Students are introduced to a prepared, experimental garden. This garden provides the focus for the development of hypotheses / questions about the distribution and abundance of plants in this garden. These hypotheses are developed by the students with minimal guidance from the instructor. Student research groups are formed during the second week of the experiment to first facilitate data collection and later to facilitate student collaboration on data analysis, hypothesis generation, and experimental design. Students first make qualitative observations of the plants and then sample plant distributions and abundances using line transects. Students also map positions of rare plants (i.e. relatively low abundance plants in this plot). Students collect several abiotic variables across the plot as potential independent variables. Some sample processing and data sharing occur in the lab. For example, soil moisture and soil texture samples are processed in the lab. Students perform background research for their hypotheses, design experiments, and describe their experiments in a proposal. Information needed by students, for example background on experimental design, is provided during lab periods throughout the semester.
At the conclusion of this lab, students will be able to...
It is important to note early in this guide an underlying pedagogical goal of this experiment. Students perform activities and practice processes in order to learn how science is done. In short, students are meant to learn methods for acquiring new knowledge. This is one of three possible pedagogical or scholarly goals shown in the Inquiry framework (http://tiee.ecoed.net/teach/framework.jpg). Much of the inquiry done by students in this experiment is student generated and therefore “owned” by the student.
Equipment/ Logistics Required:
Summary of What is Due:
Students are evaluated on 5 assignments delivered throughout the lab. First, each student delivers an annotated bibliography of at least 15 primary research references. Second, each student provides graphs of data they collected and that are important to the research he / she is proposing. Next, students give 2 oral presentations in research groups. Last, students assemble and integrate background research, data, and experimental designs into a research proposal.