Estuaries 101Middle School CurriculumEstuary education enhances math and science skills.Estuary education supports interdisciplinary learning.Estuaries offer a wonderfully rich context for science education.
C U R R I C U L U M O V E R V I E WEstuaries 101Middle School CurriculumForewordRecognizing the incredible power of estuaries to provide a rich environment forlearning, exploration, and discovery, NOAA’s National Estuarine ResearchReserve Education Coordinators developed the Estuaries 101 Middle SchoolCurriculum. We invite you to review it and use it in your classrooms. ThisCurriculum is designed to facilitate teacher and student understanding of the keyprinciples and fundamental concepts of estuarine ecology and fosterunderstanding of the role estuaries play in the lives of humans and otherorganisms.The Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum is a new multimedia curriculumfocused on the theme "Estuaries & You.” It includes a series of online activitiesfor middle school students that highlight our nation's "living laboratories", all 28estuaries that make up NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System.This new series of activities is built around real-world events, uses scaffolding,visualization and analysis tools, promotes use of multimedia elements, andencourages reflection opportunities. This Estuaries 101 Middle SchoolCurriculum is a natural complement to the Estuaries 101 High SchoolCurriculum, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Exploration Curriculum and to theNOAA Data in the Classroom Water Quality Module.Estuaries offer a wonderfully rich context for science education and interdisciplinarylearning to take place. With this new Estuaries 101 Middle SchoolCurriculum:Students will:• Use various multimedia resources to explore and understand the role estuariesplay in the lives of humans and other organisms.• Learn about real scientific research stories from among the 28 Reserves.• Query observational platforms throughout the 28 Research Reserves from theirclassroom or home.Teachers will:• Use research questions to guide student problem-solving within the context ofcurriculum lessons• Participate in on-line web-seminars and Teachers on the Estuary trainings heldat the various Research ReservesIt is our expectation that by using the Estuaries 101 Curriculum, students willgain an appreciation for the importance of estuaries in their lives and learn howtheir behavior impacts coastal ecosystems. We believe it is of utmost importanceto prepare tomorrow's leaders to make sound decisions about the environmentand the nation's oceans and coasts. Students must understand the crucialThis curriculum was developed andproduced for:The National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration (NOAA)and The National EstuarineResearch Reserve System(NERRS)1305 East West Highway NORM/5,10th FloorSilver Spring, MD 20910www.estuaries.noaa.govFinancial support for the Estuaries101 Middle School Curriculum wasprovided by the National Oceanicand Atmospheric Administration viagrant NA06NOS4690196,administered through the AlabamaDepartment of Conservation andNatural Resources, State LandsDivision, Coastal Section andWeeks Bay National EstuarineResearch Reserve. Support wasalso provided by the BaldwinCounty Board of Education.Permission is hereby granted forthe reproduction, without alteration,of the activities contained in theEstuaries 101 Curriculum on thecondition that proper attribution isgiven to the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration and theNational Estuarine ResearchReserve System (NERRS) as thesource, and cite the following URL:http://www.estuaries.noaa.gov.Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 1
connection between estuaries, coastal, and upland areas, and the effects of agrowing population.Purpose & GoalWith the many threats that our nation’s oceans face, it is time for a new era ofocean literacy and enhanced efforts to prepare today’s children to be tomorrow’socean stewards. Estuaries are an ideal topic to excite students about studying theocean because of the strong personal connections people have with estuaries —from treasured recreation experiences, scenic views during transits, to making aliving on the water. Advancing estuary, ocean and climate literacy is a priority ofNOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). It is ourexpectation that, through the Estuaries 101 Curriculum, students and teacherswill gain an understanding of the great importance of estuaries and the intricateconnections it has with the ocean and climate systems.The goal of Estuaries 101 is for students and teachers throughout the nation tobecome more ocean literate by increasing their knowledge of coastal andestuarine science and how estuaries affect their daily lives. To achieve thisincreased literacy, teachers will use the Estuary Education website atestuaries.noaa.gov and multimedia curriculum activities to introduce students toan online interface for accessing real-time and archived estuarine monitoring data(from NERRS’ System Wide Monitoring Program). Use of the Estuaries 101Curriculum will be supported through professional development trainings hostedat 28 Reserves and at professional meetings across the nation.Using the Estuaries 101 curriculum, teachers will be able to teach their studentsabout Earth System Science using estuaries as context. Through this curriculum— which includes videos, interactive web pages, maps and data graphing tools— teachers and students will learn that estuaries provide shelter, spawninggrounds, and food for many species; that they act as buffers to improve waterquality, reduce the effects of floodwaters, and prevent erosion; and that coastalareas provide value to humans in the form of recreation, scientific knowledge,aesthetics, commercial and recreational fishing, and transportation.Why teach about estuaries?Estuaries offer a wonderfully rich context for science educationand inter-disciplinary learning.Estuaries are dynamic environments with a daily flux of ocean flows minglingwith river water, creating a remarkably diverse range of life and ecosystems. As aresult, they offer learners a convergence of such fields as Earth systems science,biology, chemistry, geography, geology and marine science. For example,students develop math skills through detailed measurements, modelingphenomena such as growth and cyclical variation, and analyzing data to makecomparisons across multiple estuaries. They develop language skills as they readand write about estuary-related topics and communicate their explorations andfindings with other students and scientists. Since estuaries have also played asignificant role in human settlement, exploration and development, students gainnew eyes on human history, geography and culture.Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 2
Estuaries as a Vehicle for Studying Big Ideas in Earth, Life andPhysical Science.Estuaries-related education can help students understand and apply “big ideas” inscience. For example, students learn about diverse habitats and how life adapts tothem, daily and annual cycles of change, the physical properties of water, and soon. Estuaries provide engaging and accessible examples of these processes atwork. Estuaries also integrate key concepts in biology (e.g. habitat adaptations),chemistry (e.g. salinity analysis) and physics (e.g. wave motions). Estuaries canprovide a powerful context for learning these big ideas. While estuaries arehardly the only context for learning such big ideas, they are a rich and fertile one,supporting a study of many key ideas in Earth, life and physical science.Estuaries as a Context to Develop Scientific Thinking Skills.The Estuaries 101 modules help students develop science thinking skills, inaddition to content knowledge. Students learn to design and conduct experiments,conduct field observations, analyze data, use spreadsheets, visualizations andother technological tools, work effectively in teams, prepare research reports, andcommunicate findings to others. These skills are an essential element of effectivescience education, and well represented in the Estuaries 101 Curriculum.Curriculum ComponentsAbout the Activities & Multimedia ComponentsThe Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum is a multimedia curriculum focusedon the theme “Estuaries & You.” It includes 15 online activities for middle schoolstudents that highlight our nation's “living laboratories,” all 28 estuaries thatmake up NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System. All of theinstructional tools that make-up the curriculum are conveniently located in theMiddle School Curriculum section of the Estuary Education websiteestuaries.noaa.gov.• Estuaries.noaa.gov provides access to each learning experience and toolsfeaturing such components as: 15 Estuary Activities, 6 Climate Extensions,Standards and Assessments, Print Activities, Videos, Interactive Web pagesand Simulations, Estuary Literacy, Interactive Maps and Graphing Tools.• The activities are organized under 6 major estuary principles or goals andinclude two to three exercises and self-assessment activities. The activitiesfollow the same basic structure:➢ Teacher Guide, including an overview, learning objectives, backgroundinformation, materials and preparations, procedures, teacher master sheetdetailing the exercises, time required for completion, vocabulary, andextensions➢ Student Master Sheet➢ Formal Assessment Sheet• Each Activity concludes with assessment questions, designed for use aftercompletion of the activity. These assessments provide a means for bothgrading, as appropriate, and checking in with student advances inunderstanding.You'll find multimedia and otherresources for each activity inthe Middle School Curriculumsection of the EstuaryEducation website:http://estuaries.noaa.gov.Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 3
• A number of activities include “Climate Extensions.” Because one of themost pressing issue facing estuaries today is climate change, woventhroughout this curriculum are activity extensions that help studentsunderstand why and how climate change is impacting estuaries. The overallobjective of the climate extensions is for your students to be able to identifytwo ways the climate is changing, three ways climate change is impactingestuaries and discuss ways in which students can be part of the solution. Aclimate extension is added to one activity from each main estuary principle fora total of six climate extensions. A climate change interactive can be found onthe website to support the teaching of the concepts captured under the climateextensions.• Interactive Maps are used to compare environmental conditions in differentestuaries around the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS).The maps can be found on the web pages that feature Activities that utilizethem as a tool to collect data.• A number of activities promote data explorations. This System-wideMonitoring Program (SWMP) data graphing application can be found onthe web pages that feature Activities that utilize this graphing application. Useof this tool is supported by two video tutorials.• All activities are supported by a series of multimedia components. There arevideos, images or visualizations that can be viewed on estuaries.noaa.gov andcan be found under each tab where the activities are located.For resources and links relatedto the Climate Extensions, lookfor the Climate tab on selectedactivity web pages in the MiddleSchool Curriculum section ofthe Estuary Education website:http://estuaries.noaa.gov.Alignment with Education StandardsThe Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Activities are aligned with theNational Education Science and Mathematics Standards for grades 5-8. Allstandards can be viewed either from the Middle School Curriculum homepage orfrom specific Activity web pages.The curriculum is divided into 6 Units based on the six Estuary LiteracyPrinciples. Each Estuary Literacy Principle highlights a Science EducationStandard: Principle 1 is based on Earth and Space Science; Principle 2 is basedon Physical Science and Earth and Space Science; Principle 3 is based on LifeScience; Principle 4 is based on Inquiry and Science and Technology; Principle 5is based on Science and Natural Resources; and Principle 6 is based on Personaland Social Perspectives. The math content is an integral part of the curriculum aswell and is correlated to the National Principles and Standards for SchoolMathematics to help students use their math skills in the context of a scienceprogram.Alignment with the Estuaries Principles & ConceptsThe NERRS educators defined a set of “core” principles and concepts aboutestuaries that students need to master in order to become estuary literate, asembodied in the Estuaries Literacy Principles and Concepts for Estuaries 101.There are six specific fundamental principles – the “big ideas” – about estuariesand their connections to the world around us. These principles were used toguide the design of the Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum.Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 4
Research Question Activities Learning Objectives Estuaries Climate Extension ObjectiveStudents will:• Describe the relationshipbetween ocean temperaturesand ocean currents.• Make predictions about SeaSurface Temperature by linkingsatellite data to concernsabout global climate change.• Describe the impacts ofwarming ocean temperatureson estuaries.No climate extensionEstuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 6Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum MapPrinciple 1: Estuaries are interconnected with the world ocean and with major systems and cycles on Earth.What are estuaries? Activity 1: Where RiversMeet the SeaStudents are introduced to theEstuaries 101 program andwebsite. Here they take a short,online quiz to check their initialestuary knowledge, examineMobile Bay as an example of anestuary and practice identifyingdifferent types of estuaries.Students will understand that:• An estuary is a body of water, partially enclosed byland, where salt water from the ocean and freshwater from the land can mix.• Estuaries can be found in coastal areas of the oceanworldwide.• The National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRS)are a system of estuary sites located around thecoasts the United States and Puerto Rico and theGreat Lakes that set the baseline for research andmonitoring in estuaries.Weeks BayNERR, ALJobos BayNERR, PRPrinciple 2: Estuaries are dynamic ecosystems with tremendous variability within and between them in physical, chemical, and biological components.What are the physical(geographic, weatherand climate) factors thatinfluence and regulatelife in the estuaries?Activity 2: Seasonal SwingsStudents will learn about theNERRS System using an onlinemap that has a brief descriptionabout each of the 28 Reserves.By comparing and contrastingdata from two Reserves, studentswill understand that extreme airand water temperaturedifferences are related to theirgeographic location, particularlytheir latitudes relative to eachother.Students will understand that:• Weather can affect water properties.• Seasonal changes in weather and a Reserve’sproximity to the equator or the poles create conditionsthat cause variety amongst the nation’s estuaries.Elkhorn SloughNERR, CAKachemak BayNERR, AK
Research Question Activities Learning Objectives Estuaries Climate Extension ObjectiveStudents will:• Consider climate changepotential impacts to marinefood webs.Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 7How do tides, wind,geographic processes,and site topographydirectly affect thenation’s estuaries?Activity 3: Water Going Up,Water Going DownStudents will examine the effectsof tides on estuaries, and look atdata to understand the effect ondissolved oxygen levels beforeand after a mouth closure.Students will understand that:• Both lunar tides and wind-driven seiches affect waterlevels in estuaries.• Movement of sediment at the mouth of an estuary willeither open or close the estuary’s access to its lake orocean.• Tides vary throughout the day from location tolocation.• Lack of tidal flushing can cause water conditions,such as dissolved oxygen, in a lagoon to deteriorate.This can harm aquatic life inside the estuary.• If an estuary mouth is unable to open naturally, it issometimes necessary to open the mouth artificially bydredging.• There is a distinction between global sea level trendsand local sea level trends.• Sea levels provide an important key to understandingthe impact of climate change on estuaries.Tijuana RiverNERR, CAOld Woman CreekNERR, OHKachemak BayNERR, AKStudents will:• Use online sea level maps andexplore variation in sea leveltrends across the NationalEstuarine Research Reserves.Principle 3: Estuaries support an abundance of life, and a diversity of habitat types.What role do plants andanimals play in theestuary food pyramid?Activity 4: Estuary FoodPyramidStudents will construct anexample of a food pyramid forestuary organisms and examinethis flow of energy.Students will understand that:• There are three major categories of living organismsin an ecosystem and each has a special role. Theyare: producers, consumers, and decomposers.• The food energy produced by producers is cycledthrough the ecosystem through food chains andcomplex food webs by way of a series of energylevels called trophic levels.No ResearchReservesreferenced directlyin the activities• Energy is lost as it flows through the ecosystem. Afood pyramid reflects fewer and fewer organisms ateach level, supported by larger numbers oforganisms at the trophic level just below.• Students will learn that climate change has thepotential for far reaching affects within marine foodwebs.
Research Question Activities Learning Objectives Estuaries Climate Extension ObjectiveNo climate extensionNo climate extensionEstuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 8What are plankton andwhy are they importantin the estuary?Activity 5: Planet PlanktonStudents will learn about differenttypes of plankton and theirimportance to life in estuaries.Students will understand that:• Plankton are very small, diverse organisms.• Plankton are important to Earth’s atmosphere andclimate.• Plankton are critical to maintaining life in estuaries.No ResearchReservesreferenced directlyin the activitiesNo climate extensionWhat is the biologicalimportance of the oysterreef, how are oyster reefpopulations threatened,and what can be done toprevent declines inoyster populations?Activity 6: An Ode to the OysterStudents will sort oyster reeforganisms to identify the manytypes of organisms that live on anoyster; create a mural showingthe oyster reef and organisms;dissect an oyster and explore itsanatomy; and role-play asbiologists whose assignment it isto uncover what is causing thedecline in an oyster populationand propose a solution to theproblem.Students will understand that:• Oysters live with other organisms near the shore andcan form oyster reefs.• Reef oysters are adapted to live within the dynamic,stressful intertidal environment.• Oysters are economically important in coastalregions. Oysters are also environmentally importantin that they remove pollutants from the water andoyster reefs help protect marsh shorelines fromerosion.• Populations of oysters that form oyster reefs havebeen reduced by pollution, excess sediment in thewater, over-fishing, and by loss of areas of hardsubstrate on which to grow.ACE BasinNERR, SC• Oyster reef restoration and controls on overharvestingof oysters can slow or stop the decline inthe reef oyster population.What are the basicanatomical features ofhorseshoe crabs thatallow them to survive inthe estuaryenvironment?Activity 7: Hooray forHorseshoe CrabsStudents will learn about theanatomy and unique adaptationsof these amazing animals.Students will understand that:• Horseshoe crabs are arthropods, but are not truecrabs.• Horseshoe crabs are benthic or bottom dwellers.• Horseshoe crabs move along the bottom of the oceanor estuary using their ten legs.DelawareNERR, DE• Horseshoe crabs leave the water to crawl onto thebeach to lay their eggs in the sand.
Research Question Activities Learning Objectives Estuaries Climate Extension ObjectiveNo climate extensioEstuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 9What are the basiccharacteristics of sharksthat allow sharks tosurvive in the everchanging estuaryenvironment?Activity 8: Sharks in theEstuaryStudents will examine two sharksfound in estuaries (the leopardshark and the sandbar or brownshark) and identify shark featuresthat make the sharks well suitedto life in the estuary environment.Students will understand that:• The elasmobranchs, or cartilaginous fish, includerays, skates, and nearly 400 species of sharks.• The torpedo shape of the shark helps the shark swimquickly through the water.• The shape and size of the caudal fin (tail) and dorsal(back) fins provide clues about how fast a sharkmight swim and whether a shark is hunting for fastprey in the open ocean or slower prey in the estuary.• Different sharks have different teeth depending onwhat they eat.• In addition to the sensory network made of the lateralline system and ampulae of Lorenzini, sharks alsorely on hearing, smell, and vision.Sapelo IslandNERR, GANo climate extensionHow have birds adaptedto survive in estuaryhabitats?Activity 9: Bountiful BirdsStudents will engage in arole-playing activity to modeldifferent bird beaks and thencompare and contrast the greatblue heron and osprey with otherbirds living in the estuaries.Students will understand that:• Birds have basic needs for air, water, food, protectionfrom predators, and a place in which to breed.• Estuary habitats, such as the salt marsh and themangrove swamp, meet the survival needs of manybirds.• Birds have adaptations that allow them to efficientlyfeed in specific estuary environments. Beaks differ indesign depending on where the bird feeds and thefunction for which the beak is used.No ResearchReservesreferenced directlyin the activities
Research Question Activities Learning Objectives Estuaries Climate Extension ObjectivePrinciple 4: Ongoing research and monitoring is needed to increase our understanding of estuaries and to improve our ability to protect and sustain them.Students will:• Use historical data and mapsto consider climate changepotential impact on mangrovehabitats.Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 10What is a “Jubilee” andwhat specific conditionsmust be present for ajubilee event to occur?How is ongoingresearch and monitoringof oysters increasing ourunderstanding ofestuaries?Activity 10: The JubileePhenomenonStudents will examine the specificconditions that must be present tocause a jubilee event.Activity 11: The Great OysterMysteryStudents look for clues using dataresearchers used to solve theGreat Oyster Mystery.Students will understand that:• Water quality, tides, and weather within estuarieschange and can change quickly.• Water stratification in estuaries is caused by densitydifferences related to salinity and temperature.• When layers of water are not sufficiently mixed, thebottom layer can become depleted of dissolved O2.• Physical changes in water temperature, salinity, anddissolved oxygen can be observed and measured.• Weather conditions, such as wind direction andspeed, can be observed and measured.• By monitoring water quality, tide, and weatherconditions, researchers may predict likely times andlocations for a jubilee to occur.Students will understand that:• Environmental conditions, such as salinity, have adirect influence on estuary organisms.• Testing hypotheses through scientific investigationhelps answer questions about the natural world.Weeks BayNERR, ALMission AransasNERR, TXNo climate extensionNo climate extensionWhat do research andlong-term monitoringreveal about changes inestuary habitats and theanimals adapted to livein those habitats?Activity 12: MigratingMangroves and MarshesStudents will learn about thespecies that live in salt marsh andmangrove habitats, and will lookat data from long-term monitoringin order to understand how thesehabitats can change over time.Students will understand that:• Animals and plants have adaptations that allow themto live and thrive in different estuary habitats, such assalt marshes or mangrove habitats.• Living things are affected by changes in their habitat.• Habitats can expand or contract due to outsidechanges that affect the physical components of thehabitat or the organisms that help define the habitat.Mission AransasNERR, TX• Research on habitats and species ranges, coupledwith long-term monitoring, can give clues to whyestuary habitats change over time.
Research Question Activities Learning Objectives Estuaries Climate Extension ObjectiveStudents will:• Explore climate change-relatedimpacts to coastalcommunities and• economies through aninteractive game of chance.Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 11Principle 5: Humans, even those living far from the coast, rely on goods and services supplied by estuariesIn what ways do peoplerely on goods andservices supplied byestuaries?Activity 13: Port to PortStudents will participate in a roleplayinggame in which they tradeestuary goods with a ship’scaptain who travels around NorthAmerica, visiting different ports inthe 1800s. Then students willplay a game to examine the valueof estuaries and how humanactivities and decisions affect theestuaries and change their value.Students will understand that:• Estuaries have economic value.• Estuaries also have social and cultural value.• Estuaries can be damaged by human or naturalfactors.• Estuaries can be restored by humans to somedegree.• Climate-related impacts along the coast will shapethe availability of future goods and environmentalservices coming from estuaries. Students will learnthree ways that coastal communities can adapt toand mitigate climate change impacts.Kachemak BayNERR, AKSouth SloughNERR, ORApalachicolaNERR, FLSapelo IslandNERR, GANorth Inlet-WinyahBay NERR, SCChesapeake BayNERR, MDChesapeake BayNERR, VADelawareNERR, DEGreat BayNERR, NHHudson RiverNERR, RIOld Woman CreekNERR, OH
Research Question Activities Learning Objectives Estuaries Climate Extension ObjectivePrinciple 6: Human activities can impact estuaries by degrading water quality or altering habitats; therefore, we are responsible for making decisions to protect and maintain thehealth of estuaries.Estuaries 101 Middle School Curriculum Overview 12How have humans hadan impact on estuaries?How can people act asstewards of the nation’sestuaries?Activity 14: Oil Spill - The Restof the StoryStudents will exhibit theirunderstanding of how non-pointsource water pollution enters theestuaries via the watershed bybuilding a watershed model andusing it to explore surface runoff,demonstrate an understanding ofbest management practices andhow these practices influencekeeping water clean by playing agame of water quality limbo, andpredict possible ways to limit orprevent non-point source waterpollution.Activity 15: Score One for theEstuariesStudents will focus on how theyare all responsible for makingdecisions to protect and maintainthe health of estuaries. Studentsare encouraged to asked: “ Whatcan you do to "score one" for theestuaries?”Students will understand that:• A watershed or drainage basin is an area of land thatdelivers water run-off, sediment, and dissolvedsubstances to surface water bodies such as rivers,lakes, or oceans.• Non-point source water pollution moves through awatershed and accumulates in lakes, oceans, andestuaries.• Polluted runoff can be prevented from getting intowaterways.• Water quality standards are levels of requiredcleanness that are set by State and Federal agenciesto ensure people’s health and give guidance tomaintaining the health of waterways.Students will understand that:• Humans can have both negative and positive impactson the health of estuaries.• Stewardship is a way for people, including youngpeople, to care for or maintain something such as theenvironment, an estuary, or wetlands.• Many people working together, even if they areyoung, can have a big impact on the estuaries andthe wetlands.• There are a variety of stewardship activities that theycan do to help lessen the impacts of climate change.Weeks BayNERR, ALWeeks BayNERR, ALPadilla BayNERR, WANarragansett BayNERR, RIApalachicolaNERR, FLSan FranciscoNERR, CAElkhorn SloughNERR, CASapelo IslandNERR, GANo climate extensionStudents will:• Learn how to mitigate theimpacts of climate changethrough several exampleprojects being implemented atthe National EstuarineResearch Reserves.