Learning Module

Project Vernal Pool Macroinvertebrates

Students engage in authentic scientific inquiry while they contribute toProject Vernal Pool Macroinvertebrates. In this citizen science investigation, students partner with scientists at the University of Maine to contribute to growing understanding of macroinvertebrates that are so important to healthy vernal pool ecosystems. By collecting data on the presence of fairy shrimp and caddisflies across the Gulf of Maine, participants in this project will help predict changes to vernal pools as temperatures and precipitation shift due to climate change.

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This curriculum module is intended to provide a suggested learning experience that wraps around contribution to our Vernal Pool Macroinvertebrates citizen science project and engages students in the full scientific inquiry process. Please modify, build on, choose from any pieces of this learning experience. However, protocols must be followed for data contribution.

The best timing for this project is in the spring after ice melt and before pools dry up in the late summer and fall. Fairy shrimp are sensitive to high temperatures, so earlier in the spring is best.

This project requires access to a vernal pool. Here are some suggestions for locating a vernal pool in your community:

Reach out to GMRI staff so we can help you identify vernal pools, secure materials you might be missing, or help you identify local partners who can help.

Part 1: Build Background

Lesson 1: Introduce the project

Estimated time: one class period (45 minutes)

Students explore the project page, collecting background information, setting a purpose for their work, and defining the investigation questions:

  • How are caddisflies and fairy shrimp distributed in vernal pools in the Northeast?
  • How will their distribution change in response to climate change?

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Project Vernal Pool Macroinvertebrates


Lesson 2: Model an ecosystem

Estimated time: one class period (45 minutes)

Students build understanding of the importance of vernal pools while they construct a model of interdependent relationships in a forest ecosystem.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Vernal Pool Ecosystem Cards


Lesson 3: Conduct background research

Estimated time: two class periods (90 minutes)

Students work in teams to gather background information that will provide context for their investigation and inform predictions.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages


Lesson 4: Explore climate data

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Climate Cards | Climate Dataset | CODAP Challenge Cards

Part 2: Collect and Contribute Data

Lesson 1: Identify project species

Estimated class time: one class period (45 minutes)

Students will prepare for fieldwork by learning how to identify their project species and creating their own guides that they can rely on in the field.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Identification Resources and Protocol


Lesson 2: Practice fieldwork skills

Estimated time: two class periods (90 minutes)

Students will prepare for fieldwork by practicing fieldwork skills at interactive stations and then taking a short fieldwork skills certification.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages| Fieldwork Skills Stations | Fieldwork Certification


Lesson 3: Practice the Protocol

Estimated time: one class period (45 minutes)

Make sure that students understand their protocol and then practice in the classroom before heading out in the field. If you are confident in your students’ ability to follow the protocol out in the field, skip this lesson and move on to the next.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Identification Resources and Protocol


Lesson 4: Collect and Contribute Data

Estimated time: two class periods (90 minutes)

Students collect data in the field and then submit their data to the Ecosystem Investigation Network. Teachers will need to create an account, set up a trip, and get student passphrases in order for students to enter data. See the tutorials linked below for help.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Contribute Data | How to Set Up a Trip (for teachers) | How to Access Student Passphrases (for teachers)

Part 3: Analyze Data and Synthesize Findings

Lesson 1: Analyze the class data

Estimated time: two class periods (90 minutes)

Students will analyze the data they collected in the field by comparing their data to data from another fieldwork team’s data and then expanding out to look at the class data as a whole.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages


Lesson 2: Explore the Larger Dataset

Estimated time: two class periods (90 minutes)

In this lesson, students are introduced to the larger citizen science dataset. They will explore where different macroinvertebrates were and were not found at different field sites around the state. Then, they compare this data to the temperature and precipitation data they analyzed in Part 1. This lesson will set students up to formulate predictions in response to the investigation questions.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages | Vernal Pool Macros Dataset | Climate Dataset | CODAP Challenge Cards


Lesson 3: Interpret the Results

Estimated time: two class periods (90 minutes)

Students will pull together what they know and their analysis of the data to develop scientific conclusions, accounting for uncertainty and forming ideas for possible next steps.

Teacher Guide | Student Pages

Part 4: Communicate Findings

Lesson 1: Share with the community

Estimated time: varies depending on project

Decide how you want to communicate the results of your investigation. Plan, organize, draft, revise, share, and celebrate accordingly.

Teacher Guide | Summative Assessment Rubric