of legs. Crustaceans have ten legs, but on the blue crab the first pair are pincers, the next three pairs are walking legs, and the fifth pair of legs actually has a fin because the blue crab can swim. Snow crabs are a kind of spider crab and have a bumpy skin to encourage the growth of algae for camouflage. Alicia is checking out the blue crab - she checked out everything in this activity.

Students looked at the tests (endoskeletons) of sea stars, sea urchins, a sand dollar, and a sea biscuit. The hole or opening on the bottom in the middle is the mouth of the echinoderm. Sea urchin tests are bumpy from where the spines used to be attached.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Echinoderm and Crustacean Review

Today in Marine Ecology, we began class by working on review sheets for fifteen minutes of quiet time. Students were working so well that they wanted five more minutes because most of them were almost done.

Next we did a crustacean echinoderm challenge were students had to look at pictures and identify whether organisms crustaceans or echinoderms and then got an extra point if they could correctly identify the name of it. The fish tank table rocked it and Chase, Jay, Logan, Maria S, and Manuel all scored 18 out of 20 and won some beads.

Next we worked on some identification puzzles and students started a practice practical. Students have a test next week Wednesday or Thursday.

One cool crustacean we have been learning about is the mantis shrimp. Mantis shrimp have folded claws like a praying mantis. They have lightning quick reflexes and shoot their arms out to smack their prey. It is said that they have enough power to break aquarium glass. If you want to see an interesting video of a mantis shrimp attacking and eating different prey - check here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Computer Lab Day - Invertebrate Projects

Greetings. You are going to take on the persona of an invertebrate. All of your work needs to be in complete sentences and make sense (read it out loud to catch errors). You can be as creative as you want, just make sure you have all the required pars. You will have three-ish days to complete this project. If you need more time than that or are absent, make plans to work on it at home or during zero block.
Your real name should not be anywhere on this project.

Today you are going to start your Invertebrate Fakebook Page, but first you need some information.
  1. The first thing you need to do is open a new folder on your number and name it "Marine Ecology."
  2. Next open a word document and save it in the Marine Ecology Folder. Name this document the name of your invertebrate. You are going to use this workspace to copy any useful links and website titles that you find. You can also use this page to paste important information, but realize that everything that goes on your fakebook page must be in your own words.
The first thing you need to know about your invertebrate is its scientific name. Scientific names are Latin and written in italics. This helps you distinguish exactly which species of an organism you are talking about. Once you have the Latin name, searching for information is a lot easier and you are more likely to get websites that are scientific and accurate.

Next you are going to gather information using books and websites. Please try to use the website I have linked above FIRST. Use google if you need to, but always search with the Latin names.

DO NOT VISIT INAPPROPRIATE WEBSITES. No YouTube or websites that have nothing to do with Marine Ecology. You will lose your computer privileges for the day (or for this project).
  • Find at least two websites with great information about your organism (where it lives, what it eats)
  • Find at least two great photos of your organism and save these photos onto your number in the Marine Ecology folder.
Now you are ready to start your Invertebrate Fakebook project.
  1. Go to the homepage. Click on the Gmail button and sign into your gtest email.
  2. The login for your gmail (if you have not changed it) is: Last-name First-Initial Middle-Initial so mine is JancaitisKT
  3. The password (if you have not already changed it) is: First-Initial Student-Number Last-Initial so mine would be K46311J
  4. In your email you should have an invitation to join Ning and the Invertebrate Fakebook Project.Follow the link.
  5. Put your invertebrate's name as the name, and put in one of those clear profile photos that you downloaded into your folder and get started.
  6. If you are to this point, then you need to see Miss J for the handout.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Echinoderm means spiny skin. Echinoderms include sea urchins, sea stars, sand dollars, sea cucumbers and some other odd organisms like feather stars and basket stars. All echinoderms have radial symmetry, spiny skin, and an endoskeleton called a test.

Most people are familiar with an orange sea star because on the east coast, that's all we've got. On the west coast and in other places around the world, it is easier to find a variety of sea stars in other colors and with different amounts of legs.

Sea stars have powerful tube feet that use water suction to open molluscs. When they eat molluscs, they actually stick their stomach into the shells of the mollusc, digest it, and then put their stomach

Sea cucumbers have lost most of their exoskeleton and are a bit squishier than other echinoderms. Sea cucumbers are important detritus eaters on the sea floor. When attacked by predators they will expel their guts as a meal for the predator as they make a get away. Sea cucumbers are able to regenerate these guts over time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Clam Antics and Finishing Molluscs

Most people do not know that there are freshwater clams and mussels in Lake Anna and that they can get as big as the palm of your hand. Nathan is doing his Governor's School project about some of the habitat in the lake and I has asked him to bring in some of these beauties so we could get a good look at them. With the help of his brother, Nathan brought in three little clams for us to enjoy in class.

I found that taking pictures of them in the cup was not easy, but using the document camera, I was able to project an up close view of them onto the wall so that everyone could see the clams and their siphons in detail. Students were able to watch the clams in action while taking their practical. Now that may seem like an oxymoron - clams in action... but there was stuff to see.

You could clearly see the siphons and at times see particles being sucked into the siphons. I put some fish food in the cup and the suction power of the clams was enough to create a current that caused the fish flakes to swirl around in the top of the cup. In first period we were able to watch one of the clams use its foot to dig into the sand to sit upright with its siphons up.

While this was projected on the wall, students took their practical test on their knowledge of shells. Here, Jacob confidently identifies a mollusc. Students should be proud of the amount of information that they have been able to remember. Next time they go to the beach they will be amazed by how much they know!

Today students practiced mollusc anatomy and retook that portion of their test. Students also discussed phyla and how many arthropods (bugs) are all over the world and started learning about crustaceans - arthropods that live in the ocean.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mollusc Test and Shell Bingo

Students started class with a quick true-false assessment on molluscs. Students excelled at this and did well. Then students worked with peers at their table on three-way-matching, matching words, definitions, and pictures.

Students took their Unit 4 Mollusc test and worked on a shell crossword. We finished the class with three rounds of shell bingo so students could practice identifying shells.

On Monday students will take their Unit 4 Practical where they need to be able to identify shells, that molluscs adaptation, and some structures.

Students who were absent on Friday will take the test on Monday and take the practical Tuesday or Wednesday during zero block.

Students are reminded that if they are not feeling well and are not in school, they should call the school and request work to be picked up and worked on at home.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Slimy Slug antics

In class today students are looking at a variety of my shell jewelry and trying to identify the shells that the peices are made of. In first period, Cassandra and Kendra rocked the contest. In fourth period, Kevin, Dale, Caleb, and Brittany rocked it.

Caleb and Brittany were overhead one peice of jewelry made of paua shell (also known as abalone, example pictured to the right). Caleb said, "none of these shells are this colorful! Is this its natural color?" When I affirmed that it was the natural color, Brittany H said, "Why do these animals have to be so creative?" The abalone get their pretty inner shell color from their seaweed diet.

After testing that knowledge, they looked at interpretive cartoons and idenitfied which mollusc is being represented. They matched molluscs with their adapations and worked on review sheets. Any work not completed in class was assigned as homework.

Tomorrow students have their Unit 4 Test and on Monday they will have a practical examination.

Today first period got a close up look at the Limax maximus and their slimy mollusc bodies. They looked at the tentacles (eyespots and sensory tentacles) and the hole they breathe through. First period was a bit more adventurous in holding and touching slugs (which was optional)- with more than fifty percent participation. Pictured to the right is a slug crawling hand-off from Becca to Jay.

Slugs can be considered gross because of the copious amounts of mucus they leave behind. The mucus helps them get a better grip on surfaces and helps prevent dessication, drying out. It can also make the slug more difficult to pick up by predators. More information about slugs can be found here.

Maria with an S found the slugs particulary entertaining. (And she didn't even know about Albert's slug mustache from yesterday!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Slimy Slugs, Scary Squid, and Review

Today students compared and contrasted the shells and parts of a clam and a snail. Then they participated in a This or That challenge identifying molluscs. Maria with an S took the prize in first, with Megan earning the award for the most 'test yourself' questions correct. In fourth we ended with a four way tie that had to go to tie breakers. After one tie-breaker we were down to two - Brittany H and Luke, but after two more tie breakers they were both declared winners. Dale and Jacob earned the most correct in the 'test yourself' section.

Students read a historical narrative about sea monsters and how those stories of the Kraken were based on squid sightings. We have known about the giant squid for several hundred years because of dead specimens and pieces found, but the first live one was not observed until 2005. Sailors used to think that the giant squid was much bigger because of a measurement error. Sucker marks on sperm whales were used to estimate size until they relaized that those marks and scars grew bigger as the whale grew.

Students then read a fictional account about a squid attacking the Jersey Shore (article pictured at left) and had to identify what parts of the stories were accurately portraying the squid and which parts were inaccurate.

Students finished class with seat work review identifying characteristics and adaptations and then classifying molluscs into main groups and identifying them. Students will have a test on Friday and a practical on Monday.

I captured some slugs from my yard so students could see a live example of a slimy mollusc. Slugs are also great specimens because they aren't scared to move around and their tentacles are very visible. Gastropods (snails and slugs) have two sets of tentacles - a set with eyes on them which are longer and a short set called sensory tentacles. Today Kelly got slimed by a slug (but Morgan, Luke, and Brittany S had been slimed before). Albert decided he wasn't afraid of slugs and wore one as a mustache... until it started crawling towards his mouth. :) Albert is pictured above; Luke is pictured below.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Today students explored the wonders of cephalopods. Cephalopod means head-foot and includes octopi, squid, cuttlefish, and the chambered nautilus.

Cephalopods are characterized by their large well developed eyes, numerous tentacles, a parrot like beak in the center of the tentacles, and well developed chromatophores in their skin that allow them to change color.

We watched numerous videos today to see and understand how and why cephalopods make ink clouds, to see how an octopus can swim with jet propulsion or use its tentacles to crawl around, and we also saw how a octopus can eat a shark! Below is a video that I took at an aquarium that shows how an octopus uses its tentacles and suckers to move.

For more information about cephalopods, check out CephBase and the Australian Cephalopod Research page.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Today students learned about gastropods. Gastropod means "stomach foot" and includes all snails and anything else that makes one shell. Gastropods have one foot, one shell, and one siphon.

Some shells are spiral and have an operculum to act as a door for when they hide inside.

Other shells are not spiral and the snail has good suction power so that predators have a difficult time pulling the snail off the rocks.

Students separated shells into bivalves and gastropods. They also practiced identifying shells and sorting them based on other characteristics.

This is me... pretending to be a gastropod.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Today students learned about bivalves. Bivalves are molluscs that have two shells and two siphons. Bivalves include some of the more well know shellfish liek scallops, clams, oysters, and scallops as well as a few like jingles, ark shells, and cockles.

Students built a model of a bivalve and had to put in the mantle (the soft squishy part), the gills, siphons if it had them, adductor muscles (used to keep the shell shut), and maybe one other thing unique to the type.

Mussels make byssal threads for attaching and scallops have eyespots to see predators. Sam and LaQuin are making scallops.

On Monday students will compare and contrast the different models to get a true understanding of the similarities and adaptations of bivalves.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Starting Molluscs

Today students learned the basics about sea shells
  • The shells found on the beach are from dead organisms.
  • Any mollusc that has a shell, makes it shell.
  • Sea shells are made of calcium carbonate.
  • Shells are smooth on the inside because slimy molluscs don't want to rub their soft bodies on something rough. If they are smooth on the outside, then the mollusc also wears its body on the outside of its shell.

Students also learned what a chiton was. A chiton doesn't have just one shell, it has 8 overlapping plates. These plates are held together by the soft squishy mantle, and the plates come apart when the animal dies. Chitons are built like armored cars and have great suction to stay on the rocky coast in waves and storms. They spend their days sliming around scraping algae.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Identifying sea shells

Today students brainstormed all the things they knew about sea shells. As a group they knew quite a lot including what sea shells are made of (calcium carbonate), who makes them (the organism does), and a little about size, shape, texture, and even distribution. Not many of them knew what the names of the sea shells were though. (Maria and Brooke figure out which shells are which)

Students were given a handout of black and white shell drawings, a bucket of numbered shells and asked to match the real thing with the sketches. In some cases, shells were easily matched and some students really had an eye for it. Some shells were a bit harder.

After matching the drawings with the real shells, students then looked them up in field guides to try to identify what they were and how many shells they have. A variety of books were available and helpful for the students to use. In the photo to the left, Josh, Becca, Jay, Cassandra, and Chase are looking up the shells to figure out their common names. As I was helping Logan match the oyster with it's drawing, I told him to look at the ugly lumpy shell and match it with the ugly lumpy picture. He told me, "It's not ugly; it has undefined beauty." This is a quote to remember.

I went over the names of some of them and many of the students were correct. Nick was particularly speedy at identifying shells and looking them up. Some students found names more specific than what I was looking for or listed the scientific names.

Students will have a lot of review with these shells and there will be a lab practical and a test at the end of the unit on these shells and the other information learned in the Mollusc unit.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Biomes and Zonation

Students have been learning all the different biomes that exist in the oceans. Most people have heard of coral reefs and think about the beach, but there are actually many different biomes i the ocean.

One of the weirdest, but also most interesting is Whalefall. Whalefall is when a dead whale settles to the bottom of the ocean and organisms move in to feed on the carcass until even the bones are decomposed. Hagfish are a dominant scavenger as well as bacteria. It may not seem like a big deal, but this biome boasts over 160 species that are not found on the surrounding benthos. More info can be found at the link above, or here. Listen to a podcast here.

Deep sea benthos is another biome and it is pretty boring. Its a gooey squishy substrate populated by some dd scavengers, but there is not a high biodiversity and not a lot of food to eat.

Not all biomes are found at the bottom of the sea. Along coasts you can find rocky coasts, sandy beaches, salt marshes, mangroves, sea grass beds, kelp forests, and fouling communities.

I think fouling communities are really interesting... because all these organisms need is a hard substrate (surface) to stick on. This could be a dock, a pier, a boat, or anything that's in the water long enough. Most people have seen all the 'stuff' growing on the pole legs of piers and docks, but don't really think of the variety of organisms that grow there - or their importance. Most of these organisms are filter feeders and do a lot for water quality. They also break down the surfaces like scavengers... not something we want for our boats and docks we use, but important nonetheless.

There is a lot of information to learn this unit. Students were given two review sheets today - one general, one biome specific. The Unit 3 Test is one of the hardest of the year, and it will be on Tuesday.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Drawing Plankton

Students started the day with a brief review of seaweed and algae types. Then they learned how some abiotic factors cause different biomes and zonation in the ocean. Today we mostly focused on tidal zonation on shorelines, but students will discuss other biomes and the zonation within them next week.

We finished the day playing catch up. Students were asked to draw plankton following a schematic and then answer some basic questions. Afterward students worked on a variety of assignments that were missing or incomplete.

Check out this collection of plankton drawn by first and fourth period students.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Plankton and Seaweed Observations

Today students watched some Blue Planet about krill and the whales that eat them as well as phytoplankton and the microzoooplankton that eat them and the megazooplankton that eat them... its a fish eat fish world.

Students then completed some observations of seaweeds. The seaweed had either been collected by Miss J in Virginia or North Carolina and dried, or it was fresh seaweed from the shores of Long Island mailed here by a friend named Josh.

Students also observed plankton in a sample from the pond behind the school using slides and microscopes. Students were amazed that there were tiny clear zooplankton zooming around in their samples.

These observations sparked questions and conversations and students gained a greater understanding of the material. I am pretty sure I even heard the word "cool" uttered a few times (and ignored all comments about stinking - everything in the ocean stinks when its out of the ocean!).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Plankton Grand Prix

Students started building their plankton yesterday and raced them on Wednesday. To win the Grand Prix, plankton needed to sink slowly and not float. This task is a lot harder than it looks and requires a delicate balance of weight and surface area or weight and floating materials (foam, air, plastic) that somehow plankton have overcome for millions of years.

Some of the races were exciting; some of them not so much. Plankton were allowed a five minute grace period before they were declared "floaters," and disqualified. Some students did not want to wait that long to see. Luke's plankton definitely started sinking within five minutes, but wouldn't sink any further much to his dismay.

First Period Place winners:
1. Logan (8 sec)
2. Ricky (7 sec)
3. Zac (4 sec)

Fourth Period Place Winners
1. Nathan (55sec)
2. Raven (7 sec)
3. Dale and Amber (both with 4 sec)

Please watch the video to see the students compete.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Today students got new seats and started a new unit on Plants, Plankton, and Biomes. This is probably our longest and most difficult unit because of the large amount of information that needs to be learned and applied.

We started class with a discussion about phytoplankton (cyanobacteria pictured above) and its importance to the ocean and to the world. Phytoplankton are responsible for feeding most of the creatures that live away from the shore and they are important for adding oxygen both to the water and to the atmosphere.

What is that? This is a meroplankton - meaning its a creature that is a plankton for only part of its life - usually egg, larvae, or juvenile (one or all three) before growing up and swimming around (nekton), or settling to the bottom (Benthos). Can you guess what this grows up to be? Students tried their hand at guessing life stages with a challenge. I can't remember from first period, but in fourth period the high score was 4/9. Ouch. Guess those meroplankton change a lot as they develop!

If you guessed Sea Star for the meroplankton above, then you are awesome! Check out this website Beyond the Reef for some great photos and information about plankton in general and some wonderful stages of meroplankton metamorphosis.

We finished class today by starting the Plankton Grand Prix. Students were given a sample of clay, a straw, and access to other materials to build a plankton to race. Plankton are designed to sink slowly, so for this race students want to design a plankton that sinks - just sinks slowly. Floaters will be disqualified. Some of the designs look awesome already and Ricky's plankton rocked in his test run today.

We'll see which design wins the Plankton Grand Prix tomorrow...

Computer Lab Etiquette

You are in the computer lab to do work for this class. If you are not doing work, then we will have problems.

Do not pack up early. Work until the bell or until MsJ says.

SAVE OFTEN. And if you save to a key, also save it to your number. If you lose it, you will have to do it again.

If MsJ asks for your attention, stop what you are doing and listen to what she has to say.

You may watch videos about your organism through reliable websites.

You may listen to music through the computer if you have your own headphones. Rule1 MsJ cannot hear it. You get one warning. Rule2 Turn it on and listen – no million clicks and constant changing. Take both ear phones out when MsJ is talking.