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Lesson Plans
Spineless – YES...
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OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to beginning class, bookmark all the web sites used in the lesson. Copy the handouts for your students. Cue the "Dive to the Abyss" videotape to the segment where you see a white research boat traveling early in the morning and the narrator says, "The water registers 47 degrees and without a dry suit, a diver can slip into unconsciousness in a half hour."
When using media, provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

The following activity will allow the students to explore the challenges invertebrates may face in obtaining food sources and the adaptations that allow them to eat.

Step 1

Ask the students what kinds of organisms live in the ocean. (Responses will be varied; most will list types of vertebrates: mammals and bony fishes). Make two columns on the board. Without labeling the columns, put all the vertebrates the students mention in one column, and all the invertebrates mentioned in the other column (bony fishes, mammals and sharks are vertebrates; most other marine organisms are invertebrates). Go down the list of vertebrates mentioned and ask the students if each of these organisms has a backbone (yes). Now go down the list of invertebrates and ask if each of those organisms has a backbone (no). Label the two columns "vertebrates" and "invertebrates" and define each term for the students (a vertebrate is an animal with a vertebral column, also called a spinal column or a backbone. An invertebrate is an animal without a vertebral column). Explain to the students that the main difference between vertebrates and invertebrates is based on the presence of a backbone or spinal column, with a spinal cord running through the length of the column. Ask if the students can supply more examples of invertebrates to add to the list (examples might include sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea anemones, nudibranchs, lobsters, crabs, shrimp, etc). After establishing a relationship between vertebrate and invertebrate organisms, we will examine the behaviors and adaptations of invertebrate organisms that enable them to survive the perils of life under water.

Step 2

Show the students a fragrant yet appealing food item (candy, chocolate, fruit, etc.). Ask the students how they would go about obtaining the item if they wanted it (Responses could include walking or running up and grabbing the item.) Remind the students that a human's ability to walk, run, and grab is all dependent on the presence of a backbone and an internal skeleton. Ask the students to think about whether an invertebrate like a sea cucumber could walk up and grab a food item (no - without a spinal column, the sea cucumber can't stand up).

Step 3

Divide the class into pairs. Give each pair a blindfold. Tell the students that sea cucumbers do not have eyes. Instruct one partner in each pair to snugly tie the blindfold over his or her partner's eyes. Ask the students, if they could obtain the food item now. (Response would include, yes but they would have to be careful of running into furniture or other students.) Affirm their ideas but remind them that if they are invertebrates they could not stand up due to the lack of a backbone.

Step 4

Tell the students that sea cucumbers do not have arms or legs. Ask the pairs to snugly tie a rope or string around the blindfolded partner's hands and feet. Once the blindfolds and ties are in place, ask the students who are tied up how they might find the food source in their current condition. (Responses might include wriggling their way on the floor to the front where the food item is located). What senses might sea cucumbers use to find food? (Student responses may vary, accept all responses - the sea cucumber uses chemical detection, or "smell," to find food, as well as the sense of touch). Explain to the students that even though invertebrates do not have backbones, they have many adaptations that allow them to obtain food, find shelter, find mates, and survive in their environment. For example, sea cucumbers have tube feet running the length of their body that allow them to crawl along the ocean bottom. They also have tentacles near their mouth that help them eat. Let's explore various marine invertebrates and how they survive in their underwater environment.


Learning Activity

Step 1

Explain to the students that they will be viewing a videotape showing many different marine organisms. While the focus will be on invertebrates, the students will also observe and discuss how vertebrates and invertebrates interact. Provide all students with a handout entitled, Invertebrates of the Abyss Handout. On the handout are categories of various classes and orders of invertebrates.
If students need briefing on the different organisms, log on to the Web site http://library.thinkquest.org/J001418/animals.html. Show the students the various categories and allow them time to write distinguishing features of each organism.

(The categories and features include:)
Echinoderms - Features include: spiny skin, tube feet, live on ocean floor, and radially symmetrical
Examples: Sea star, sea cucumber, sea urchin

Arthropods - Features include: jointed appendages, often clawed, hard exterior, bilaterally symmetrical
Examples: lobster, crab, barnacles

Mollusks - Features: shell, tentacles, tentacles with suckers, bilaterally symmetrical
Examples: octopus, nudibranch, chiton, mussel, scallop, abalone, limpet, snail

Cnidarian - Features: tentacles with stinging cells, shapes like jelly fish, radially symmetrical
Examples- sea anemone

Step 2

Insert "Drive to the Abyss" video into the VCR

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify three different invertebrates in the film clip. START the video where the image projected is a white research boat traveling early in the morning and the narrator states, "The water registers 47 degrees and without a dry suit, a diver can slip into unconsciousness in a half hour." PLAY the tape until you hear the narrator say, "The crab should show some more caution." PAUSE the tape. Check for student answers. (Responses might include feather star, eel, giant pacific octopus, sea star, crab.) If the students did not get the whole list of invertebrates, REWIND and REPLAY the clip for students.

Step 3

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to describe two key features about an octopus and why it might be considered intelligent. PLAY the tape until the narrator states, "Long before sharks began swimming the seas," and the screen shows an octopus settling down on the ocean floor. Check for student responses. (Octopus features include very large tentacles, curious, unpredictable, gently explores, not immediately aggressive, no longer contains a shell unlike its ancestors, every extraordinary skin by changing patterns, textures and patterns. As a result of these features, the octopus has a greater ability to process information around them and immediately respond). Ask the students if this is what they expected when they saw actual footage of a giant pacific octopus. (Student responses will vary; this is more of an opinion question allowing students to share their preconceived ideas about these creatures.) The octopus is just one of thousands of creatures in the deep oceans. There are many other organisms, which are equally important to this biome.

Step 4

FAST FORWARD the tape to the point where the screen shows a man feeding tanks of marine organisms and the narrator says, "At the National Resource Center for Cephalopods in Galveston, Texas, John maintains quite a collection." Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking the students to identify any new species not previous seen in earlier footage and how their behavior is different from octopi. PLAY the tape until the narrator says, "It's no wonder we are still learning how many kinds there are," and the screen shows two old rusty boats passing by each other. STOP the tape. Check for student responses relating to the video clip. (Student responses might include squid and cuttlefish. Unique features include rectangular pupil, changing shape of cuttlefish, skin containing chromatophores which allows the skin to flash bands of color or light up to provide camouflage). Ask the students if what we saw in the video includes most of the underwater invertebrates. (Students should respond by saying that they have not viewed any mollusks, or cnidarians.) Since we have not viewed any of these organisms, let us use another form of media, the Internet, for further research help.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1

Explain to the students that they have been exploring the diversity of many invertebrates under normal environmental conditions. It is now time to research how natural disasters or human involvement can disrupt their underwater biome. Divide the class into teams of two or four (depending on the size of the class). Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking that each team will be responsible for researching one location in the world (suggestions are listed below), presenting invertebrateŐs representative of each area, display a food web relative to each area, and discuss how the organisms have responded to either human intervention or natural disasters.

Step 2

Provide each student with a packet entitled, Invertebrates Research Project. Discuss with the students the requirements. Students will research, create visual aids, and make presentations based on their assigned areas. (Note to teachers: It is advisable to allow students to pull a research location out of jar rather than letting them make choices. Otherwise, some topics may not be presented.)

Step 3

Discuss how to create a food web. Enclosed in the packet, Invertebrates Research Project, is an example of a food web based on the organisms discussed from the video and Web sites in the Learning Activity. Students should craft their food web in a similar manner by placing the names or pictures of the organisms and how they are connected to each other on a poster.

Suggested topics include:
  1. Ocean waters surrounding Thailand.
    1. Research marine invertebrates of the Indian Ocean bordering Thailand.
    2. Create a food web of these organisms.
    3. Research how the 2004 tsunami has affected underwater organisms.

  2. Ocean waters surrounding the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
    1. Research marine invertebrates of the Pacific Ocean bordering the east coast of Australia.
    2. Create a food web of these organisms.
    3. Research how the fluctuating weather patterns affect the deep-sea vents and any surrounding inhabitants of the deep-sea vents.

  3. Ocean water surrounding the Hawaiian Islands of the United States.
    1. Research marine invertebrates of the Pacific Ocean bordering the various Hawaiian Islands.
    2. Create a food web of these organisms.
    3. Research how volcanic activity and atoll formation affect the underwater organisms.

  4. Ocean water surrounding the Northeastern Coast of the United States.
    1. Research marine invertebrates of the Atlantic Ocean bordering Maine, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
    2. Create a food web of these organisms.
    3. Research how the Red Tide of the summer of 2005 affected various underwater organisms.

  5. Ocean water surrounding the Mid-East Coast of the United States.
    1. Research marine invertebrates of the New York, New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina.
    2. Create a food web of these organisms.
    3. Research how the dumping of trash and old New York subway cars have destroyed as well as enhanced the coral reefs of the Atlantic Ocean.

Step 4

Discuss the grading rubric with the students. It is also attached to the Invertebrates Research Project packet. Provide ample time to sufficiently research the given areas and make presentations in class. If the class is divided into teams of fours, less time would be needed for research. If the class is divided into teams of twos, allow for more research time. Research time is dependent on availability of the computer lab or class time in the library.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

LANGUAGE ARTS
Have students write a story from the perspective of one invertebrate viewed in the video or on the Web sites. What threats do they face and how do they protect themselves? What other adaptations do they have to their environment?

ART
Students draw or create a 3-D invertebrate (such as a species of octopus, nudibranch, or cuttlefish) using unique designs and colors. The art design should somewhat resemble one of these invertebrates.

GEOGRAPHY
Students can create maps of the ocean waters of their project.


Community Connections
  • Interview a naturalist from a local museum or zoo about the unique contributions invertebrates makes to the local environment.

  • Students can write letters to inquire about the local oceanic waters of Long Island Sound using the web site, http://www.savethesound.org.