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Concept Maps
Floating and Sinking  |  Ecology  |  Plants: Structure & Function
  |  Organisms': Life Processes and Basic Needs

CONCEPT MAPS: ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES

The CRSEP Project has designed concept maps for many of the Science and Technology for Children (STC) Units used by CRSEP districts. The concept maps on this website are different from those aligned with STC units. These Essential Principles Concept Maps are organized around essential principles from the life sciences that are contained in the National Science Education Standards, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, state, and district science standards.

 Concept Maps: Their Form and Function

What-Concept maps are a unique form of diagrammatic representation of information contained in verbal and written discourse. They also serve as a way of representing overtly how information is organized in an individual’s mind. Concept maps show relationships between and among concepts. In the maps, concepts are contained in ellipses and the relationships among the concepts represented with arrows and connecting words or phrases. The connecting words or phrases are usually verbs but sometimes are prepositions.

Concept maps convey basic information without elaboration. They are summaries of elaborated chunks of information selecting out the most important principles (relationships between concepts). As such they contain the “take-home” messages or the essential principles of the topics they represent.

Text is often summarized in outline form. Concept maps have one very important difference from outlines. Outlines represent information sequentially, while concept maps represent principles as network structures, thus showing relationships among concepts and principles in text and spoken discourse, not the sequence in which they were presented.

For teachers- Concept maps act as quick notes for teachers by highlighting the basic information students should learn. The Essential Principles concept maps presented here highlight the principles students are expected to understand as specified by local, state, and national standards, which is somewhat different from and less detailed than Unit-aligned maps that usually highlight the information students should know on completing the respective instructional unit.

For students- Concept maps are learning tools for students. As an alternative to outlining, they provide students the opportunity to summarize what they have learned from doing a hands-on activity, from listening to a lecture, from viewing a film or video, or from reading text.  Teachers usually have students create their own concept maps.

For assessment- Teachers and students alike will find concept maps useful tools for assessing understanding. Teachers will find them useful for both formative and summative assessment. Student-created concept maps can be used both as assessments of the development of understanding as the students progress through individual learning activities-formative assessment and as measurement tools for what students have learned as a result of their experiences with the instructional unit or entire programs of study- summative assessment.

Students can use concept mapping as conceptual organizers and as a strategy for self-assessment. A concept map developed by a student prior to a learning activity representing what they understand about a topic to be addressed in a learning activity serves as a conceptual organizer for that activity. Comparison of concept maps developed before and then after learning activities serve as formative assessment of the learning that results from the activity.

For instance, prior to doing an investigation of the effects of fertilizer on plant growth, students might construct a concept map representing the factors that influence plant growth and the characteristics of well-designed scientific investigations. These concept maps then might be coordinated into additional concept maps representing the design of the investigation to learn the effects of fertilizers on plant growth. Following completion of the investigation, the maps might be reviewed and modified in light of the experience.   

LIFE SCIENCE ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES

What- Essential principles, also called big ideas and cross-disciplinary themes, are the foundation of a discipline’s knowledge. As such they are essential to an individual’s understanding of a discipline and serve to guide the development of an individual’s understanding of the discipline.

Understanding of an essential principle develops over the course of an individual’s education. Thus a 4th grade student’s understanding of the principle that all living things have basic needs will be less sophisticated that the understanding of a high school graduate, an individual with a BS in biology, a beginning graduate student in biology or the holder of a doctorate in biology.

Among principles essential to the life sciences contained in the national science standards, most state standards, and most local standards for grades K-8 are:

 

  • All living things (organisms) have basic needs.

 

  • The basic needs of plants and other chlorophyll containing organisms are similar but have significant differences from the basic needs of animals and other organisms without chlorophyll.

 

  • Organisms’ body structures and behaviors enable them to meet their basic needs in the environment in which they live and reproduce (Adaptation).

 

  • Earth’s biosphere contains large areas, biomes, each with different environmental conditions.

 

  • Each of the millions of species of  organisms in Earth’s biosphere have different body structures and behaviors (Diversity).

 

  • The sun is the primary energy source for all but a few of Earth’s organisms.

 

  • Energy and Chemical Substances are conserved in ecological systems.


The table below shows, for each of the Essential Principles, which of the Life Science Essential Principles Concept Maps support that principle -- and the STC Units that contribute to the development of that principle.

 ALIGNMENT 

Essential Principle

Concept Map

STC Units

All living things (organisms) have basic needs.

 

Organisms: Life Processes and Basic Needs

Organisms

Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Plant Growth and Development

Animal Studies

Ecosystems

Experiments with Plants

The basic needs of plants and other chlorophyll containing organisms are similar but have significant differences from the basic needs of animals and other organisms without chlorophyll.

Organisms: Life Processes and Basic Needs

 

Plants: Structure and Function

 

Animals: Diversity and Adaptation

Organisms

Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Plant Growth and Development

Animal Studies

Ecosystems

Experiments with Plants

Organisms’ body structures and behaviors enable them to meet their basic needs in the environment in which they live and reproduce (Adaptation).

Plants: Structure and Function

 

Animals: Diversity and Adaptation

Organisms

Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Animal Studies

Ecosystems

 

Earth’s biosphere contains large areas, biomes, each with different environmental conditions.

Ecosystems

Organisms

Animal Studies

Ecosystems

Each of the millions of species of  organisms in Earth’s biosphere have different body structures and behaviors (Diversity).

Ecosystems

Animals: Diversity and Adaptation

Plants: Structure and Function

Organisms

Animal Studies

             Ecosystems

 

The sun is the primary energy source for all but a few of Earth’s organisms.

 

 

Ecosystems

Organisms

Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Plant Growth and Development

Animal Studies

Ecosystems

Experiments with Plants

Energy and Chemical Substances are conserved in ecological systems.

Ecosystems

Ecosystems

 

 

Funded by the National Science Foundation

Copyright 2003 by the Capital Region Science Education Partnership.  This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9911868.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendation expressed this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.