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Lesson Plans: High School
The Environments of Big Sur -- Which Do We Protect?
Subject: Science, Language Arts, Geography
Grade Level: 9-12

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In this lesson, students use a problem-based approach to study the question of whether there is one ecosystem in Big Sur that is more important than all the others. Students watch LIVING EDENS: BIG SUR, and explore the hypothetical question: If, because of a budget crisis, the California state government must drastically cut aid to environmental protection of Big Sur, which ecosystem -- ocean, seashore, forest, or mountain -- should be considered the most important and get the greatest share of the limited funds? Acting as advocacy groups for each ecosystem, student teams perform research on the different environments found there, their dominant animals and plants, endangered species, and how they interact with each other.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
  • Recognize and describe the geological, climatic and biological features that make Big Sur one of the Natural Wonders of the World

  • Perform online research to learn about the ecosystems of Big Sur and their representative plants and animals

  • Analyze findings from the research to determine whether one ecological community in Big Sur is more important than the others

  • Present their positions in a script and storyboard presentation

  • Defend their positions in a class debate



Standard 1, Level IV, Benchmark 1
Knows how winds and ocean currents are produced on the Earth's surface (e.g., effects of unequal heating of the Earth's land masses, oceans, and air by the Sun; effects of gravitational forces acting on layers of different temperatures and densities in the oceans and air; effects of the rotation of the Earth)


Standard 6, Level IV, Benchmark 1
Knows how the interrelationships and interdependencies among organisms generate stable ecosystems that fluctuate around a state of rough equilibrium for hundreds or thousands of years (e.g., growth of a population is held in check by environmental factors such as depletion of food or nesting sites, increased loss due to larger numbers of predators or parasites)


Standard 4, Level IV, Benchmark 3
Uses a variety of primary sources to gather information for research topics


Standard 3, Level IV, Benchmark 1
Uses a comparison table to compare multiple items on multiple abstract characteristics


Standard 2, Level IV, Benchmark 2
Knows how to import, export, and merge data stored in different formats (e.g., text, graphics)

Standard 3, Level IV, Benchmark 10
Knows that technology can benefit the environment by providing scientific information, providing new solutions to older problems, and reducing the negative consequences of existing technology (e.g., monitoring a habitat or measuring greenhouse gases, improving renewable energy sources, and creating scrubbers to improve coal-burning facilities)


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