Translating Microbial Oceanography for high school classrooms

Collaboration with The Institute for Systems Biology - Systems Education Experiences

“Invisible Forest: What’s in a Drop of Seawater?” This oceanographic STEAM module is based on our research on the most abundant photosynthetic cells on Earth, the cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus (NSF-OCE-1646709). Specifically, it provides a look at the very small and the very large aspects of phytoplankton, leading to a deeper understanding of energy, oxygen, biological scales, and the ocean system. The module begins by learning about the discovery of the tiniest phytoplankton in the ocean then moves to practice processing real oceanographic data from time-series stations such as Station ALOHA. Students consider whether humans could survive in a world without land plants by learning about the photosynthetic microbes teeming within every drop of seawater. At the end of the module, students showcase via art how the cells in a drop of seawater support human life and the global Earth system. Throughout this phenomenon-based three-dimensional unit, a Project-Based-Learning component, guides students as they explore microbial life in a drop of seawater. Students design and evaluate questions to investigate phytoplankton phenomena. Through their inquiry, they deepen their learning. Science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) are blended—, giving students opportunities to express their learned knowledge through many means.