Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Contributor
Science in the Classroom
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Tool/Software , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Map , Instructor Guide/Manual , Informative Text , Data , Graph , Article
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This resource, from Science in the Classroom (AAAS), uses an authentic scientific research paper and an interactive web tool to help students and teachers investigate the phenomenon of forest cover change at different scales over time. The provided full text original article, published in the journal Science (AAAS) in 2014, summarizes satellite data from 2000 to 2012 in a series of high-resolution global maps showing changes in forest cover. Both natural and human causes of change are identified. Students can select instructional supports from a sidebar. An Educator Guide includes two primary sections; one section provides general use information for all Science in the Classroom annotated articles and a second section contains materials specific to this article. A provided link to Google's Global Forest Change Explorer contains all the original data, interactive maps, as well as a student worksheet. Further, the research article provides tabular data within a downloadable pdf of supplementary materials. Students engage in three-dimensional learning as they analyze and use real data towards building understanding of ecosystem dynamics and resilience at different scales.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • High School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

HS-LS2-6 Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.

Clarification Statement: Examples of changes in ecosystem conditions could include modest biological or physical changes, such as moderate hunting or a seasonal flood; and extreme changes, such as volcanic eruption or sea level rise.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Both the maps within the research article and the interactive tool provide specific ways for students to evaluate the claims within the article about causes of stable versus changing conditions in forests at different scales. For example, Fig. 1 within the article uses different colors on world maps to indicate tree cover, forest loss, and forest gain. Fig. 2 compares maps of smaller areas: Paraguay, Indonesia, the United States, and Russia. The interactive tool provides students with a third option: hotspots. The text accompanying these figures provides additional information about causation and conclusions. Teachers can encourage students to examine the data, determine whether changes occurred within a specified area, ask questions about possible causation, and (optionally) do further research about the areas to evaluate the authors’ conclusions.

HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.

Clarification Statement: Examples of mathematical representations include finding the average, determining trends, and using graphical comparisons of multiple sets of data.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to provided data.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The research paper, instructional supports, and interactive web-based tool provides students with practice in using maps and charts at different scales to support and revise explanations about causality of forest cover change over time. To help students make sense of this phenomenon, teachers may want to familiarize themselves first with the research article and second with the Google Global Forest Change Explorer tool prior to using this resource in their classroom. Familiarization with the data via the Google tool will help to build understanding of what the maps in the article represent. Within the tool teachers and students can select options to look at maps at three scales: global, by country, and hotspots within countries. Teachers may want to divide the class into teams that look at subsets of each option and then share their findings with the rest of the class. One way to do this is with a gallery walk.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
This resource provides students and teachers with rich opportunities to analyze and interpret data. An interactive tool, satellite data, and maps and graphs provided within the article can serve as mathematical models that students can use to support their claims. For example, students may use Fig. 3 within the article as a model of forest cover change over time; the figure compares annual forest loss totals for Indonesia and Brazil from 2000 to 2012. Using this figure and the accompanying informational text, students can use data-supported reasoning to make their own claims as well as to evaluate the authors’ claims. Teachers may want to supplement this resource with an HHMI Biointeractive Data Point called Tracking Global Changes in Forest Cover; Fig. 3 from this article is used as the data point and provides additional resources for instructional support.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Supports and suggestions for classroom use are provided with this resource so that students may obtain, evaluate, and communicate information as described by this specific practice. For example, “Suggestions for Classroom Use” within the Educator Guide has ideas which support this practice, such as: 1) students write their own abstract of the article, 2) students edit the article, or parts of the article, to a simpler grade level, and 3) student teams are assigned small sections of the article which they later present to the class.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This resource looks only at forest cover - not the entire community of organisms that make up any forest ecosystem. Teachers may want to check students’ understanding that they are looking at one component common to many different complex forest ecosystems. As causation for the changes seen in the data over time is explored, teachers may want to encourage students to consider ways that forest cover is important for the populations that live within a particular community. For example, Alaska is one hotspot identified in the Google tool where forest fires are the causal agent of change. Teachers could ask a generative question such as, “Do forest fires harm or help the organisms that live there?” and then ask students to support their response.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
By the end of instruction, students should be able to construct an explanation of how forest cover changed from 2000 to 2012 within a hotspot, a country, a region of the world, and/or globally. Encourage students to become familiar enough with the data so that they can describe the changes evident in the maps, tables, and/or tool and use the informational text to support their explanations of these changes over time.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This resource provides students with ways to understand forest cover change at the global, country, and hotspot scales. One way to address the concept of orders of magnitude is for students to use the tool and start with a specific “hotspot” within a country, then select the country, and lastly select the world. In this way, students can analyze and compare the data at three different levels. Another way is for students to compare the different figures within the research article. Lastly, tabular data is available to students in the “Supplementary Materials” associated with the research article. Students may select climate zone, ecozone, or country data for comparison, and use this information to explain the impacts of forest cover change at each level.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource is designed to help students make sense of the authentic phenomenon of forest cover change over time at different scales. The resource provides students with opportunities to integrate the cross-cutting concepts of scale, proportion, and quantity, as well as stability and change, as they practice analyzing data critically to understand, evaluate, and communicate the conclusions of an authentic scientific research article. Teachers may want to push students to interact with the article and data as the “Tips” sections above suggest. Otherwise students may not engage in three-dimensional learning and simply read and analyze the article and data.

  • Instructional Supports: The research article and interactive web tool provide students with a very real and relevant scientific endeavor that mirrors the work of the article’s authors. By using the suggestions provided within the resource, teachers can guide student learning so that students express their own ideas and review the ideas of their classmates. To the right of the article, there is a sidebar called “Learning Lens.” Although there is no formal indication of differentiated instruction, this tool does provides students with choices to highlight various aspects of the informational text to support those who may find the text difficult without supports. It also provides a glossary which gives all students access to understanding vocabulary. This resource may be more appropriate for grades 11 and 12 than for grades 9 and 10. Teachers will also need to identify prior student learning that is expected for using this resource.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Teachers will need to use one or more of the suggestions offered within the educator guide, such as discussion questions and writing activities, to elicit direct, observable evidence of three-dimensional student learning; however, the resource does not provide any formative or scoring instructional supports. Further ideas are mentioned in the tips sections above.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Students are not able to personalize this tool, but they may use the tool to understand the research data, analyze the corresponding maps, and make comparisons at different scales. The tool may be sensitive to which browser is used so if it doesn’t work at first, try another browser prior to class. Google Chrome works well.