Alaska Sea Grant

Investigation 6 - Debris Detectives Field Trip

Class Time Required

1 class period for engagement

1 class period for field trip

1 class period for debrief and discussion 

Materials Needed
  • Science notebooks
  • Rubber gloves
  • Trash bags
  • Cameras
  • Pencils
  • Clipboards (optional)
Teacher Preparation 1 hour to gather materials, time to preview field trip site
Prior Student Knowledge Students need to understand currents, wave movements and tides.
Vocabulary  
Science GLEs Addressed

6th Grade: SA1.1, SA1.2, SA3.1, SE2.2

7th Grade: SA1.1, SA1.2, SA3.1, SE2.1, SE2.2

8th Grade: SA1.1, SA1.2, SE2.1, SE2.2

 

Investigation 6Overview: Students take a field trip to investigate some of the phenomena that they have been studying. They inventory debris along a shoreline or riverbank and study local water movement patterns to develop ideas about where the debris might have come from. (In locations where this is not feasible students may look at other patterns of change in the local aquatic environment involving freezing and thawing, wind, rain, and/or tides.) 

Focus Questions:

  • How can we observe and measure movements in a local water body?


Engagement: (30 minutes)

Remind students how far the rubber bath toys traveled once they fell off the ship. Show one or more of the following videos about debris in the ocean.

Alphabet Soup
Altered Oceans is a five part series. Part four is about plastics in the ocean and is very interesting.

Ask students to share experiences they have had of finding odd or interesting debris on the beach or riverbank that may have originated far away. If feasible, take photos of local debris ahead of time to show and discuss with students, or take a walk to see what you might find to share with the students in the classroom.

Look at a few pieces of debris or photos and try to tell their story with the students. Share with students where each item was found. Then ask some or all of the following questions: Does the item look new or old? Are there any clues of what it might have been used for? Are there any clues to the place or date of origin (packaging labels, etc.)? Are there signs that it has been moved by water as opposed to just being deposited in the location found?

Explain to students that the purpose of the upcoming field trip is to look for evidence of the motion of the ocean, or if you are near a river, the motion of the river.


Exploration: (1 class period)

When you arrive at the field trip destination, ask students to sketch the location in their science notebooks. Remind them to make it large enough to be able to note where each item of debris is located. Ask them to observe and sketch any nearby large structures or natural obstacles that are in the water. As they find a piece of debris, they will mark on the map where it was found, then describe it and the location in their science notebook. Ask them to be very detailed in their description of the item, noting general size, weight (heavy or light), and type of material each is made from. When describing the location site, remind them to note if the item was high on the beach or shore, low, partially covered, etc. If digital cameras are available, students can take a photo of the object where it was found, then write a description of the location in their science notebook.

Ask students to walk the shoreline or river edge to look for debris and document each item as they pick it up.


Explanation: (1 class period)

Research local water movement patterns. For sources, consult tide books, records of water level, weather (wind) records, agencies, scientists, fishermen, boat captains, and elders. Try to find patterns that would tell you if the debris has been moved by water, if it would be moved by water if left there, or if it was originally deposited where you found it.


Elaboration 

Develop an experiment to monitor the movement of some “foreign objects” to see if your theories are true. Students can use pieces of painted driftwood to throw out into the water and come back the next day or several days later to see if any of the wood can be located. Similar experiments have actually been carried out by some Alaskan researchers. Dr. Sathy Naidu UAF Professor Emeriti painted grains of sand, placed them on the beach and tried to locate them after storms had carried along the coast. 


Evaluation:

Ask the students to use the knowledge they have of tides, currents, etc., to formulate a hypothesis about why the debris was found where it was. Have them record the hypothesis in their science notebooks. Evaluate student hypotheses to see if students have used explanations that include knowledge they have acquired during the unit.


Teacher Preparation:

Tips from Teachers

No tips are currently available.

Visit and investigate possible sites for the field trip and choose a site. Arrange necessary permissions, transportation, adult volunteers, and other logistics. 


Curricular Connections:



Ideas for adapting to different local environment or context:


Materials Needed for Investigation 6:  

Student Handouts

  Science notebooks

Items for Group Display

 

Material Items
  • Rubber gloves
  • Trash bags
  • Cameras
  • Pencils
  • Clipboards (optional)
Facility/Equipment Requirements 
  • Appropriate location for activity
  • Chalkboard, overhead projector or LCD projector to record/show student data

Alaska Science Standards and Grade Level Expectations Addressed:

6th Grade:
The student demonstrates an understanding of the processes of science by
SA1.1 asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring, and communicating.*
SA1.2 collaborating to design and conduct simple repeatable investigations. (L)

The student demonstrates an understanding that interactions with the environment provide an opportunity for understanding scientific concepts by
SA3.1 gathering data to build a knowledge base that contributes to the development of questions about the local environment (e.g., moose browsing, trail usage, river erosion). (L)

The student demonstrates an understanding that solving problems involves different ways of thinking by
SE2.2 comparing the student’s work to the work of peers in order to identify multiple paths that can be used to investigate a question or problem. (L)

7th Grade:
The student demonstrates an understanding of the processes of science by
SA1.1 asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring, and communicating.*
SA1.2 collaborating to design and conduct simple repeatable investigations, in order to record, analyze (i.e., range, mean, median, mode), interpret data, and present findings. (L)

The student demonstrates an understanding that interactions with the environment provide an opportunity for understanding scientific concepts by
SA3.1 designing and conducting a simple investigation about the local environment. (L)

The student demonstrates an understanding that solving problems involves different ways of thinking by
SE2.1 identifying, designing, testing, and revising solutions to a local problem. (L)
SE2.2 comparing the student’s work to the work of peers in order to identify multiple paths that can be used to investigate a question or problem.* (L)

8th Grade:
The student demonstrates an understanding of the processes of science by
SA1.1 asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring, and communicating.*
SA1.2 collaborating to design and conduct repeatable investigations, in order to record, analyze (i.e., range, mean, median, mode), interpret data, and present findings. (L)*

The student demonstrates an understanding that solving problems involves different ways of thinking by
SE2.1 identifying, designing, testing, and revising solutions to a local problem.* (L)
SE2.2 comparing the student’s work to the work of peers in order to identify multiple paths that can be used to investigate and evaluate potential solutions to a question or problem. (L)

Essential Questions:

  • What are the patterns of physical changes in aquatic environments?
  • How do they affect us?
  • What are the major weather and ocean circulation systems in Alaska?

Enduring Understandings:

  • Physical changes in the aquatic environment occur on a daily, seasonal, and long-term basis.
  • Weather systems and ocean systems have major influences on one another and the dynamics of matter and energy.
  • Science and technology can be used to detect and solve problems.
seagrant UAF logo Alaska Department of Education and Early Development noaa