- Carys Mainprize
The Legacy of Biosphere Explorers
A few weeks ago we announced that our education project, Biosphere Explorers 2, was wrapping up. As it approaches the end of its final month, we wanted to highlight the legacy materials created by the project. These materials are designed with teachers in mind, but can be used by anyone who wishes to engage their young people with climate change and nature.
Ocean Acidification, indoors, P5-7
Our oceans absorb about 30% of our emissions! Unfortunately, this is not without consequences.
This experiment will take you through the impact of climate change on our ocean's pH. You can discuss how human activity is increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is acting like several blankets over the Earth, and introduce the concept of pH, acid, and alkaline.
The first part of the activity shows what happens to the pH of water when we breathe out into it, via a straw (increasing the amount of carbon dioxide). A chemical reaction between water and CO2 takes place, and produces acid. This means that while our oceans are slightly alkaline, the pH is slowly dropping because of humans.
You can skip out the initial use of pH indicator liquid and watch a video with the class instead (or test your pH strips to see if they are sensitive enough like those in the video), but we recommend using the pH strips during the experiment itself (these are cheap online).
In the second part of the experiment, we use vinegar to see how the acid affects a shell and compare it to a shell in water. Shell weight is measured before and after the experiment to understand that the shell's calcium carbonate is being eroded or broken down by the acid. You can then understand how ocean acidification, through increased CO2, is affecting our shelled sea life.
If you’re hesitant to purchase pH indicators, or go out and find seashells, you can substitute in a DIY indicator (like blueberries or red cabbage) and chalk. Your results won’t be quite as clean or clear, but it could still work (but we haven't tested this!).
Download our Ocean Acidification lesson plan here:
Plant Life Cycles, outdoors, P4-7
This lesson takes you through germination, growing, pollination, fertilisation, and seed dispersal. Basically, everything in a plant’s life cycle except death. It’s a great one to take outdoors and to get curious with. This can be done at most times of the year except the depths of Winter. However, from Feb onwards, you should be fine.
Firstly, make sure you talk about why plants are so important – both to us and to nature – and then what a life cycle is. Then you can find out how the seeds knows when to start growing (germination) and beyond.
If you’re crafty, and have some spare fabric, you can even make the flower model that we used in our lessons. Simply cut out big petals of whatever fabric you have (fleece works very well) and then cut the flower’s male (stamen) and female (stigma) parts out of coloured felt paper – the type you can buy in many stores with a craft section. You can sew or Velcro them together. Or, you can use chalk to draw on pavement or the playground.
We recommend using Velcro to attach the female and male parts to the flower. This way you can take the kids through a ‘cross section’, where you first label the petals and stem, and then pretend you’ve cut the flower down the middle to look inside. Depending on the age and stage of the pupils, you can keep simple or get more in depth with the labelling. We used laminated labels (again with Velcro on the back), but paper labels and some stones to hold them down will be just fine.
Make sure the pollen isn’t permanently attached to the stamen. This is so you can pretend to be the pollinator, like a bee, and stick the pollen onto your clothes or hair. Then you land on the flower again, and the pollen 'falls' off onto the top of the stigma. The pollen will travel down the pollen tube and into the ovary, where it joins with the female cell (ovule) to create a seed - as seen in the picture above.
The final game, about seed dispersal, will need a bit of rejigging if you’re not a teacher with several pupils on hand, as it splits a class into 3 groups for a relay race. You can still use the three different ways of moving to help kids learn about the main types of dispersal.
If you’re not sure on plant life cycles yourself, you can check out BBC Bitesize for a quick and easy summary: germination, pollination/fertilisation, and seed dispersal.
Download our plant life cycles lesson plan:
Soil and Water Erosion experiment (P6-S2)
Our final experiment has a video series to support it, so you can watch through the two videos and read the accompanying activity and discussion cards to go as in depth as you like. For older kids, we recommend doing the extension experiments and having a more in-depth discussion on climate change and human impact.
This experiment needs very little material except for three plastic bottles (of the same size), scissors, scales, soil/dead leaves/living grass, and an assortment of clear containers or glasses.
It’s important to follow closely the instructions on how to set up each bottle, or the water will erode all three evenly. The videos will give a visual of how they should look.
We reference the discussion video throughout; this will be available to teachers but not the general public, so we have created a discussion card which acts as an FAQ instead.
This experiment will be great for anyone who has started to learn about our impact on the natural environment, and climate change. It can be a great way to start a discussion on how we live with the land, and how we can improve – or who already has improved!
And remember, if you’re using compost for your experiment, use peat-free! Here’s why.
You can view the soil and water erosion experiment materials here:
There are also the amazing materials that our first Biosphere Explorers project created. A series of 5 workshops, filled to the brim with activities and teacher notes, as well as locations in the Biosphere that can support this learning, are all available. If you’d like to borrow the board game, you can get in touch with us – we lend them out to any primary school in D&G.
With thanks to our funders Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership.