Sponges 5E Learning Cycle

What can we learn from sponge research?

Sponges are a little-known type of organism to most K12 students, therefore they offer a unique opportunity for inquiry when teaching about biological classification, ecology, history of life on Earth, form and function, adaptations and habitats, biochemistry, cell biology, ecosystem services, impact of environmental factors such as climate change on coral reefs and other topics.

The purpose of this 5E Learning Cycle is to help science educators integrate sponge ecology concepts into their Earth and Environmental Science or Biology courses in high school. The module introduces the basic biology of sponges and their role in coral reef. Students learn about authentic scientific studies being carried out in The Fiore Lab at Appalachian State University, and practice how to interpret and analyze sponge research data. The activities are aligned with NGSS performance expectations.

These educational activities were developed in collaboration with Dr. Cara Fiore (App State Department of Biology) and Jackie Keleher while she was a graduate student at Appalachian State University. To learn more about their research involving sponges and nutrient cycling in coral reefs, visit the Fiore Lab page: https://fiorelabsymbiosis.org/  


Learning Module Resources:

  • The complete Sponges 5E Learning Cycle can be found here as a pdf or Google doc.- This document is intended as a guide for educators and includes all the components including student handouts, slides, etc. required for facilitating the activities that make up the learning module. 
  • Sponge Activity Slides (these slides can be used to walk the students through the entire learning cycle, including the opening activity, the main exploration and the background information related to the research project). 
  • CER Template- In preparation for the main activity (the Sponge Data Analysis), students learn about the basic biological classification of sponges through the Claims-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) approach. The purpose of this exercise is to help students understand how scientific explanations are created based on argumentation. The Activity Slides can be used to set the scene for this exercise. Any CER template can be used, the one included in the lesson plan is from The Biology Corner. 
  • The Sponge Food Web Activity asks students to consider how sponges fit into the coral reef food web. Students first create two food chains, they connect them and additional organisms from a list provided, to create a food web.  This activity was created based on the information provided at https://discoverthecoralreef.weebly.com/food-web.html which also includes the answer to the exercise