California’s 5th grade content lends itself well to an in-depth study of the San Francisco Estuary, allowing teachers to bring a place-based focus to their studies. An example instructional sequence is:
- Field trip or Habitat in a Bucket exploration of the San Francisco Estuary
- Modeling Matter Near Marshes (CA-NGSS 5-LS2-1)
- Interactions between the biosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and atmosphere using a lesson like this one: https://betterlesson.com/lesson/634345/the-earth-s-systems followed by an assessment activity incorporating what they learned into the models created in #2.
- Research projects about how people depended on the San Francisco Bay in 1600-1700s, 1850s, and present day (draft lesson available by emailing Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org) (California History and Social Studies 5.1.1)
- Exploration of how science ideas can help address the pollution and changes in the bay that resulted in people no longer being able to use it as a food source. (5-ESS3-1).
The sequence can be adapted to other complex ecosystems (oceans, lakes, forests, prairies) by substituting a few place-specific elements.