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. [
The American pika is a small rodent that lives in the alpine meadow regions of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They are considered an indicator species as they are sensitive to the changing environmental conditions. The alpine grasses that they harvest require cooler temperatures as do the pikas themselves. They are prone to overheating since they have thick fur and require more energy to regulate temperature and forage when temperatures climb.
In this 2 day lesson plan...
Required supplies: popsicle sticks, note cards, rope/yarn, timer
- Students gain a note card and write their names on it. They will be placing this on the ground to represent their burrow.
- The teacher designates an area to be the alpine meadow where the pikas are to forage by cordoning the area with the rope and dispersing the popsicle sticks. I use different colors to denote different food sources (the second round will have one of the food sources removed).
- Students will be given 30 seconds to harvest as many popsicle sticks as they can. They may only take one at a time before going back to their burrow to stash their food.
- Students must collect at least 8 popsicle sticks to survive. (I change the number each round so that students do not stop at their minimum.)
- For the second round, I will tell students that one of the colors of popsicle sticks is no longer an option since overspray of pesticide from nearby farms has killed it off. Students again will forage and observe how this impacts the pika population.
- For the third round climate change has decreased their foraging area since pika have to travel to higher altitudes. The roped section becomes smaller and removes many of the resources.
- Students analyze the impacts by graphing and finish with a CER.
Students will visit the following website: https://cal-adapt.org/tools/
- There they will choose three localities to research the number of days above the extreme heat threshold (days over the average for that time of year). Using the information, students will predict the implications for the pika population at that location in the future.
- Students will compare their findings with another person/group to see if this is a wide scale pattern.
- Students will complete a CER to complete the activity on how climate change will impact the pika population of CA.