So many new things to investigate! Check back after spring break!
We are seeing that all these organisms (animals, fungi--mold, and micoorganisms) are getting bigger as they consume dead stuff (other animals and plants). But we've also seen evidence of plants getting bigger, too! So how is it that they grow, and get the matter they need to gain weight over time?
Students were asked to develop a model for where they think a plant gets the matter (pieces/particles that have weight and take up space). Check out these four students' ideas:
While we agreed on many things from each of the four models, we felt that by setting up some controlled investigations, we could truly see what was giving the plants the matter they needed to grow, which means a scale would be helpful! While we would have love to have set this up ourselves, we recognized the limitations to doing this, especially since plants grow so slowly. Thank goodness there are some amazing people out there (home scientists, too!) sharing the data from there investigations!
From all this, what are we thinking? Do plants really get their matter from water, air, and light? Wait, are all these things made of matter? We've heard that light is a type of energy but what role does it play? Also, we're seeing that plants can grow without soil. Does that mean that plants need soil but don't get their matter from them?
So many new things to investigate! Check back after spring break!
Even though dead things "disappear" when other organisms consume them, we realized that living things are an important part of this "disappearance" process. We returned to the dead raccoon that started our figuring out process to realize that at one time, it was a baby raccoon growing into adulthood. We read through an article to see just what the raccoon eats/consumes and built out a model to show where all these "pieces" of dead organisms are going!
We updated our Consensus Model showing where dead things disappear to--but in reality they are actually just going somewhere else!
Recognizing the role worms play in decomposition, our next step was to figure out microorganisms' role!
From our research, we're seeing that there are even smaller organisms than the worms that are playing a role in the "disappearing dead plants!" We turned to a scientist who focuses on microorganisms in the soil! So not only do we have mold and worms taking care of dead stuff, but we have microorganisms, too!
We'd completed our investigations around timelapses of dead plants and the fuzzy stuff which we now know is mold. Our next focus is the worms that some of us put in! We're starting to see some patterns emerge between things getting bigger as they eat and the things they eat getting smaller. So we turned to a "worm lady" to help us figure out what's going on with the worms in some our dead stuff containers.
Between the mold and the worms, we're starting to see why three things have happened in Mrs. Brinza's dead stuff container:
1. The plants are shrinking.
2. The mold is growing!
3. The soil is getting darker!
While all of our dead stuff containers were doing their "thing," we did a lot of figuring out about what it meant to control an experiment. Mrs. Brinza set up a controlled experiment as these conversations were unfolding, collecting data on some blueberries she had in her fridge and a jar. Here's what happened:
The jar was never opened and when Mrs. Brinza weighed the jar, the weight never changed. This was interesting to us as we noticeably saw some changes in the jar. The mold was definitely getting bigger and the blueberries were shrinking.
This made us think two things:
1. The mold spores had to be present on the blueberries at the start. We never saw them, but since the mold grew, they had to have been there (just really tiny).
2. Since the jar was sealed, however much bigger the mold got was directly related to how much smaller the blueberries got. We know this because there wasn't a weight change!
We modeled this together, and now we're seeing how when all the weight is accounted for, we don't lose any piece of anything. The blueberry "pieces" go into the mold, and the mold only gets bigger by the number of "pieces" of blueberries it consumes.
With our dead stuff containers set up and doing things, we're already noticing some interesting things! There seems to be some fuzzy stuff! But what is it???
With some new investigation ideas on the table for all the things we think are happening, we agreed that the changes in our dead stuff containers was happening too slowly and we wanted to speed it up! We turned to some timelapse videos to see if they would help us!
We had so many new questions come up from these videos!
We decided we needed to do some research and zoom in on the fuzzy stuff, which we're fairly certain is mold!
It totally surprised students to figure out that mold is actually a living thing! Zooming in on the mold was pretty incredible, recognizing how it moves from location to location, how it's everywhere, and how it's actually pretty diverse!
We're trying to make sense of what the mold is really doing to the dead plants, so we began to think about how we could model this phenomenon. Here are some students' work:
After a lot of discussion, we settled on some main ideas in our consensus model:
1. Mold travels in the air. It's EVERYWHERE!
2. If it's lucky enough to land to land on a food source, like dead plants, it'll be consuming them!
As we wait to get all our materials (some of us are remote while others are hybrid), we're really trying to think about how even though it's exciting to "throw everything" into our Dead Stuff Containers, it's important to think about how all the different variables in our containers may actually be causing change.
We're spending time digging deeper into controlled experiments and how when we isolate a variable, we can truly see the impact that one variable we test plays a role in any change that occurs.
Now that we're seeing the role flies and their offspring play on a dead animal's disappearance, we're wondering...
We revisited our Driving Question Board to see that we had lots of questions that focused on plants!
We began thinking about how we could answer our questions about all these dead plants, and came up with a plan! We'd secure some materials based on different plant parts and then set up various environments where dead plants could die! If we were to watch them over time, we could compare with what we'd figure out from watching the dead badger and see if the processes are similar!
Mrs. Brinza got to work and set up her own container!
With all this talking around what's going on with the flies, we shared our models and eventually came to consensus! We extended our thinking deeper, realizing that the weight of all these things is changing, and we could model this!
Not only does the weight of the larva increase as it eats the meat, we're starting to see how this patterns transcends into other parts of our model, like with the female fly and the eggs she lays.
We're also seeing how the fly may be doing more than just laying eggs on the meat of a dead animal. We were curious if they were doing more, and with some research, we are seeing that some species of flies may actually consume the meat, too!
While we're putting all these pieces together, we're realizing we figured out a lot about flies. This means we can answer many of our questions about flies on our DQB! We are also realizing we had lots of questions about dead plants still, too, so we're figuring our next steps should be about dead plants and their parts!