This three-lesson kit introduces random sampling, one of the key concepts employed by scientists to study the natural environment, including microbial communities. In Lesson 1, students study the abundance and diversity of marine microbes. Colored beads in a bag represent different species of microbes, and the bag itself represents the ocean. Working in groups, each student randomly selects ten “microbes” from the “ocean”, and records the data. The students then compare the species composition of the samples they obtained to that of the entire population. In Lesson 2, technology is introduced. Students enter and graph data from Lesson 1 using Excel (a Microsoft Office program). In Lesson 3, statistics provide a means for students to assess how well their samples represent the total population. Lessons 1 and 2 are suitable for grades 6–12, and Lesson 3 is geared toward grades 9–12. All of the supplies in this kit are in support of Lesson 1. Computers (not provided) are required for Lesson 2 and may be optionally used for Lesson 3. If computers are not available, Lesson 2 may be omitted, and Lesson 3 can be taught directly following Lesson 1. Each of the three lessons requires approximately 50 minutes of class time.
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