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Natural Resources

North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center


Elwha Inquiry Assignment

From the time when you were born you have been a scientist, following the steps of the scientific inquiry process to come up with answers and new questions about the world around you. It is time to apply your innate inquiry skills and reveal the stories told by the Elwha River.

In groups of two or three, we will ask a "Great Scientific Question," make observations, collect data, and interpret our data to others in a final project. Our projects will be peer reviewed. Our final projects will be posted on Hands on the Land in the form of a blog entry. We will present our observations to the class using the a delivery format that will persuade the class to support our research. The class will act an grant funding advisory panel that is choosing research projects to fund.

Through this assignment, you will...

  • Conduct a scientific inquiry based on a "Great Scientific Question"
  • Understand that scientists use accurate and reliable observations as a means of data collection and evidence-based explanations.
  • Be able to make inferences based on observations.
  • Be able to interpret observations for an online audience.
  • Document your observations/prior knowledge, data, results/analysis and conclusion.
  • Learn how to write a hypothesis in if-then-because format.

While working on this assignment, we will be practicing QUEST Skills Q and U.

Part 1. Inquiry Process - What is Science?

Lesson Length: 1.5 hours.

Assessment: Students will have chosen one 'Great Scientific Question'.

Procedure: Begin lesson with No Jumping to Conclusions (aka. Just the facts, Ma'am).

Learn about scientific method, intellectual honesty and our role as stewards of planet Earth. Compare natural resource management with medical prevention and treatment philosophies. Relate to personal health and nutrition.

Provide descriptions of site and visit each location with Google Earth: pdfInquiry-Assignment-2015.kml

Students will chose groups and brainstorm and research topics. Pass out pdfElwha-inquiry-project-worksheet.pdf.

Examples of questions:

At five locations along the Elwha River...
    • How do woody debris piles differ?
    • How are plants colonizing woody debris?
    • How has the new river structure affected sediment quality?
    • How has canopy cover changed?
    • How are plants recolonizing?
    • What types of terrestrial invertebrates are found?
    • What types of macroinvertebrates are found?
    • What broader landscape changes are occurring?
    • What birds are found?

Part 2: Research, Field Observations, Collect Data

Lesson Length: Varies based on chosen topic.

Materials Needed: Varies.

Assessment: Data will be organized in one student's journal and/or in spreadsheets or Word documents.

Procedure: During class time, students will research prior knowledge on their topic. On field days, students will make field observations and collect data at all defined locations along the Elwha River.

Part 3: Prepare and present your research

Lesson Length: 4 hours in-class preparation, 2 hour for presentations.

Materials Needed: Overhead projector, computer, website

Final Assessment: Teacher will assess projects using the pdfElwha-inquiry-project-rubric.pdf.

Procedure: Final products will be posted as a blog entry on Handsontheland.org before the final day's presentations. The blog entry will have at least one professional photograph and a minimum of four paragraphs of well-written and edited content. Entries must be approved by teacher.

Products should answer their question, include observational data, and use explanatory language. Students will also propose a hypothesis in if-then-because format.

On the final day of class, each group will present their research to the class. Presentations will last 15 to 20 minutes per group which includes a brief question and answer session. The class will act as a grant funding advisory panel that is choosing research projects to fund. Presentations should attempt to persuade the advisory panel to fund their research. Presentations should include one Prezi or a PowerPoint.


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Port Angeles, WA 98363
(360) 565-1533