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The Buoy Microcosm

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The Buoy Microcosm


Lesson plan designed by Scott Lewis (Buchanan Middle School, Tampa, FL)

Developed as an 8th grade lesson

This activity explores the ecology of life that makes its home on the buoys that scientists put out to sea for various reasons. It will look at what species are found, how the surrounding environment effects those species, and how humans play a role in the environment as well.



  1. Given transportation to the marine science facility, the student will calculate the number of one specific species on a buoy using a quadrant/grid system.
  2. Given the data from other groups of students, the student will compare and contrast his/or her data with at least three other species from three different groups.
  3. Given the data collected and found thus far, the student will compose and explain at least three different ideas on why their data for their species may differ when compared against the data of three others.


What will occur during the activity:

  1. Students can be taken to the marine college site after a buoy has been retrieved and brought back to the dock.
  2. The students can be divided up into groups of two to help divide up the tasks.
  3. Explain to the students that they are going to explore and look at what species live on the buoys and how the surrounding environment may effect them.
  4. Have the group pick out the species that they will be counting. They can then divide the buoy of into quadrants and just count the species found within a quadrant. They can then multiply by four (or depending on how it was divided) to get a rough count of how many are on the bottom of the buoy.

    (Two points here — It would be good for at least one student to make close observations about the buoy, what the various growths look like, and also how the count might be better taken or could be inaccurate.)

  5. After each objective I would have a class discussion about various observations made while accomplishing their tasks. For example, conditions that would exist in the water, how the count may have been wrong, and what could be done to take a better count.
  6. The next part of the activity involves interaction with other groups. The students will talk to three different groups to get comparisons with at least three different species and the corresponding data. The groups will copy this data down beside or below the data collected for their own species.
  7. Again this is a good time for a class discussion. The class can discuss any discrepancies in how they collected their data along with what some base observations were when comparing the numbers.
  8. The final part of this project involves composing ideas on why the data among species may be different. The students should try and compose at least three ideas using their data in comparison to that of another species. (For example, our species grew faster than theirs, took up less room, ate their species, etc.)
  9. The work done from part 8 is a good break in for theories and concepts of competition, availability of resources, and how changes in environment may effect populations. Students could also learn a good deal about the nature of science from this activity. The students could develop future experiments to test their ideas and lead into others concepts and theories.


Standards met:

FCAT Benchmarks:

Strand F – Processes of Life

1. SC.F.1.3.7 – The student knows ways behaviors that are responses to the environment may alter the normal growth, development, maintenance, and reproduction of an organism.

Strand G – How Living Things Interact With Their Environment

2. SC.G.2.3.3 – The student understands that changes in the environment may cause changes in the population.

3. SC.G.2.3.4 – The student extends and refines knowledge of ways that human activities may deliberately or inadvertently alter the equilibrium in the environment.

Strand H – The Nature of Science

4. SC.H.1.3.1 — The student knows that scientific knowledge is subject to modification as new information challenges prevailing theories and as a new theory leads to looking at old observations in a new way.