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The International Symposium on
Environmental Issues - Sydney, Australia


Notes to the Teacher

Is there a relationship between the ozone layer and phytoplankton?

What effects would changes in the ozone layer have on Antarctica's penguin population?

 The penguin population in Antarctica is diminishing. Scientific teams have already investigated predator-prey relationships, disease, and environmental pollution as possible causes. Data has been collected and analyzed. No correlation has been found between these factors and the penguins' decline. The International Symposium on Environmental Issues is meeting late next year in Sydney, Australia. Experts will present their findings on issues such as acid rain, global warming, alternative energy sources, endangered species, and ozone depletion. Many nations met for the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depletion in 1987. Ever since, your team of scientists has been studying the chemical reactions of ozone and its interaction with ultraviolet light. Could this possibly be connected to the penguin's decline in Antarctica? Working together, your team believes they will be the one to solve this puzzle. Find some warm clothes! Antarctica is a severe climate for surviving in the raw elements. The current temperature is -40° Celsius, and the wind is constantly howling at 35 mph. This makes for a wind chill factor of....what?! Well, let's go!


The Task

Your task is to investigate the Antarctic ecosystem, to determine if there could be a relationship between the depletion of high altitude ozone and a decline in the penguin population, to propose three actions that would most effectively prevent the depletion of high altitude ozone layer, and to present your findings to the International Symposium on Environmental Issues.

Include in your presentation:

  • Information on the ecosystem of Antarctica
  • A chart describing the living and non living ecological features of Antarctica
  • A diagram of a food web for Antarctica and a food chain for the penguin
  • Information on high altitude ozone: what it is and how it is destroyed
  • Information on ultraviolet radiation: what it is and what is its relationship to ozone
  • A graph depicting the level of UV-b radiation levels versus latitude
  • The effects of UV radiation on phytoplankton levels
  • A hypothesis based on your readings stating the relationship between ozone depletion and changes in the penguin population
  • A proposal which advocates three actions that would most effectively prevent the depletion of our protective high altitude ozone layer


The Process

  1. Discuss and record group expectations.
  2. Establish who will assume each role in your team: life scientist, physical scientist, and earth scientist.
  3. Before you begin your research, brainstorm as a team what members know relating to the tasks for each role. Next, develop questions based on this information. Use these questions to guide you in your research.
  4. Each team member is responsible for keeping a journal to record thoughts, questions, and information. Be sure to include in this journal a record of where you find your information. Each team member will act as a recorder for his/her part of the brainstorming and question development session.
  5. Meet as a team on a regular basis to reflect and record in your journal individual and group effectiveness.
  6. Using your brainstorming questions to guide you, research topics relating to your role.


    • Research the flora and fauna of Antarctica. Include habitat, niche, classification, adaptations, and pictures for the flora and fauna.
    • Research the food chain for the penguin and the food web of the Antarctic ecosystem. Your food web and food chain should include information on producers, consumers (herbivores, omnivores, carnivores, scavengers), and decomposers. Consider carrying capacity, predator-prey relationships, and rhythmic behaviors and how they describe interactions within an ecosystem.
    • Research the role that phytoplankton play in Antarctica's food web.
    • Present your findings to your team.
    • After learning about ozone and ultraviolet radiation from your teammates, work with the physical scientist and earth scientist to analyze current research on the effects of UV radiation on phytoplankton levels.


    • Research high altitude ozone with the earth scientist. Compare and contrast ground level ozone and high altitude ozone. Include descriptions of ozone's molecular structure, the causes for depletion of the ozone layer, the chemical reaction which destroys the ozone molecule, the health and environmental effects associated with depletion of high altitude ozone.
    • Make a diagram showing the levels of Antartica's ozone over 5 years.
    • Research ultraviolet radiation with the earth scientist. Include the characteristics of the electromagnetic spectrum and how wavelength relates to energy.
    • Research the interaction between ultraviolet radiation and ozone.
    • Present your findings to your team.
    • Work with the life scientist and earth scientist to determine how ultraviolet radiation affects phytoplankton.


    • Research the geographic features of Antarctica. Include a map, latitude, longitude, elevation, and description of the physical landscape and land formations.
    • Research the factors that influence the climate in Antarctica. Include precipitation and temperature. Additional factors could include prevailing winds, mountain ranges, bodies of water, and/or latitude.
    • Learn about the composition of Earth's atmosphere.
    • Work with the physical scientist on learning about high altitude ozone and ultraviolet radiation.
    • Make a graph depicting UV-b radiation versus latitude.
    • Present your findings to the team.
    • Work with the life scientist and physical scientist to determine how ultraviolet radiation affects phytoplankton.
  7. Meet as a team to share and discuss your information. Each team member is an expert in different areas, but in order to solve the puzzle, you must share your knowledge and determine how the living and non living parts of the Antarctic ecosystem interact.
  8. As a team, design a hypothesis stating a relationship between ozone levels and Antarctica's carrying capacity for penguins.
  9. After designing the hypothesis, research penguin population studies to see if any changes have occurred in recent years. Have any studies been conducted that have a similar hypothesis? If so, what were the results?
  10. As a team, research the Montreal Protocol of 1987 and evaluate what countries are presently doing in order to stop the depletion of ozone in the upper atmosphere.
  11. There are many ways that countries can stop the depletion of the ozone layer. As the nations make decisions as to future actions, they consider many factors. Consider the following questions:
    • How effective is this method at reducing the depletion of the ozone layer?
    • How long does it take to make a difference using this method?
    • How much does this method cost?
    • Is this method going to affect other sectors of the economy?
    • Does the entire population need to be committed to this method, or just the government? If the people need to be active in this method, how is the government going to motivate them to do so?
    • How practical is this method?

    After considering these and other factors, decide as a team the three ways the world's nations can most effectively prevent the destruction of our protective ozone layer. Be able to rationalize why you chose these three ways.

  12. As a team, design and prepare a presentation containing all of the required elements listed under the Task.
  13. Present what you have learned, your hypothesis, and your proposed actions to the International Symposium on Environmental Issues.


Learning Advice

Working Together-Before You Begin

  • Clarify team roles-what does each team member need to accomplish?
  • Establish expectations for team members-what behaviors do you expect of each?
  • Identify factors that will help make your team effective.
  • Identify factors that will cause your team to be ineffective-what factors will make your team unsuccessful?

Each team member should maintain a journal containing research information and references. You will share this information before the team designs a hypothesis and decides upon three actions for stopping the destruction of our ozone layer.

Designing Great Graphs

A Great Graph incorporates the following features:

  • A descriptive title
  • Lines and axes drawn with a straight edge
  • A legend or key
  • Properly labeled axes
  • Independent variable on x-axis; dependent variables on y-axes
  • Properly scaled axes with all intervals equal and the appropriate length of interval for the data
  • Appropriate units for all axes
  • Appropriate size of the overall graph (not too small)
  • Use of colored pencils for graphing lines and legend
  • Neatness
  • Accurately plotted coordinates

You have the option to generate your graphs electronically, but they should still incorporate all of the above features!

How to Design a Hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated prediction in regard to the relationship between two variables. The independent variable is generally thought of as the "cause", and is graphed on the x-axis. The dependent variable is generally thought of as the "effect", and graphed on the y-axis. Hypotheses are usually written in the following format:

If we increase/decrease the....(independent variable's action, the cause), then we will observe the....(dependent variable, the effect), because....(the inference, the explanation)...

Presentation Advice

Your purpose is to inform an international audience about the effects of ozone depletion on our earth's ecosystem, propose solutions that will stop the destruction, and convince nations to take action. Begin your presentation with a "grabber": something that will make your audience want to listen. Various "grabbers" include quotes, statements, statistics, personal experiences, or questions that make your audience think. Visual aides will keep your audience interested in what you have to say. Electronic presentations using HyperStudio or Claris Impact have high audience appeal.

Remember to use good presentation techniques:

  • Be interesting, exciting, convincing!
  • Make sure your presentation materials are well organized and neatly done=2E
  • Dress neatly. Remember, your appearance is part of the presentation.
  • Speak clearly and loudly enough for your audience to hear.
  • Keep eye contact with your audience.
  • Be well prepared; practice before the real thing.
  • End your presentation with an impact. Again, use a quote, concluding statement, personal experience, or question that will make your audience take action on your proposals.


Online Resources




Wind Chill and Temperature Conversions

Ozone and the Earth's Atmosphere

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Ultraviolet Radiation

Montreal Protocol




The Product: Use these questions to evaluate your product.

  • How adequately did you describe the geographic features of the Antarctic ecosystem?
  • How adequately did you address all factors influencing climate?
  • How accurately did your food chain/web reflect the flora/fauna for the Antarctic ecosystem?
  • How complete, accurate, and neat is your chart?
  • How complete, accurate, and neat is your graph?
  • Did you demonstrate a relationship between ozone and ultraviolet radiation?
  • Was your hypothesis designed properly?
  • Was your presentation informative, your proposal for action convincing?
  • Were the three actions you proposed supported by research? Did you consider the factors that would need to be taken into account for each action?

The Process:

  • Evaluate your effectiveness individually.
  • Evaluate your effectiveness as a team member.
  • Evaluate each of your team members for individual effectiveness.
  • Evaluate each of your team members for team effectiveness.



Review journal reflections on group effectiveness, then reflect silently on each of the following questions. Record your responses in your journal. As a group, discuss what you have written.

  1. What factors made our group effective?
  2. What factors made our group ineffective?
  3. What would you do differently in order to make your group work better together?
  4. Did you access and use information from a variety of resources?
  5. As you used resources, did you validate them? What type of questions did you ask to validate an Internet site? Did you evaluate the information for fact, opinion, or bias?
  6. What methods did you use to communicate information in your team's final presentation? What was most effective and why?



  • Do you think it is fair that industrialized nations must implement the Montreal Protocol Standards ten years earlier than non-industrialized nations? Why or why not?
  • What can you personally do to help reduce high altitude ozone depletion?



  • Learn about the history of Antarctica and how it's governed.
  • Conduct an experiment on the effects of UV radiation on phytoplankton. Using a flex cam, capture prepared wet mount slides of phytoplankton exposed to UV radiation. Due to safety concerns, exposure to UV radiation should be done only by your teacher. In addition, you could conduct cell-counts on the phytoplankton levels and extrapolate to larger populations.
  • Make a dual scaled graph of phytoplankton levels and UV radiation levels (dependent variables) versus the size of ozone hole (independent variable).


Notes to the Teacher

Lesson Title: The International Symposium on Environmental Issues - Sydney, Australia

Curricular Area: Science

Grade Level: 8-9

Goal/Purpose: (from the Science Framework for California Public Schools, 1990)

  • Relate interactions in atomic structure, molecular structure, and chemical reactions.
  • Infer the relationships between the electromagnetic spectrum, ultraviolet radiation, and energy.
  • Infer the relationships between climate, topography, geographic features, latitude, longitude, elevation, and atmosphere.
  • Sequence food chains.
  • Observe, compare, and communicate the relationships between these living and nonliving things, and apply that knowledge in the development of a hypothesis.

Length of Lesson: 3-9 weeks


  1. Presentation materials will depend on the student's choice of presentation method. Electronic presentations will depend upon available software and hardware (HyperStudio, PowerPoint, Claris Impact).
  2. Colored pencils, markers, poster board, graph paper will be needed for charts and graphs.
  3. Additional resource materials include: CD-ROMs, encyclopedias, text books, publications, videos, satellite images.

Interdisciplinary Connections: English-Language Arts, History-Social Studies, Health, Mathematics

Teacher Resources:

Prerequisite Learning:

  • basic ecology principles: specifically flora, fauna, food webs, factors influencing climate, geographic features
  • atomic and molecular structure
  • chemical reactions
  • electromagnetic spectrum
  • graphing
  • organization of information into chart form
  • how to design a hypothesis

Certain concepts may be taught prior to this activity, or embedded into the curriculum. Prerequisite learning and choice of methodology will determine the length of the unit. I precede this unit with the following activities:

  • Ecology - Students use habitat kits from the San Bernardino County Museum, allowing students to learn basic ecological principles and vocabulary using flora and fauna from local habitats.
  • World Biomes - Students pick an ecosystem and study the living and nonliving features using a variety of resources, such as Internet, CD-ROM, travel agents, and library resources. Students study factors influencing climate, geographic features, interactions, rhythmic behavior, and man1s influences. Students also learn basic research skills, how to do annotated bibliographies, and how to conduct Internet search and validation.
  • Global warming - Students are introduced to atomic and molecular structure of greenhouse gases, the biological carbon cycle, and balancing chemical equations using photosynthesis.

Using this timeline, the ozone depletion unit takes approximately 3 weeks, as students are applying principles and skills already learned.


  • Environmental issues tend to be controversial. Teach your students how to validate an Internet source by visiting the Internet Validation Site, developed by Memorial University.
  • Emphasize that team sharing of information is extremely important. The interrelationships are more easily understood with a clear understanding of the three basic science disciplines. This is what integrated science is all about.
  • Extensions may include the following:
    • Symbiotic Relationships (Mutualism, Parasitism, Commensalism)
    • Predator-Prey Relationships
    • Carrying Capacity and Growth Curves
    • Endangered Species
    • Rhythmic Behaviors (migration, hibernation, aestivation, diurnal/nocturnal activities)
    • Meteorology
    • Wind Chill Factor
    • The Atmosphere
    • Topographic Maps
    • Orienteering
    • Learn about the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, for ozone research
    • Learn about the evolution and composition of earth's atmosphere
    • Have students represent nations of varying developmental stages and debate the pros and cons of the proposed solutions to reducing the ozone hole.
    • Include other issues for the International Symposium on Environmental Issues: Global Warming, Ground Water Contamination, Endangered Species, Air Pollution, Deforestation, Alternative Energy Sources, Recycling
  • Consider inviting community members, board members, parents, and other classes to the International Symposium presentations.
  • Puzzle: Have students respond to the following scenario: A elderly person was slowly walking along when he stepped on a skate board, went flying, and broke several bones. How could this relate to ultraviolet radiation? Remember: UV is necessary for vitamin D production; vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption in bones; and UV exposure causes cataracts and skin cancer.


Written by Linda Jungwirth, Yucaipa Junior High School, Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District

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