There was a feeling of suppressed excitement in our Montessori middle school classroom this morning. The students were eagerly anticipating the arrival of Hiromi Uno (a graduate student at the Power Lab at UC Berkeley), who was coming to work with them on the topic of biodiversity.

Hiromi started off by giving a presentation to the Junior High and Upper Elementary classes. She posed the question: “What is biodiversity?” and led the students in an exploration of the topic. She shared how many species are known in many different taxa (mammals, birds, fish, plants, etc.). Students were particularly impressed with the number of insect species! At the beginning of the presentation, Hiromi had asked the students to guess how many species live on Earth - some guessed 5,000,000….which is the approximate number of insects by themselves!

Hiromi also talked to the students about research that she carried out in Malaysia, where she compared the biodiversity of different types of streams. It was wonderful to see the students work with the concepts of α- and β-diversity as they mentally tallied up numbers to see where the diversity was the greatest. montessorischool

Hiromi concluded the presentation by sharing some of the challenges to biodiversity today: habitat fragmentation, poaching, pollution, etc. and asking the students to consider how these factors are important.





Hiromi then led the middle school students on an exploration of Sausal Creek in neighboring Dimond Park. Students were able to collect a variety of different aquatic insects. They also discussed the different types of habitat found in the creek and the different factors that can make life more challenging in a variable aquatic environment such as Sausal Creek.

Students then helped transport the specimens back to the classroom where they spent an hour happily examining them under a dissecting microscope.

Montessori Science Oakland

Their “catch” ranged from dragonfly larvae to mosquito larvae (some may have been fed to the class’ beta fish!). One of the most interesting finds was a flatworm. After hearing about the regenerative powers of this special animal, the students cut it in half so that they could observe this process. When we finished, all the specimens were returned to the creek, with the exception of the flatworm.

What an experience! It certainly made this group of middle school students happy!

Thank you, Hiromi!

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