Technology use in science classes can enhance lessons and reinforce scientific content. The creation of multimedia projects is a great way to engage students in lessons about estuarine ecosystems. In this activity, students can learn about estuarine organisms and use their creativity to write a story, create artwork, and develop a multimedia presentation about the organisms using the Microsoft PowerPoint program. The projects can then be shared to inform others about life in an estuary.

Students today live in a world filled with technology that is always changing and evolving. In the science classroom, technology can be used to help students conduct research, manage data, and present information. Technology use enables teachers to develop engaging lessons that address the diverse learning styles and needs of students. Opportunities for students to utilize various forms of technology can be useful as they explore scientific concepts.

This activity focuses on the use of Microsoft PowerPoint to create multimedia presentations and is designed for students in fourth or fifth grade. Students will work collaboratively to collect information on an estuarine organism, engage in creative writing, and design a multimedia presentation using the software program. Collaboration allows students to share ideas, plan, and divide tasks as they work toward completing the project. The final product can be presented in class. Background material can also be compiled in a brochure format similar to the activity described by Fogleman and Curran (2006).

The term “multimedia” refers to software that incorporates several types of media, such as text, clip art, graphics, audio, and video (Heide & Henderson, 2001). The three main types are multimedia compositions, multimedia presentations, and multimedia games (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). Creating multimedia projects can open a whole new world of discovery and learning for students and encourage them to take an active role in learning.

The use of programs such as PowerPoint can provide for meaningful and engaging learning activities for students. Although PowerPoint is not a new software program, it can be an effective tool for teaching students how to create presentations. PowerPoint is accessible to students and teachers in many schools. Enabling students to create multimedia presentations with this software is a great way to encourage technology use and expand upon content learned in class. This activity demonstrates that technology use does not always have to involve using the latest new device or software program in order to be effective.

The purpose of this activity is to encourage learning about an estuarine organism while enabling students to use their creativity to develop a multimedia presentation. The result will be an artfully designed final product that students can use to share the information with others. More information on additional ways to teach students about estuarine organisms can be found in Aultman and Curran (2008) and Aultman et al. (2010).

The following national standards will be addressed in this activity:

Next Generation Science Standards

  • 5-LS2. Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics.

  • 5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment (NGSS Lead States, 2013).

Common Core Standards: Writing Standards K–5

  • Grades 4 and 5: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

  • Grades 4 and 5: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed, by planning, revising, and editing (Common Core Standards, 2010).

Ocean Literacy Principles

The activities focus on writing, illustrating, and technology use; therefore, there are minimal safety concerns for students. Experimentation will not be completed during this activity unless the teacher chooses to add this enrichment. Students will use the Internet for research, and school Internet safety policies should be followed. If field trips are planned, safety guidelines should be followed as outlined by the appropriate overseeing body.

Activity 1 is designed to provide students with information about the estuarine ecosystem, with specific emphasis on an estuarine organism. Prior to the activity, the teacher will use the Internet, clip art, or print sources to locate pictures of an estuarine organism of their choosing, as well as other animals and plants. Search engines such as Google and Bing are effective tools for obtaining pictures and information about estuarine organisms and the ecosystems in which they live. The teacher will introduce the activity by providing students with a fact sheet that he or she has created about the estuarine organism and initiate discussion about the information. Students will obtain additional information on the organism for their fact sheet via the Internet and/or written resources. See the online Supplemental Material for an example of background information and a handout that can be used to provide students with information about an estuarine organism such as grass shrimp (http://www.savannahstate.edu/documents/GrassShrimpBackground_FactSheet.pdf).

An instructional video could be used to provide students with information about the estuarine ecosystem. A field trip to a marine science center or aquarium could also be planned as an introduction to the unit. During this trip, students could use smart phones, tablets, or digital cameras to take pictures. A marine scientist could also be invited to class to give a presentation about estuarine ecosystems and organisms. If the guest speaker is not available to physically visit the class, a video conferencing session could be planned.

Approximate Teaching Time

Two class sessions lasting approximately 45 minutes. The class session may be longer if a field trip is planned.

Objectives

Students will obtain information about an estuarine organism and its ecosystem via the Internet and/or written resources.

Materials

  • Computers or tablets

  • Document camera and interactive whiteboard (optional)

  • Fact sheet (generated by the teacher, based on the organism selected for the activity)

  • Pictures of estuarine animals and plants obtained by the teacher

  • Paper

  • Pens

Procedures

  1. Place students in groups of about three. Group size may vary, based on the total number of students.

  2. Provide each group with a copy of a fact sheet. See the online Supplemental Material for an example of a handout used to provide students with information about an estuarine organism such as grass shrimp (http://www.savannahstate.edu/documents/ GrassShrimpBackground_FactSheet.pdf).

  3. Have students use the Internet and/or written resources to complete the sheet.

  4. Provide students with pictures of the estuarine organism, as well as other animals and plants. Discuss characteristics of the animals and plants, with specific emphasis placed on the estuarine organism that the teacher has selected for the activity.

  5. Pictures can be shown to the whole class using a document camera and interactive whiteboard. Individual sets of pictures can also be provided to the student groups.

During Activity 2, the students will work in groups to use the information gathered during Activity 1 to write a story about the estuarine organism. The students will be encouraged to create an interesting title and story. An example of a story created about grass shrimp can be found at http://www.savannahstate.edu/documents/A-Day-in-the-Life-of-Grass-Shrimp.ppt. Approximate teaching time: two or three class sessions, ~45 minutes each.

Objectives

Students will work collaboratively with group members to write a story about the estuarine organism.

Materials

  • Interactive whiteboards, computers, or tablets

  • Fact sheet (generated by the teacher, based on the organism selected for the activity)

  • Pictures of estuarine animals and plants obtained by the teacher

  • Paper

  • Pens

Procedures

  1. Use an interactive whiteboard to show students an example of a story about grass shrimp (available at http://www.savannahstate.edu/documents/A-Day-in-the-Life-of-Grass-Shrimp.ppt). If an interactive whiteboard is not available, the example can be uploaded on computers or tablets for students to view.

  2. Have students work collaboratively to brainstorm ideas and write a draft of a story. The story should include facts about the following:

    • Organism description

    • Habitat

    • Diet/role in food web

    • Predators

    • Parasites (if applicable)

  3. Have students work with group members to edit the story.

  4. Meet with group members to read over the stories to ensure that the factual material is adequate and accurate.

In Activity 3, students will develop a storyboard to organize the story. The storyboard will include a detailed plan of the text, slide order, and graphics. Students will also create illustrations to go along with the slides in the story (an example of a full storyboard can be found at http://www.savannahstate.edu/documents/A-Day-in-the-Life-of-Grass-Shrimp.ppt). Approximate teaching time: two class sessions, each ~45 minutes.

Objectives

  • Students will use the storyboard table to organize the story.

  • Students will create illustrations to go along with the story.

Materials

  • Computers or tablets

  • Document camera and Interactive whiteboard

  • Pictures of estuarine animals and plants obtained by the teacher

  • Story draft from Activity 2

  • Storyboard table (Table 1)

  • Fact sheet (generated by the teacher, based on the organism selected for the activity)

  • Paper

  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons

Table 1.

Storyboard table. Write the text in the narrative section as it will appear in your presentation.

Slide numberTopicNarrative
Introduction  
Organism Description  
Habitat  
Diet/Role in Food Web  
Predators  
Parasites  
Conclusion  
References  
Additional Information  
Slide numberTopicNarrative
Introduction  
Organism Description  
Habitat  
Diet/Role in Food Web  
Predators  
Parasites  
Conclusion  
References  
Additional Information  

Procedures

  1. Provide students with a copy of the storyboard table (Table 1) and explain how it is used to organize their story.

  2. Provide students with pictures of estuarine animals and plants for them to refer to while creating illustrations.

  3. Have students draw and color illustrations to go along with the pages in the story. Students can number the back of the illustrations so that the illustration number can be written on the appropriate slide when completing the storyboard table (Table 1).

  4. The storyboard should include the following slides:

    • Title page

    • Introduction

    • Organism description

    • Habitat

    • Diet/role in food web

    • Predators

    • Parasites (if applicable)

    • Conclusion

    • References

In Activity 4, students will use the PowerPoint program to create multimedia presentations. Instruction will take place in the computer lab. The teacher will use an interactive whiteboard to provide demonstrations of how to put the presentation together, followed by student application. Approximate teaching time: two class sessions, each ~45 minutes.

Objectives

Students will use the completed storyboard to create a multimedia presentation using the PowerPoint program. Students will share the completed presentations with the class.

Materials

  • Tablets or computers with Microsoft PowerPoint

  • Interactive whiteboard

  • Recording-enabled computer or microphone

  • Scanner

  • Digital cameras

  • Completed storyboard table

Procedures

  1. Demonstrate how to open the PowerPoint program and type the story title. Allow students time to complete this task.

  2. Show students how to insert a new slide. Allow time for students to insert the number of slides needed for their story, based on the storyboard.

  3. Demonstrate how to scan, insert, position, and size pictures to fit the slide in PowerPoint. Have students scan their pictures. After each picture is scanned, allow students time to position and size the picture.

  4. Show students how to insert text boxes and allow time to insert them and add text based on how the storyboard is set up.

  5. Once students have finished typing their story, demonstrate how to change fonts, font color, and size. Allow students time to experiment and select an appropriate font color and size (e.g., clear and readable) for their story.

  6. Demonstrate how to change the background and insert clip art and then allow students time to complete this task.

  7. Show students how to insert transitions for the slides. Students will select a transition type for their presentation.

  8. Demonstrate how to record narration, save narration, and add music. Allow students time to practice reading the story aloud with group members before recording narration. Recordings may need to be completed one group at a time, or in a different class setting, so that the environment is quiet for recording. If recordings do need to be completed one group at a time, groups waiting should continue practicing reading their stories quietly.

  9. When presentations are complete, have students share their stories with the class.

Allowing students to develop multimedia presentations is a great way to encourage technology use and reinforce content learned in class. Although PowerPoint is not a newer software program, it can be an effective tool for teaching students how to make presentations. Many schools have this software, and it is accessible to students and teachers. In this activity, students will be able to explore some features of the program that they may not have used before. This activity demonstrates that technology use does not always have to involve using the latest device or software program in order for students to create awesome presentations.

Modifications

Modifications can be made to the student groups, depending on grade level. Students can be placed in larger groups to reduce the amount of individual work required. Other types of technology could be used to enhance or accommodate learning styles (digital cameras, video cameras, microscopes). Teachers could also modify this activity by using a software program other than PowerPoint. Programs such as Windows Movie Maker or Prezi could also be used to create multimedia presentations.

Enrichment

Students can share their presentations with students in other classes to teach them about estuarine organisms. If field trips are planned and specimens are collected, students can participate in laboratories based on animal behavior and/or microscope use. Students could also record a video of their field trip activities and use a program such as iMovie to create a movie about their experience. In addition, the school’s art teacher could be invited to the class to assist students with their illustrations and with creation of their story if desired. Other teachers could also be invited to the classroom to participate in the activity, if time permits.

Assessment

Presentations can be graded using the project rubric provided (Table 2).

Table 2.

Project rubric.

Students1 Beginning2 Developing3 Proficient4 Exemplary
STORYBOARD     
Students completed storyboard prior to computer creation.     
CONTENT     
Story addressed required content.     
Students used correct punctuation, grammar, and spelling.     
Facts were accurate and thorough.     
DESIGN     
Sequence of information was logical.     
Presentation contained multiple elements such as text, graphics, and sound.     
Font choices, color, and size were appropriate (e.g., clear, readable).     
PRESENTATION     
Audio was clear and easy to understand.     
Illustrations were visually appealing.     
SCORE 
Students1 Beginning2 Developing3 Proficient4 Exemplary
STORYBOARD     
Students completed storyboard prior to computer creation.     
CONTENT     
Story addressed required content.     
Students used correct punctuation, grammar, and spelling.     
Facts were accurate and thorough.     
DESIGN     
Sequence of information was logical.     
Presentation contained multiple elements such as text, graphics, and sound.     
Font choices, color, and size were appropriate (e.g., clear, readable).     
PRESENTATION     
Audio was clear and easy to understand.     
Illustrations were visually appealing.     
SCORE 

Funding was provided by the NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (award no. NA06OAR4810163), which also supported the 2010 Savannah State Marine Coast Camp, where this activity was tested. We thank Shannon and Evan Gerido for creating the “All About Grass Shrimp” example presentation. A special thanks to Michele B. Sherman for her editing assistance. This publication is also listed as Contribution Number 1702 of the Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Science.

Alessi, S. & Trollip, S. (2001). Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Development. Needham Heights, MA: Pearson Education.
Aultman, T. & Curran, M.C. (2008). Grass shrimp: small size but big role in food web. Current: Journal of Marine Education, 24, 29–33.
Aultman, T., Curran, M.C. & Partridge, M. (2010). Bringing scientific inquiry alive using real grass shrimp research. NSTA Science Scope, 33, 54–60.
Fogleman, T. & Curran, M.C. (2006). Save our salt marshes! Using educational brochures to increase student awareness of salt marsh ecology. Current: Journal of Marine Education, 22, 23–25.
Heide, A. & Henderson, D. (2001). Active Learning in the Digital Age Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
National Geographic Society et al. (2013). Ocean literacy: the essential principles and fundamental concepts of ocean sciences for learners of all ages, version 2. Available at http://www.coexploration.org/oceanliteracy/documents/OceanLitChart.pdf.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Washington, DC: National Governors Association.
NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.