Starfish Investigation

Our saltwater aquarium has added many new experiences for the students at our school.  They have watched the creation of a healthy saltwater environment, contributed to the tank by adding various organisms, watched as fish thrive, and have also observe some of their deaths.  Regardless of the experience, the students always take something away from their encounters with the animals in the tank.  In this case, the students watched as one of their starfish died.  They had a number of questions.  So they set out to find answers. Coach Chip talked with the students about how the animals live in the fish tank together.  He explained that some fish do not live together well.  He also talked about how when an animal is sick it has a difficult time protecting itself.  The students recalled how the starfish had a damaged leg.  They began to speculate that maybe the crab ate him because he was too hurt.  Nohea told the class that starfish can “regenerate” their legs if they loose one.  The students wanted to see more.  Many of them took turns looking at the damaged part of the starfish under the microscope. The microscope allows the children to actively investigate things that they are curious about.  By providing them with this opportunity, the students learn to make effective observations, and it adds to their vocabulary through discussion of what is being viewed. Inspired by the information they gather, the students began to recreate models of the starfish. They  studied the pictures they drew after seeing the starfish under the microscope.  They examine fossilized starfish.  They counted the legs and determine that their starfish needed to have five legs.  They carefully kneaded the clay and rolled it flat before they began to carve out the shape of their initial starfish. The teacher began to show them that some starfish that had more than five legs.  Sophia and Cami counted the legs together.  They realized that some starfish can have eleven legs.  The students also viewed diagrams studied diagrams and noticed an opening on the center part of the starfish.  Nohea, Teagan, and Alex began to discuss this.  They looked at the fossil again and began to make adjustments to their initial models.Some of the students went back to the microscope after looking and the diagram and listening to a book about sea stars.  “Look at all the bumps,” Alex said.  “These are my bumps,” Nohea showed the girls. Some of the students thought that Nohea was on to something and began to rework their starfish. Through direct scientific observations, the students have a better grasp on not only the way this particular organism looks, they understand how it eats, moves, and regenerate appendages. By having our salt water tank available to the children everyday, they are able to see how the natural life cycles of underwater organisms.  They are becoming more familiar with the characteristics of ocean life by making observations everyday.


This activity addresses the following learning goals:

*  (9) Organisms and environments. The student knows that the living environment is composed of relationships between      organisms and the life cycles that occur. The student is expected to:

          (A) sort and classify living and nonliving things based upon whether or not they have basic needs and produce offspring;

          (B) analyze and record examples of interdependence found in various situations such as terrariums and aquariums or       pet and caregiver; and

          (C) gather evidence of interdependence among living organisms such as energy transfer through food chains and animals using plants for shelter.

*  (10) Organisms and environments. The student knows that organisms resemble their parents and have structures and processes that help them survive within their environments. The student is expected to:

          (A) investigate how the external characteristics of an animal are related to where it lives, how it moves, and what it eats;

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