In this lesson, students will read an article from the National Science Foundation that discusses how a drought affected the savannas of southern Kenya during 2009. It further addresses how baboons are affected later in life based on when they are born and the social status they are born into. Based on the research on baboons, the implications on human health are also discussed in the latter portion of the article. This lesson is designed to support reading in the content area. The lesson plan includes a note-taking guide, text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, answer keys, and a writing rubric.
Subject(s): Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 9, 10
Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, Speakers/Headphones
2 Hour(s) 30 Minute(s)
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: drought, savanna, human health, Kenya, baboons, malnourished, famine, text complexity, informational text
Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
Students should be able to:
- Explain how droughts have affected the biodiversity of grasslands in southern Kenya.
- Describe how being born during adverse conditions affects baboons.
- Explain how the research described in the text has implications on human health.
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text.
- Determine the meaning of unknown academic and domain-specific words in the text.
- Construct a written response that clearly establishes the main point(s), contains relevant textual evidence to support the main point, utilizes transitions to maintain flow, effectively uses domain-specific vocabulary, and provides an appropriate conclusion.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
With regard to science content:
- Students should be familiar with the biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components found in Amboseli National Park in Kenya. This provides information on the Amboseli ecosystem.
- Students should be familiar with the general characteristics of yellow baboons, which is the species being studied in the article for this lesson. It is important for students to recognize the social structure of the baboons in regards to the female lineage within the group. (Note: The University of Wisconsin Primate Research Center also has a number of good textual resources on yellow baboons.)
- Students should be familiar with the impact of climate change on ecosystems.
- Students should be aware of the impact of adverse conditions on human reproduction, as well as research that has been conducted on this topic. This link provides some interesting information on the subject.
With regards to literacy skills:
- Students should have prior experience utilizing various vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words in a text. For this lesson, prior experience in using context clues to determine the meaning of words in a text would be beneficial, as would dictionary skills and use of word parts.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. This includes titles, subtitles, headings, photographs, and captions.
- Based on the writing rubric provided with this lesson, students should be able to respond to a writing prompt in a clear, organized manner that includes use of an introduction to establish the main point(s), a body paragraph(s) that support the main point(s) and includes relevant and specific textual evidence, and a conclusion that supports the main point(s).
- Students should have some awareness that use of transition words or phrases can help a piece of writing flow smoothly from one point or idea to the next. Teachers might provide students with a PDF from this site to help them use transitions in their writing.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- How has drought disrupted the stability of thesavanna ecosystems found in southern Kenya?
- The drought in 2009 caused many deaths among the organisms found within the savanna. The vegetation dried up, the water holes disappeared, and many animal populations were negatively affected by this event. For example, 98% of the wildebeest population was lost. Even if organisms did not die, they were left weak and malnourished. The baboon population was affected because there were female baboons unable to get pregnant during this time.
- How are baboons affected by being born in times of drought or other harsh conditions?
- According to the study, if female baboons were born in times of drought, they fared considerably worse than baboons born in favorable conditions. There were lifetime fertility reductions for the drought-born females and during the 2009 drought, those females were 60% less likely to become pregnant than other females.
- How can this research and the findings be used to explain the impact adverse conditions have on human health?
- Adults who were malnourished as children often end up having health problems later in life that are food-related, this includes conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. There are several reasons scientists believe this happens, including the simple idea of going hungry as a child can lead to excess as an adult. There is also the suggestion that being born during stressful times leads to a less resilient individual with health problems as an adult.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by showing a picture of a in Kenya and ask students if they are familiar with this ecosystem and the types of organisms found there. Students with some familiarity of the ecosystem may respond it is a savanna, which are the grasslands in Africa, and organisms living there include lions, elephants, and zebras.
- Next ask students: What are some environmental factors that could affect savannas? Some students might reply that fires and droughts could affect savannas.
- Explain to students that in 2009, there was a severe drought in southern Kenya that had extreme affects on the ecosystem. Inform students there were large number of animal deaths including wildebeests, zebras, and elephants.
- Next tell students that even if the drought did not kill some animals, they were still affected by stressful conditions. Display the following picture of the yellow baboon. Tell the students a group of baboons from southern Kenya were part of a study to determine how they coped during the drought and if the conditions they faced as infants played a role in how they responded to the drought. Tell students they will be reading an article about this study and the implications the study has on human health.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Pass out to each student a copy of the article "Born During a Drought: Bad News for Baboons" or make it available to students electronically. The online version of the article, complete with pictures, can also be found .
- For discussion purposes, the teacher may want to have students number each paragraph in the article. If using an electronic copy of the article, students can use a PDF mark-up tool (several tools are available as free downloads).
- Provide each student with a note-taking guide. Have students complete this guide after their first reading of the article, or during their second reading of the article. Make sure to provide print or online dictionaries for students to use for the vocabulary section. Teachers should monitor students and provide support as needed.
- Based on the needs and skills of the students, teachers can decrease the number of academic or domain-specific vocabulary students will define on the note-taking guide.
- For academic vocabulary, students will likely be able to use a variety of vocabulary strategies to define the meaning of the words. For domain-specific (in other words, subject-specific) vocabulary, students will typically need to draw on prior knowledge and/or use a dictionary to define the words.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' completed note-taking guide, checking their work, providing written feedback, or grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share out their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
- Teachers can use the sample answer key provided at the end of the note-taking guide to help them assess students' answers. The answer key includes some suggested strategies, like use of context clues or word parts, that might be appropriate for some words in helping students to determine a word's meaning.
- For discussion on students' answers to the defined vocabulary words, teachers are encouraged to not only ask students to explain the meaning they determined for a word, but the strategy they used to arrive at that meaning. This will allow the teacher to provide alternative suggestions as to how the student could have arrived at the correct meaning of the word.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
- The other common species of baboon is the Hamadryas baboon and they have a male-dominated hierarchy, unlike the yellow baboon.
- Explain to students the drought resulted in famine for the animals in the savanna but for humans famine can be caused by crop failure, too many people, or political reasons.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
Provide each student with a copy of the text-dependent questions to complete. Students should be reminded to continually refer back to the text and to use relevant and specific evidence from the text to support their answers.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' answers to the text-dependent questions, checking their work, providing written feedback, and maybe grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share out their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
- Teachers can use the sample answer key to help them assess students' answers.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the answer key for the text-dependent questions.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
- Before students complete the writing assignment for the summative assessment, review student responses to the text-dependent questions. Make sure the misconceptions are corrected and the key points (as found in the sample answer key) are discussed.
- After students' written responses for the summative assessment have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the provided sample response with the class to show how evidence from the text was used to answer the prompt. Note: The provided sample response is in the form of an extended response and not a formal essay.
- At the end of the lesson, have students complete questions #1 and #3 from the guiding questions portion of the lesson. Discuss the answers as a class and make sure students can answer the questions using specific evidence from the text.
- Students will individually respond to the writing prompt. If using the attached rubric to score student responses, they should be directed to respond with a multi-paragraph response in the form of an essay, with a clear introduction, body section, and conclusion. They can refer back to the text as they construct their response.
- Provide students with a copy of the rubric and go over it with them so they will know how their written response will be assessed.
- Go over the writing prompt with students and make sure students understand what the prompt is asking them to address.
The prompt: Using evidence from the text, explain how the research with baboons has implications on human health by suggesting that being born into stressful conditions has lifelong costs.
- Teachers will use a rubric to assess students' written responses.
Specific suggestions for conducting Formative Assessment can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson.
Feedback to Students
Specific suggestions for providing Feedback to Students can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson where it says, "Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond."
Accommodations & Recommendations
For help with science content:
- Showing pictures of the Amboseli savanna may help students with content in the article. It might benefit students to show them the pictures from the of the NSF article. The teacher may also want to show a map of Africa and this map of Kenya so students have context regarding the location of the research in the Amboseli National Park.
- Showing this short YouTube video titled "Climate Effects on Baboons in Amboseli National Park" (0:59, uploaded by YouTube user PNN Features) should also be helpful to students.
For struggling readers:
It might benefit students to break the text into sections (each heading can be the start of a new section). Have students independently read section one, and then have several strong readers read section one aloud.
- Then, have students highlight the vocabulary from the note-taking guide that appears in section one. Work with students to model ways to define a few of the vocabulary words to get them started. The teacher can think aloud as he or she decides which vocabulary strategy or strategies to use to define a word, and think aloud while deciding which meaning from a dictionary entry with multiple meanings would be the best fit for how the word is used in the context of the article. Then students can work independently to define the meanings of the remaining words for that section. Students can report out their meanings and receive feedback from the teacher.
- The following words were not included on the note-taking guide and may need to be addressed depending on the needs of the students: scrutiny, toll, akin, programmed.
- Students can then work with a partner or small group to complete the first page of the note-taking guide for section one, share out their responses and receive feedback from the teacher.
- This process can be repeated if needed for the remaining sections of the text.
For struggling writers:
It might help students to provide them with an outline to help them structure their written response for the summative assessment (if the teacher is using the attached writing rubric to assess students' writing in the form of an essay). The outline might include places for them to record:
- Ideas on how to introduce the topic
- A few specifics from the text they might want to use to support or explain the topic
- A place to write down their main point(s)
- Topic sentence (the first sentence of each body paragraph that will reveal the point of the paragraph and will connect to the paper's overall main point)
- Specific evidence from the text for support in each body paragraph
- Ideas for transition words
- Ideas for use of selected vocabulary
- Ideas on how to wrap up their piece and connect back to the main point(s)
- Have students access the Amboseli Baboon Research and read one of the other research studies conducted and report back to the class.
- Have students explore the effects and history of droughts on ecosystems. This resource from the National Geographic Society can get them started, and there are a variety of hyperlinks within the resource that they can use as well.
- Teachers may choose to explore how droughts effect other ecosystems and the organisms in them. Teachers might want to use this CPALMS lesson: Mutualistic Mussels.
- On the students note-taking guide, in the "Questions I Still Have" column, if students still have unanswered questions at the end of the lesson, students can research answers to these questions and report their findings.
- Have students read this article found in Newsweek titled "How Poverty Affects the Brain" and answer the following questions. The article discusses the implications of the environment and how it effects the overall development of the human brain. This is an extension from the idea within the NSF article discussing how one's environment has a role in the overall health of an individual if born into a situation where there are food shortages or stressful conditions. This would definitely be a homework assignment or an assignment for an upper level class due to the length of the article.
- Explain what is meant by the term "the neuroscience of poverty."
- There is more and more research being done on the correlation between normal brain development and brain patterns and the environment one lives in when they are younger. Researchers are discovering how poverty and the conditions associated with it such as violence, excessive noise, malnutrition, and general stress are affecting the formation and development of the brain.
- Recent studies have shown children living in extreme poverty are showing differences in brain structure including less gray matter and smaller brain surface areas than children from families with larger incomes. As a result, there is less academic success and achievement in these children. Neurobiology has linked the environment, behavior, and brain activity to the environment one grows up in.
- Discuss why being born into poverty does not automatically cause abnormal brain development.
- When a child grows up in poverty and is surrounded by a constant stressful state, the brain structure changes and functions differently because of the increased action of stress hormones. The constant stress on the brain can lead to abnormal brain development including problems with stem cells and the neurons. There is concern that if one falls behind in brain development, it is hard to catch up. However, many kids who do live in poverty are fine and their brains are fine. Researchers have recognized children who have supportive parents who help prepare them to handle emotional and stressful situations fare much better.
- If these children have positive relationships in their lives, they are much more resilient when confronted with adversity and have mechanisms allowing them to handle some of the situations they are surrounded by. The handling of stress allows "protection" for the brain.
- What are some solutions being suggested that can help promote normal brain development in at-risk children?
- Stress seems to be the underlying factor when discussing the development of the brain. Poverty is stressful enough by itself but often the living conditions, the violence, and abuse make it impossible to avoid. Education and society need to look at programs to help students learn to manage their stress better and provide programs giving them some emotional stability. Families need to learn the importance of the environment in the first five years of their child's life. Programs need to involve the mothers of these children as well. There is often a cycle of poverty and if the mother does not cope well with adverse conditions, she can pass this on to her child. Having a strong support system is necessary for these children whether it be an educator or another type of mentor. The effects the environment has on development is crucial and becomes even more tied to the idea of "nature vs. nurture."
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, Speakers/Headphones
For teachers who would like more support in understanding and implementing Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects into their science curriculum, please see the teacher tutorials featured in the section of this lesson's CPALMS resource page labeled "Attached Resources."
The text's grade band recommendation reflects the shifts inherent in the Florida Standards and is based on a text complexity analysis of a quantitative measure, qualitative rubric, and reader and task considerations.
Source and Access Information
Name of Author/Source: Ellen Muse
District/Organization of Contributor(s): BrevardDistrict/Organization of Contributor(s): Brevard
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.