Lesson Plans

Global Phytoplankton Distribution Story Map

Grade Band

  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Lesson Duration

  • >90 minutes

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts

Instructional Strategies

Download this page

Global Phytoplankton Distribution Story Map Icon

Purpose

This story map is intended to be used with students who have access to a computing device in a 1:1 or 1:2 setting. Using various visualizations (i.e., images, charts, and graphs), students will explore global phytoplankton distribution using chlorophyll concentration data. Students will investigate the processes that allow phytoplankton populations to thrive, as well as how their role in the carbon cycle impacts the other spheres of the Earth System. 

arrowThe story map is available by clicking here.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will analyze and compare multiple variables of the Earth System as they analyze the global distribution of phytoplankton. 
  • Students will observe annual patterns in chlorophyll concentration and shortwave radiation. 
  • Students will construct explanations and conclusions using evidence. 

NASA Phenomenon Connection

Phytoplankton account for roughly half of the net photosynthesis on Earth. Their photosynthesis consumes carbon dioxide and plays a key role in transferring carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean. Unlike the plant ecosystems on land, the amount of phytoplankton in the ocean is always followed closely by the abundance of other organisms that eat phytoplankton. By analzying the NASA ocean color satellite data, scientists have provided new insights into how climate and ecosystem processes effect and are affected by the growth cycles of phytoplankton. 

Essential Questions

  1. What conditions within the Earth System allow phytoplankton to thrive?
  2. How do changes in shortwave radiation affect the distribution of phytoplankton?
  3. What affect do sea surface temperature and ocean currents have on distribution of phytoplankton?
  4. How does chlorophyll concentration indicate the presence of phytoplankton?
  5. How do phytoplankton contribute to the carbon cycle?

Cross-Curricular Connections

National Geography Standards:

  • How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.

Materials Required

Resources Needed Per Student:

  • Student Data Sheet - Link

Resources Needed Per Group:

  • Computer/Tablet
  • Internet Access
  • Link to the "Creation of Urban Heat Island" Story Map - Link

Technology Requirements

  • Internet Required
  • One-to-a-Group

Background Information

At the bottom of the ocean's food chain, phytoplankton account for roughly half of the net photosynthesis on Earth. Their photosynthesis consumes carbon dioxide and plays a key role in transferring carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean. Unlike the plant ecosystems on land, the amount of phytoplankton in the ocean is always followed closely by the abundance of organisms that eat phytoplankton, creating a perpetual dance between predators and prey. 

To learn more, visit: 

Prerequisites Student Knowledge

  • Familiarity with finding coordinates on a map
  • Familiarity with line plots and bar graphs

Procedure

Visit the Story Map to access the 5 E Lesson. 

Phytoplankton Story Map Introduction Page

Extensions

 

data icon graph map

If your students need additional practice with data analysis, consider incorporating this story map with the My NASA Data Data Literacy Cubes.

STEM Career Connections

Botanist or Plant Scientist – Research plant characteristics like their physiological processes, evolutionary history, resistance to disease, and relationships to other parts of the Biosphere and Earth System 

Remote Sensing Specialist – Use sensors to analyze data and solve regional or global concerns such as natural resource management, urban planning, and climate and weather predictions

Environmental Engineering – Use their understanding of engineering and sciences such as soil science, biology, and chemistry, to develop solutions to problems in the environment which could include recycling, waste disposal, public health, or water and air pollution control