The Jubilee Phenomenon

National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS)
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
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.



"The Jubilee Phenomenon" is a lesson plan that provides a sequence of learning exercises to help students understand what is locally known as a "Mobile Bay jubilee"(Alabama) and the importances of preserving estuaries.  The lesson plan is divided into three exercises.  In "Exercise 1:  What is the Jubilee Phenomenon", students learn the specific conditions that must be present for a jubilee event to occur by engaging in three activities.  The first activity is a reading jigsaw for the article, "Deadly Oxygen Levels in Mobile Bay", followed by a map activity and a short animation activity.  Students questions are provided to guide development of their understanding.  The second exercise, "Exercise 2: Layered Water in the Estuary", engages students in a lab activity that demonstrates how water stratifies due to differences in salinity.  Student questions are provided to facilitate development of the concept.  In the third and final exercise, "Exercise 3:  When did a Jubilee Occur?", students use graphs of tide data, wind direction, and dissolved oxygen to determine which day(s) a jubilee occurred.  A set of student questions is provided to guide students through the exploration and understanding of the concepts.  For your reference, the definition of "jubilee" according to Webster's II New College Dictionary (2001) is "a special annniversary, especially a 50th anniversary".  

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on predicting consistent patterns of interactions in different ecosystems in terms of the relationships among and between organisms and abiotic components of ecosystems. Examples of types of interactions could include competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Exercises 1 and 2 provide the opportunity for students to develop their understanding of relationships of abiotic and biotic factors in ecosystems while learning about estuaries and how they are threatened. The phenomenon of this lesson is the regular and predictable occurrence of large quantities of flounders, blue crabs, and other aquatic animals typically found in the benthic zone that literally come ashore. As part of Exercise 1, a short animation is provided about the phenomenon, which the teacher should use to engage student interest in the lesson. This should be followed by the reading jigsaw activity on the provided article, "Scientists report unusually low levels of oxygen in Mobile Bay waters", which is divided into five chunks. The teacher should carefully choose the chunk that the different teams are assigned as some sections of the article have more content language than other sections and therefore would be challenging for English Language Learners and other students who struggle with grade-level reading. Student teams share what they have learned with the class. Finally, a map of Mobile Bay, Alabama, is provided and students identify and color-code various key locations, e.g. the datalogger site, possible jubilee locations and the mouth of Mobile Bay. Questions are provided to review key points. Exercise 2 is a lab exercise to demonstrate to students how waters of different densities layer on top of each other. This is key to understanding how although a body of water may appear homogenous, it is actually divided into areas based on, among other factors, differences in density. This is a key factor that causes the jubilee phenomenon to occur. For this activity to demonstrate the effect, students must be careful when following directions. The teacher may decide based on student needs, that it would be more effective to do this as a teacher-led demonstration. Questions are provided to review key points and help make sense of the concept.

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
The third and final activity, "Exercise 3", provides the opportunity to students to analyze real water quality, tide, and wind data to find the short-term changes associated with jubilee events. The data for three different dates and provided in graph form. Students organize the data in a "Data Log" and make a conclusion on which days a jubilee has occurred. The teacher should guide the students on how to read the graphs for a minimum of one of the three days, depending on the needs of the students.

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

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In the third and final activity, "Exercise 3", student teams share their conclusions with the class. This can be done by student teams creating a display on a whiteboard or poster using a "Claims-Evidence-Reasoning" format, which includes the guiding question, their claim, their evidence, and their justification for the evidence for the jubiliee phenomenon. This should be followed by a "gallery walk" and class discussion. In addition, the teacher may require that students submit their findings in writing for summative assessmen purposes.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This lesson primarily provides the students with the opportunity to learn how the behavior of aquatic animals that live on the bottom of shallow estuarine waters are affected by the non-living factors of water quality, wind speed, and direction, and the tide. However, phytoplankton does play an important role in the occurrences of jubilees as well and their populations are affected by other factors, for example, water pollution. After the completion of the lesson and the basic concepts are understood by the students, the teacher can extend the learning by leading students through a study of the role of phytoplankton, and how agricultural runoff affects their populations, and therefore, the jubilee phenomenon.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Exercises 1, 2, and 3 give students the opportunity to observe how changes in water quality and weather create changes in an estuarine ecosystem.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Exercise 3 provides students the opportunity to use water quality, tide, and weather data to understand how they affect the behavior of benthic estuarine animals.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Exercise 3 provides students the opportunity to use graphs, charts, and images to identify patterns in the data.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson utilizes the jubilee phenomenon to weave together the three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards provided as the crosscutting concepts, the disciplinary core ideas and the practices are all addressed. This little-known phenomenon (outside of the American South) promotes student thinking about the interactions of biotic and abiotic factors within Mobile Bay estuary.

  • Instructional Supports: The resources for teachers are extensive and well done. Many additional resources for added teacher background or for teachers not familiar with the content are provided as well as an extension activity. Specific rubrics and scoring guidelines are included for each performance task. Key terms, key concepts, learning goals, and questions and possible answers are listed as well. Due to the reading demands of Exercise 1, the teacher will need to provided differentiated instruction for English Language Learners, students with special needs, and students who read well below grade level.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: A formal assessment is provided to administer at the conclusion of the lesson exercises. Answers are provided.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This lesson is not technology based but does engage students with an animation in Exercise 1.