Teaching Materials

We are designing curriculum for the classroom that encourages students to be involved in the process of questioning, investigating, and determining patterns in scientific explorations. Our curriculum teaches core scientific principles like evolution and species interactions, while helping researchers answer big questions.

About

MAREN strives to connect researchers with students and educators, because we believe that connecting education with real scientific exploration benefits learners. When students interact with real scientific exploration, they learn how to make scientific arguments, understand biological principles and concepts, interact with scientific instruments and techniques, and understand that researchers, like MAREN, are still looking for answers to big questions.

Our curriculum focuses on bringing biological principles and concepts into a real-world investigation. When students participate in these “authentic science” curricula, they make better scientific arguments, better understand biological principles, and integrate more sources and data into their arguments.

Many of the lessons support both the Local Adaptation Experiment, and the Phenology Project Investigations. The curriculum was designed to be highly adaptable for grades 6 to 16, and we hope you will take what you like, make it work with your students, and share what you have done in our Library. View the table below to quickly identify the key concepts and objectives related to each lesson and see how each aligns with NGSS Standards.

Visit our Tips for Teachers page for information on privacy concerns, data reliability, data accessibility, and other topics relating to instructional advice. General project and website questions are answered on our FAQ page. If you have additional questions that have not been answered elsewhere, fill out the question submission form at the bottom of the FAQ page.

Looking for ways to help students easily learn lab content?

When teaching students how to measure milkweed plants, it can be helpful to have more visuals and auditory instructions that can be found in our training videos, and to have confirmation that students understand the process through our assessments, either in the training videos (left link) or on paper worksheets (right link).

View Our Training Videos HereDownload More Training Assessments Here

Introductory Lab Guide for the Phenology Project

View our introductory lab guide below that includes background information about phenology and its significance, a list of materials available on marenweb.com for further preparation, methods for conducting the Phenology Project in a shorter lab setting, questions to spur analytical thinking, and a guide for analyzing preliminary data collected in the summer of 2020.

Read Our Introductory Lab Guide

Table of Standards

Lesson/ActivityNGSS StandardsLearning Objectives
1. Monarchs and Their Decline

Key Concepts:
• Population dynamics
• Species Interactions
• Conservation/ Ecosystem Management
• Life Cycles

Pairs with:
• Local Adaptation Experiment
• Phenology Investigations

• MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

• HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
• Interpret trends and variability in a line graph representing the size of a population over time.

• Apply the monarch life cycle and migration pattern to hypothesize causes of populations change.
2. Monarch Population Decline Debate

Key Concepts:
• Population dynamics
• Species Interactions
• Conservation/ Ecosystem Management
• Nature of Science

Pairs with:
• Local Adaptation Experiment
• Phenology Investigations
• MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

• HS-LS4-5. Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in: (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.
• Identify multiple potential causes for the monarch population decline.

• Compare the strengths and weaknesses of conflicting claims.

• Understand that biology is an ever-changing field
Analyze how biologists use evidence to argue for explanations of phenomena, like the decline of monarch butterflies.

3. Milkweed, A Critical Food Source

Key Concepts:
• Species Interactions

Pairs with:
• Local Adaptation Experiment
• Phenology Investigations
• MS-LS1-5. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms. • Identify common milkweed, its life cycle, and its parts.

• Identify the native range of common milkweed.

• Distinguish between different milkweed species and their ranges, and predict the effects of climate warming on the ranges.

• Describe the benefits of eating milkweed for monarchs.

4. Local Adaptation of Milkweed: Evolutionary Principles

Key Concepts:
• Evolution and Natural Selection
• Conservation/ Ecosystem Management

Pairs with:
• Local Adaptation Experiment

• MS-LS4-4. Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.

• HS-LS4-4. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.
• Define evolutionary principles such as local adaptation and gene flow.

• Predict how local adaptation will influence the impact of milkweed management practices.
5. Local Adaptation of Milkweed: Data Analysis

Key Concepts:
• Evolution and Natural Selection

Pairs with:
• Local Adaptation Experiment
• HS-LS4-3. Apply concepts of statistics and probability to support explanations that organisms with an advantageous heritable trait tend to increase in proportion to organisms lacking this trait.• Ask questions and identify which questions can be answered with the available data.

• Represent data in an appropriate way to help answer a question.

• Critically evaluate and interpret results.

6. Citizen Science: Monarch and Milkweed Awareness

Key Concepts:
• Conservation/Ecosystem Management

Pairs with:
• Local Adaptation Experiment
• Phenology Investigations
• MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

• MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

• HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

• HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.

• Evaluate the utility of the data students collected for a target community organization.

• Communicate scientific arguments, supported by data, to an audience.

• Propose potential solutions to a large ecological issue, like climate change.
7. Picking Plants for the Monarch Highway

Key Concepts:
• Evolution and Natural Selection
• Phenology
• Conservation/Ecosystem Management

Pairs with:
• Local Adaptation Experiment
• Phenology Investigations
• MS-LS4-4. Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.

• HS-LS4-4. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.
• Use the concept of local adaptation to make and test predictions about plant growth in novel environments.

• Make and test predictions about the relationship between a plants latitude, its phenology, and its performance in a novel environment.

• Critically evaluate and interpret data about local adaptation.