1. W540 Computers in the Curriculum
Critical Thinking and Collaborative Learning
Your Name: Lauren Zoerhoff
ePortfolio URL: http://lzoerhoff.wix.com/eportfolio
Title Primary Energy Production and Requirements for Life
In this lesson, students will apply what they have learned about primary energy production to
Overview think critically about what requirements must be met in order for life to exist in an ecosystem.
Recent media has been paying close attention to Mars exploration and the question of
whether or not life exists on Mars has not yet been answered. Based on the principles of
primary energy production, students will formulate their own argument to address whether or
not life could exist on Mars. The lesson will begin with a reinforcement activity where they will
collectively build a concept map using MindMeister. Students will then be given a prompt
where they will conduct research and construct an argument. They will then use their
argument to engage in a discussion with their classmates using a Google Groups discussion
forum. The outcomes are for students to collaborate with peers to breakdown the principles
of photosynthesis and chemosynthesis, think critically to construct a well-supported argument
that relates the principles of primary production to a relevant real-life example, and
communicate with peers to share ideas. The 21 century theme addressed in this lesson plan
is collaboration and critical thinking. It also emphasizes deep understanding rather than
shallow knowledge, integrates technology tools, uses real-world data, and engages students in
solving meaningful problems.
Day One Prep:
Resources & This lesson is intended for a 9 and 10 grade biology class to fill two 50 minute class periods.
Preparation The resource required for this lesson is computer or tablet access for each student. The
computers should have access to the online course textbook. Prior to the lesson, a
MindMeister account should be created, which grants editing rights to students. Depending
on the group of students (achievement level, special needs, background knowledge), it might
be appropriate to scaffold them through the concept map by adding some completed bubbles.
Here is an example. Also, a Google Groups account should be created, with a discussion page
for each group, which grants access to students. Students should be put into groups of 4 or 5.
A new topic should be added to the group discussion forum with the heading “Could Life Exist
on Mars?” The discussion should have the following prompt:
There is a lot of research going on right now to try and determine whether life exists on Mars or
not. Remember, one requirement for life is that there must be a useable source of food energy.
Given what you now know about how organisms can produce food energy, construct an
argument that explains whether or not you think life on Mars is possible. Collect two pieces of
evidence that support your argument. Post your argument and evidence to the discussion
Read the arguments of your group members and reply to them with your reaction. Do you
agree or disagree with their argument? Why or why not? What questions do you have after
reading their argument?
Day Two Prep:
Write sections of the created concept map on index cards
2. This lesson is designed to promote authentic, meaningful learning while also practicing and
Theory to building 21 century skills. The lesson is designed around presenting a relevant, real-world
Practice problem- the largely studied question of whether or not life could exist on Mars. This is a topic
that has been widely discussed in recent media and that students have likely been curious
about even prior to this lesson. According to research, it is important to give content context
by connecting it to their lives and something they already know. The lesson also uses
computer assisted concept mapping as a learning strategy. Studies show that computer
assisted concept mapping is an effective strategy for building meaningful learning because it
increases learning, retention, and transfer of knowledge. Furthermore, the lesson is centered
on the practice of inquiry-based learning where students are guided by their questions and
their pursuit for answers. There is a large body of evidence indicating the effectiveness of
inquiry-based learning in that students learn more deeply, learning has a more significant
impact on students, and students are more successful. It is also shown to be more effective in
developing students’ 21 century skills such as collaboration and problem-solving.
Indiana State Standards:
Standards B3.1: Describe how some organisms capture the sun’s energy through the process of
photosynthesis, by converting carbon dioxide and water into high energy compounds and
B4.1: Explain that the amount of life an environment can support is limited by the available
energy and by the ability of ecosystems to recycle the remains of dead organisms.
2a: Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of
digital environments and media.
4a: Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
Upon successful completion of this lesson, students will be able to:
Objectives Explain the processes of photosynthesis and chemosynthesis and the role they play in
supporting an ecosystem
Apply the principles of primary energy production to a relevant, real-world scenario
Construct an argument that is well-supported by the principles of primary energy
To build inquiry, I will begin with a video introduction that poses the question, “Is there life
Build Inquiry on Mars?” The introduction of this video briefly (2 minutes 30 seconds) looks at the ongoing
examination into this question and arouses the viewer’s curiosity. I will then conduct a brief
discussion with students to encourage questioning.
Instructional Introduction (10 min.)
Delivery 1. Show the Introductory Mars video (only the first 2 minutes and 30 seconds)
2. Conduct a brief discussion with students that addresses the following:
What questions might scientists ask to determine if there could be life on Mars?
What factors might scientists need to study on Mars to learn more about the possibility
Keep a list of the ideas students generate.
Content Reinforcement (20 min.)
1. Direct students to the MindMeister concept map (either blank for more advanced students
or the scaffolded concept map for less advanced students). Instruct them to use their notes,
3. textbook, or any other information source to fill out at least one section of the concept map.
They should list their initials in the section(s) that they complete. Challenge them to
collectively complete the entire concept map so that it is complete and accurate within an
allotted timeframe (suggested 10 minutes).
2. At the end of the allotted timeframe, direct all students to look at the concept map
together. Ask them to review it for errors. If they think there is an error, conduct a discussion,
as a class, to determine how to correct the error.
Application and Critical Thinking (20 min.)
1. Direct students to the Google Groups discussion forum for their group, and read through
the first part of the prompt together. Instruct them that they will work on the first part of the
prompt during class. Connect the prompt to the introductory video and the list of ideas they
2. Give them the remainder of the class period to begin conducting their research, construct
their argument, and add it to the discussion forum for their group. Direct them to use the
concept map that they generated for guidance as well as the supplemental video clips.
Remind them that they need to include two pieces of evidence to support their argument.
Homework: Finish conducting research and post argument to group discussion forum
Content Reinforcement (15 min.)
Pass out the index cards that were prepared with sections of the concept map, one card for
each student (some students might get two cards so that they are all used). Challenge the
students to work together to construct the concept map they made yesterday with their index
cards. They can build it on the board or on the floor of the classroom. Allow them to
collaborate with each other to construct the map with minimal teacher interference.
Application and Critical Thinking (25 min.)
Direct students back to the Google Groups discussion forum for their group, and read through
the second part of the prompt together. Instruct them that they will work on the second part
of the prompt during class. Give them up until the last 10 minutes of class to read through
their peers arguments and provide thoughtful feedback. Encourage them to extend the
discussion past just replying once, if they have time.
1. Instruct students that their homework is to complete the second portion of the prompt.
Challenge them to complete the extended learning assignment as well.
2. Ticket to Go: On an index card, have the students write down as many things as they can
about primary energy production in five minutes. Collect the tickets as they leave.
Scaffolded concept map to be used with ESL students, IEP students, or less advanced students
Additional Introductory Mars video (only the introduction to this video will be shown- first 2:30)
Supplemental video clips:
Chemosynthesis in Cave video
Hydrothermal Vents video
Checking for understanding:
Assessment Concept Map: Were students able to create/fill-in a cohesive concept map that included the
big ideas associated with primary energy production? Were students’ additions accurate?
Were students collectively able to identify additions that weren’t accurate?
4. Discussion Forum: Were student arguments accurately connected to the principles of primary
energy production? Were student arguments well-supported by their evidence?
Ticket to Go: Were students able to list the big ideas associated with primary energy
production? Were students able to generate a list of several ideas associated with primary
energy production? Were the items that students listed accurate?
Homework: Were student replies insightful and constructive? Were their
agreements/disagreements accurately connected to the principles of primary energy
Rubric for Assessing the Discussion Prompt
Extension Extended Learning (optional extended assignment for students):
View the entire Mars video (link will be posted on class website). Consider the following
thought questions and post a new thread to the discussion forum.
After viewing the entire video, has your argument changed? If yes, how did the video alter
your thinking? If no, how did the video solidify your thinking?
Aside from energy production, what other requirements do scientists think are essential for
life on Mars?
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