Ecology and Systems Biology: Extremophiles

At the beginning of class yesterday, students were faced with the following scenario: You are an extreme environment engineer.  Pick your next work assignment.  The options were: The Ocean Floor, Olympus Mons (tallest known volcano in the solar system, located on Mars), Antarctica, and The Moon.  Today, students were grouped based on their work site preference.  Working in groups of 3 or 4, students then were assigned the extremophiles reading packet.  Each group member was assigned a roles (slide 1), with the role rotating after each paragraph was read.  The roles were: Reader, Paraphraser #1, Paraphraser #2, and Recorder.  The Reader was responsible for reading the paragraph out loud to the group.  The Recorder highlighted words that were challenging for the Reader or needed to be defined for comprehension.  Paraphraser #1 was responsible for paraphrasing the main ideas they heard from the Reader.  Paraphraser #2 paraphrased what they heard from Paraphraser #1, further distilling the key points down to a single sentence or two.  Ultimately, those main points served as discussion points for answering the questions on the worksheet.  The exercise served many learning purposes.  Students practiced reading challenging scientific words and were supported by their group members who might be more familiar with the word or who could help the group find out the correct pronunciation and meaning.  Students also practiced listening and paraphrasing, applying those skills to answer specific comprehension questions about extremophiles.  Many students were able to complete the reading and turn it in at the end of class.  Students needing extra time should complete the worksheet as homework and turn it in at the beginning of class tomorrow.  At the end of the class period, students drew critter diagrams (slide 2) in their lab notebooks and filled out the leg corresponding to their chosen extreme environment.  The legs represent extreme conditions encountered by life either currently living, or wishing to live, in the group’s extreme environment.  Groups will share out their legs of the critter diagram tomorrow.