1) use the scientific method while studying biodiversity
2) describe the steps in scientific inquiry
3) learn the identifying characteristics between different species of salamanders
4) understand the biodiversity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
5) recognize the threats to aquatic and terrestrial salamanders
When students visit the Smokies on their field trip one group will be collecting data as part of a Salamander study. This lesson will introduce the scientific method and use the identifying anatomical characteristics to key different species of salamanders.
To be a scientist you don't necessarily have to have an advanced degree. All you need to have is the ability to observe the world around you and to ask good questions. Why do things happen? How do they happen? Scientists use a systematic method to find answers to their questions. The approach is known as the scientific method or scientific inquiry. The key components to this method are: making careful observations using your senses (sometimes that includes noticing what is not there as well as what is), asking a question that is clear and specific, gathering information from literature to develop a procedure for study and to discover what is already known about your question, forming a hypothesis (possible answers to the question), testing the hypothesis (surveys, experiments and field observations are techniques), interpreting the results (make sense of your data by creating graphs or charts), drawing conclusions (was the hypothesis correct, what can you learn from your results, what factors were not in your control...), and sharing your results.
Teachers coming on the accompanying field trip should download our complete field trip packet that includes this Salamander Research Preparation pre-site lesson, information and directions about the field trip and the Salamander Research Wrap-up post-site lesson.
Download the full Salamander Research Field Trip packet here (includes Preparation and Wrap-up lessons).
Link to a PDF of the full Salamander Research Preparation lesson.
Link to a PDF of the full Salamander Research Wrap-up lesson
Materials for this unit include a PDF of a reading on Inventory and Monitoring and a second PDF specificially about salamander monitoring in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Step 1: Instruct the students to read the "Inventory and Monitoring" worksheet. Discuss why it is important for a park to develop an Inventory and Monitoring program.
Step 2: Have the students read the "Salamander Information" worksheets. Discuss the 1) Characteristics of a salamander, 2) What the term "lungless" salamanders mean in terms of how the salamanders breathe, 3) Differences between salamanders and lizards, 4) Different ways salamander monitoring is done in the park, 5) Correct method of measuring the length of a salamander, and 6) Differences between dusky and woodland salamanders.
Step 3: Have the students read over the vocabulary associated with the salamander program. All of the definitions will be used within the salamander inventory program. Students will probably be familiar with most of the definitions but reviewing the list before the trip is essential.
Students can create a concept map for the subject of "salamanders" before starting the series of lessons. They can create a second concept map for comparison after the lessons. Did students show any gains in their organization of their knowledge; the use of concepts, content and terminology and connections; and knowledge shown between the relationships of concepts. Please see our concept map scoring rubric in the "Students as Scientists: Salamander Research" pre-site lesson PDF for grading guidance.
Teachers can test students on their knowledge of the vocabulary.
Salamanders are an especially abundant and diverse group of animals within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Most of the salamanders in the Smokies breathe through their skin which makes them sensitive to changes in the environment from threats like acid deposition. Since salamanders are cold-blooded, they may also be impacted by rapidly changing weather conditions in the park, especially in the winter and early spring. This lesson plan connects the student to these salamanders and readies them for their upcoming field trip to the park.
Lead a brainstorming discussion with your students. What are some questions that students have about salamanders in the Smokies? Would any of these questions make good research questions? Bring these questions with you on your field trip and ask the Park Ranger.
View a video about Hellbenders, the largest salamander in the Smokies http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/amphibians.htm
"Reptiles and Amphibians of the Smokies" available at http://shop.smokiesinformation.org/category.cfm/gsma/books