In this lesson, students will read an article from the National Science Foundation that discusses how extended droughts have affected salt marsh ecosystems found in the Southeastern part of the United States. The article then describes the mutualistic relationship that was discovered between ribbed mussels and salt marsh grasses and how this relationship is helping the marshes survive and recover from the droughts. 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, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones
2 Hour(s) 30 Minute(s)
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: biodiversity, mutualism, ecosystem, climate change, salt marshes, mussels, coastal ecosystem, mutualistic relationship, 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?
- Explain how climate change has affected the salt marshes found in the Southeast region of the United States.
- Describe the relationship between ribbed mussels and salt marsh grasses.
- Explain how the relationship between ribbed mussels and salt marshes is important for coastal ecosystems.
- 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.
- Determine the central ideas of 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 regards to science content:
- Students should be familiar with the biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components found in salt marsh ecosystems. This "Salt Marsh Ecology" website from the University of Georgia can provide an overview of salt marsh ecosystems in general.
- Students should be familiar with the general characteristics of ribbed mussels and cordgrass.
- Students should be aware of ecological relationships within an ecosystem and be able to specifically recognize the characteristics of mutualism. This Khan Academy resource, "Ecological Interactions," does an excellent job of explaining the different ecological relationships found within ecosystems.
- Students should be familiar with the impact of climate change on ecosystems. This site from the Environmental Protection Agency introduces the topic and the risks.
- Students will need instruction on the benefits received by the mussels in their mutualistic relationship with cordgrass. The National Science Foundation article that is the main focus for this lesson explains how the marsh grass benefits but glosses over how the mussel benefits. The journal article titled "A Keystone Mutualism Underpins Resilience of a Coastal Ecosystem," from Nature Communication, describes how previous studies "indicate that cordgrass serves as a settlement substrate, reduces temperatures via canopy shading and provides nutritional resources to facilitate mussels." The article can also be used for support in the text-dependent questions and summative assessment writing prompt.
- Students should be familiar with the term "keystone species" and how they impact ecosystems. This link to the National Geographic Society introduces the topic.
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. The text features in the article used in this lesson include a title, subtitle, headings, a photograph and caption.
- Students should understand the term "central idea" and be able to distinguish central ideas from key details.
- "Central idea" means the same thing as "main idea." The central idea is the author's main point about the topic or topics in a text. The central ideas are the dominant, most important, or chief ideas that emerge from all the ideas presented in a text. Students should be aware that the author can have several main points he or she wants to make about the topic or topics in a piece of writing, and as a result, there can be multiple central ideas in a text, especially in longer more complex pieces.
- Key, or in other words, important, details in a text help an author support and develop his or her central ideas.
- Based on the 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 is climate change disrupting the stability of salt marsh ecosystems found along the Southeastern coast of the U.S.?
Extreme and extended droughts are resulting in massive die-offs of salt marsh grasses in many of these ecosystems. The grasses form the foundation of the marshes, and as die-offs continue, the entire ecosystem is affected, including the water quality found in the area and the fish who live there.
- Why is the relationship between the mussels and the cordgrass important for the recovery of salt marsh ecosystems?
Because the presence of vegetation is so important for the success of the marsh, any advantage the grass has in survival is important. The presence of the mussels at the base of cordgrass increased the survival rate from 1 percent to sixty four percent. When mussels are present, marshes can recover in a matter of years after a drought compared to over a hundred years for marshes without the presence of mussels.
- How can this research and the findings be used to possibly protect other ecosystems affected by climate change?
Scientists need to be aware of existing mutualistic relationships within ecosystems. There is the possibility that some of these relationships may help protect or provide low-cost solutions to protecting at-risk areas such as sea grass meadows and coral reefs.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by showing a picture of a salt marsh and ask students if they are familiar with this ecosystem and the types of organisms found there. Students with some familiarity of salt marshes may answer that they are wetlands that are flooded and then drained by the changing tides. They might respond that organisms living in salt marshes include grasses, fish, crustaceans, mollusks, etc.
- Next, show students a picture of cordgrass. Inform students this is the dominant plant in most Southeastern salt marshes, and it almost exists as a monoculture (the one species in the area). Explain to students that cordgrasses are adapted to survive the constant flooding by salt water brought in by tides.
- Ask students what they think would happen to salt marshes if they were subjected to severe and extended drought. Possible responses may include increase in salinity, and that plants and animals might die off. Show one of the images from the NSF article "Biodiversity in Salt Marshes Builds Climate Resilience" so they can visualize a drought-stricken salt marsh. Explain to students the cordgrass is the foundation of the salt marsh and so its existence is vital for the success of the entire ecosystem.
- Show this image from the NSF article as well and ask students if they are familiar with this specific organism. They should know it is a mollusk, but they might not be familiar with the exact type. Let them know they are looking at a ribbed mussel. The ribbed mussel has been determined to be an integral part of the health of a salt water marsh.
- Have students visit this resource on mussels from the University of Michigan (or it can be projected to be used by the whole class at once). The site is a resource providing a thorough overview of general information about mussels, including their importance to the ecosystem. Have them read the fact sheet and then discuss the importance of mussels within ecosystems.
- Finally, tell students they will be reading an article from the National Science Foundation about research that has discovered one more important role the mussel now fills in ecosystems.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Pass out to each student a copy of the article "Biodiversity in Salt Marshes Builds Climate Resilience" or make it available to students electronically.
- 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, 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:
Students might be familiar with or have heard of the zebra mussel. The zebra mussel is not a native species to North America, so when discussing the impact of mussels on ecosystems, they should be described as an invasive species. Zebra mussels have a detrimental impact on native mussels by out-competing them for food and space.
- Prepare to show a video to the students. This CPALMS Perspectives video titled "Fish and Bacteria Symbiosis" (Resource ID 152464) discusses another example of a mutualistic relationship found within an aquatic ecosystem. Explain to students that Dr. Andrea Larsen describes the relationship between bacteria and fish and how this relationship allows both organisms to thrive. It is important to recognize that both the fish and the bacteria mentioned in the video are gaining multiple benefits from this relationship. In both the video and the article, the mutualistic relationship not only benefits the organisms involved, but it important for the entire ecosystem. The mussels and the salt marsh grass have a relationship that helps stabilize the salt marsh ecosystem, while having healthy fish within a marine ecosystem is extremely important.
- Ask students to take notes during the video about the details of the mutualistic relationship between bacteria and fish. Tell students they can use these notes to help them with their written response for the summative assessment towards the end of the lesson.
- After watching the video, discuss with the class the following questions:
- Although bacteria are considered simple organisms, they have complex relationships with each other and other organisms. How do the bacteria interact with each other?
- Bacteria can communicate with each other by using chemical cues, they can form complex communities called biofilms, and within these communities they can divide different jobs up that are present within the communities.
- Where are bacteria found on the fish?
- The bacteria are found on all surfaces of the fish including the skin, gills, inside the mouth, the gastrointestinal tract, and the urogenital tract.
- What are the benefits the bacteria are providing for the fish?
- The bacteria provide a range of benefits for the fish including producing antimicrobials against pathogens, competing for nutrients and space against pathogens, producing extra nutrients for the fish, and assisting in digestion.
- Dr. Larsen mentions using this study to research probiotics. What are probiotics?
- "Probiotics" is the term that refers to beneficial bacteria species. They can help other organisms increase their digestion, protect against disease and pathogens, and increase function.
- How do the bacteria benefit from living in the biofilms found on the fish?
- The bacteria that live on the biofilm found on the surface of the fish can obtain nutrients from the mucous they live in. The fish also provides a stable environment for the bacteria versus living in the surrounding waters.
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, "Biodiversity in Salt Marshes Builds Climate Resilience," 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 provided at the end of the text-dependent questions 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. Note: the provided sample response is in the form of an extended response and not a formal essay. Students who are struggling writers can benefit greatly from seeing a sample response. The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or with an LCD projector and discuss some of the following:
- Point out how the writer addressed the first requirement of the writing prompt in paragraphs 2 and 3 by describing the mutualistic relationship covered in the National Science Foundation article.
- Point out how the writer addressed the second requirement of the writing prompt in paragraphs 4 and 5 by describing the mutualistic relationship featured in the video.
- Point out how within the description of these mutualitic relationships, the writer explains how each relationship helps with the stability of an ecosystem (this is the last requirement of the writing prompt).
- Have students identify accurate use of domain-specific vocabulary (e.g., mutualistic, species, ecosystem, wetland, vegetation, soil salinity) and academic vocabulary (e.g., accelerate, diverse, revert).
- At the end of the lesson, have students complete the attached science closure activity to determine their understanding of the different relationships discussed in this article and the CPALMS video. They should only need approximately 5-7 minutes to complete it, and should not need to refer back to the text, video, or other note-taking materials. If the teacher needs an answer key, the sample response for the writing prompt from the summative assessment provides the correct information.
- 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, 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 and the CPALMS Perspectives video "Fish and Bacteria Symbiosis" (Resource ID 152464), explain the benefits of the mutualistic relationships described between the different organisms featured in these two resources and how these relationships help with the stability of an ecosystem.
- Teachers will use the 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
- Showing pictures of ribbed mussels, marsh grass, borrowing crabs, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, fisheries, and mudflats may help students with content in the article. It might benefit students to show them the pictures from the online version of the NSF article that were not already used in the teaching phase. The teacher may also want to show a map of the Southeastern United States, including the location of Coburg Creek in Charleston, South Carolina and Sapelo Island in Georgia.
- Before or after students first read the text, it might benefit some students to review the "Population Interactions" original tutorial by CPALMS (Resource ID 119410) to help them understand the importance of these relationships within an ecosystem. (This would be especially important if the teacher chooses not to review the concepts beforehand.)
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 (on their copy of the text) 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.
- Students can then work with a partner or small group to complete the rest 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.
- If students struggle with determining the central ideas of the text, please see the attached science teacher tutorial titled "Sparks Fly: Discovering Central Ideas" that teachers can use to help students with this skill.
For struggling writers:
It might help students to provide them with an outline to help them structure their written response for the summative assessment. 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)
- The article discusses the importance of keystone species within ecosystems. Have students explore keystone species 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 more on the importance of mussels in an ecosystem by using the CPALMS lesson plan for literacy in the content area titled "Flexing their Mussels."
- On 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.
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, 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): Brevard
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.