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Mountain Pine Beetles

Melissa Barker, Jim Moulton, Barbara Keith, Cheryl Manning, Learnmoreaboutclimate, University of Colorado, Boulder

This lesson plan has students working in small groups to research the Mountain Pine Beetle in Colorado and other inter-mountain Western states. Students identify the factors that control pine beetle population and research how warmer winters and decreasing spring snowpack allow the population of pine beetles to expand.

Activity takes approximately one week. Computer and Internet access is necessary.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate's role in habitats ranges and adaptation of species to climate changes
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Climate impacts ecosystems and past species extinctions
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Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
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2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:A) Organisms, populations, and communities
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A) Organisms, populations, and communities.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
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C) Systems and connections.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Possible misconceptions are listed but educator needs to make sure these misconceptions are addressed; the lesson design doesn't provide an obvious path to address them. Students learn about the biology of the Mountain Pine Beetle and how warmer conditions allow it to experience explosive population growth patterns.
  • If computer access is not available, the research part can be assigned as homework. Active guidance at the beginning of this research project would make it most successful.
  • Have students annotate their presentations to indicate the source of their information to ensure that the data is from credible sources.
  • Among the resources are additional lesson plans for the same topic.
  • Extend discussion to incorporate possible human causes.
  • This resource focuses on the Colorado Rocky Mountains, but the same activity could be used in different parts of the country to examine other pine bark beetles, such as the Southern Pine Bark Beetle, using different data resources.

About the Science

  • While the focus of the activity is Colorado, Mountain Pine Beetle is an issue throughout the Rocky Mountain West and into Canada.
  • Data and links to support the students' research should be supplemented by additional sources. The provided data goes through 2008, but more recent data is available online.
  • The report on which temperature and precipitation data graphs are based come from "Climate Change in Colorado" (2008), available at http://wwa.colorado.edu/CO_Climate_Report/index.html.
  • Data sources include US Forest Service and Colorado State Forestry data maps and graphics. Also real-time temperature and snowpack data sets are referenced.
  • Good quality background materials published by government agencies are provided, but few links given to original peer-reviewed source material.
  • Educator's background knowledge will effect the rigor and outcomes of the activity.
  • Possible misconceptions are noted.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
  • Resource illustrates complex interactions of population biology, ecology, evolution, and climate change.
  • There are plenty of opportunities for students to expand and focus on particular areas of interest, and the complexity of the issue lends itself nicely to a presentation/shared discussion learning format.
  • The video is well-put-together and provides an interesting and good synthesis of certain bark beetle issues.

About the Pedagogy

  • Students will learn how to independently research, compile, and present scientific data.
  • The teaching sequence is presented in a logical fashion. Students work in small groups to conduct research about the recent pine beetle infestation. They focus on general Mountain Pine Beetle ecology, the effect of Mountain Pine Beetle on forest health, the influence of climate on Pine Beetle population, the impact of humans on climate change, and the influence of forest management practices on forest health.
  • Lesson is well-designed with an emphasis on students answering their own questions and creating a presentation to share with their peers.
  • Uses good teaching strategies to assess prior knowledge, emphasizes cooperative group work, and employs concept mapping as an assessment tool.
  • Teachers' notes provide good background knowledge and teacher support.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Additional links to high-quality background material are provided for students to gain additional background information.
  • Well-designed, easy-to-follow lesson plan.
  • Students need access to computers.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN


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