Middle School Science Lesson for Teaching NGSS MS-LS2-1 and MS-LS2-4

Have you seen the news about Alaska's snow crabs??

A mass mortality event caused Alaska to cancel its 2022-2023 snow crab season. In 2018, snow crabs in the Bering Sea had a huge population of 11.7 billion, but their numbers dropped suddenly and dramatically to only 1.9 billion in 2022. The reason why? The Bering Sea's cold pool, the super chilly area on the ocean floor where snow crabs live, was almost nonexistent for two years in a row. But what exactly caused the crabs to die? Was it disease, crab cannibalism, new predators, stiff competition for resources, or something else entirely? Scientists are on a mission to find out. 

I love bringing important current events into my lessons in science class. This fascinating current event is a perfect way to teach the NGSS MS-LS2-1 and MS-LS2-4. I have created a lesson plan for middle school science teachers to easily and effectively teach these two standards using the present-day example of Alaska's snow crabs. 

What's in the lesson?

To save you time digging through the Internet and processing articles about Alaska's snow crabs, a thorough background information page will get you acquainted with what's going on with the snow crabs in the Bering Sea. A page providing teaching directions and outlining various lesson options will help you select the best way to present this information to your students. 

Snow Crab Info for Teachers & Lesson Directions

When you're ready to teach this lesson, you will provide your students with a snow crab information page that has graphs to analyze. Once students examine the graphs, they will complete a data trends reflection to understand what is happening to the crab population and start to think about why the population is declining. 

Student Pages

After students complete the data trends reflection, you will be ready to begin a discussion and really meet the MS-LS2-1 and MS-LS2-4 standards. This lesson will provide you with eighteen discussion questions. How you present those discussion questions is up to you. Will you give each student a discussion question and have them complete a written, video, or audio project? If you do, a grading sheet is included and ready for you to easily assess your students. Or will you post the discussion questions around the room in the form of stations that your students can complete in pairs or small groups? Don't have room for stations in your classroom? Then you can give groups of students a set of discussion cards to go through together while group members take turns recording answers. What if you don't have time for the extra step of cutting out cards, or what if a student is absent and needs to make up the lesson? Well, just use the discussion question page with all of the questions listed.

MS-LS2-1 and MS-LS2-4 Discussion Questions

The Next Generation Science Standards my lesson covers are as follows:

  • MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

Why you'll love this lesson:

I know you and your students will love this lesson about Alaska's snow crabs. You will love it because it will save you an enormous amount of planning time, allowing you to bring in an interesting present-day event that is well-aligned to the standards you need to teach your students. Although snow crabs are certainly not warm or fuzzy, your students will love this lesson because it's a real-life current event where students can see how a small physical change in an ecosystem can have a massive effect on an organism's population. 

Where you can get this lesson:

This lesson is available on several different websites so you can add it to your classroom today.
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