2005-2006 Pittsburg High School

Student drawings Activities

In the Classroom

Jasmin, Cassandra and Alyssa make observations and drawings of their plants.
Danica Harbaugh and Nicole VanderSal have been working with Joni Grisham's Environmental Education class since September. After meeting the students and sharing some of their own personal experiences, the students were introduced to the nature of science through The Egg Activity, developed by Brian Kraatz. Observations are a critical part of the scientific method and during one lesson, every student drew and described a plant and then tried to figure out what plant other people had drawn/described. Once the students learned basic science observation and note-taking techniques, they were introduced to the evolutionary Tree of Life with a lesson focusing on how organisms are related, and how this information is not only useful, but often necessary, for studying biodiversity.

For the Biodiversity in the Schoolyard unit, they did a series of activities over the course of many weeks. First students explored why organisms would live in different areas and why certain areas, like California, have high biodiversity. This was followed by an introduction to the general characteristics of plants, insects and vertebrates. With this background knowledge, students were ready to collect specimens of plants and insects. Students were taught how to use a beat sheet, a sweep net and an aerial net to catch insects. In the following weeks, students learned how to curate the specimens they had collected.

Donna, Abel, and Raymond in the quad looking for insects within a quadrat.

Some of the class plant specimens from the school yard and from field trips to Sagehen and the Dow wetlands.

Pages from two student's field notebooks. Click on each to see an enlarged version. PHS notebook page 2 PHS notebook page 3

To study vertebrates in the schoolyard, students constructed birdfeeders (below, left and middle) and made refuges for reptiles and amphibians. They are currently monitoring these sites to see what vertebrates use the schoolyard.

Students constructing bottle bird feeders and pine cone birdfeeders with peanut butter and birdseed.

Abel, Martha, Samantha, Phioahn, and Nargis hanging our bottle and pine cone birdfeeders in the Pittsburg High Courtyard.

Josefina giving a presentation to the class about our trip to Sagehen Reserve.

Before the Holiday Break, students gave oral presentations to the rest of the class about our fieldtrips and school activities (above right).

Students kicked off the second semester with a tour to several of the Berkeley Natural History Museums. At the Essig Museum of Entomology, they had an opportunity to view some of the exquisite collections of insects. They compared representatives of common orders of insects and looked at numerous examples of mimicry. Students used a field trip questionnaire (download a pdf or Word file) to guide them during this exploration. See photos from their visit.

Back in the classroom, students learned how to measure and compare the biodiversity of two areas using two hypothetical spider populations. They looked at species composition, density, and relative distributions and represented the data graphically for analysis. For the remainder of the semester, students will be working on analyzing their own data by identifying and classifying the specimens that we have collected and by comparing biodiversity between fall and spring, and between the schoolyard and other sites where they collected.

The Egg Activity
Tree of Life Activity
Insect Collection lesson
Insect Curation lesson
Sampling and Comparing Biodiversity lesson

Insect curation handouts, pages 1 and 2 (pdfs); on pinning and labeling insects.
Insects vs. spiders handouts, one with labels, one without labels (pdfs); on differences between insects and spiders.
Insect orders handout (pdf); for recording insect sightings in the field.
Insect worksheet (pdf or Word file) with questions on various aspects of insects observed in the UC Berkeley Essig Museum of Entomology.
BNHM virtual tour (pdf or Word file); an intro to visiting the Berkeley Natural History Museums (only three of the six museums are covered at the moment but the rest are on the way!).

Field Trips

Sagehen Creek Natural History Reserve Field Trip, October 21-23, 2005: Students traveled to the reserve to observe and collect a variety of plant and insect specimens.

Dow Wetlands Field Trip, December 9, 2005: Students collected specimens at the wetlands in order to compare the biodiversity with that found on their school campus.

Essig Museum of Entomology Tour, February 9, 2006: Students observe and answer questions about various aspects of lepidoptera, hymenoptera, coleoptera, and mimicry in insects.

May 13th Celebration: In celebration of their year's achievements, the students of Pittsburg High School prepared PowerPoint presentations and posters representing the activities of the year. Students shared field trip experiences and results of school projects. We thank Joni Grisham and her students for a wonderful year.

Previous Years

2004-2005 PHS activities

2003-2004 PHS activities

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