Module Anchor Phenomena—Middle School

Module Anchor Phenomena—Middle School

Phenomena provide students with exciting and tangible real-world examples of science, inspiring them to fully engage with their learning. Phenomena also present opportunities for encouraging student inquiry—allowing them to ask questions as they observe each phenomenon. This further inspires them to research more deeply and independently and discover just how the world around us works. We’ve put together some of the Anchor Phenomena your students will encounter in Twig Science Next Gen for Grades 6–8—plus some fun facts that might surprise you.

Module 1: Under the Microscope

Module Anchor Phenomenon: Different medical conditions can affect patients’ bodies in different ways: bone fractures cause reduced mobility, pain, and swelling; food poisoning causes nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps; sickle cell anemia causes sores, swelling, and tiredness; neurological problems can cause pain, dizziness, numbness, memory loss, and changes in senses; and heart attacks can cause chest pain, tightness, and difficulty breathing.

Did you know? Have your eyelids and your bones ever felt physically heavy because you’re so tired? Or do you ever find yourself drifting off in the middle of your favorite show in the evening? These things happen to all of us now and again, but the effect that a lack of sleep—or sleep deprivation—has on your health can be detrimental. Every process your body performs depends on your quality of sleep. Your immune system, for example, produces antibodies and cytokines that fight bacteria and viruses while you sleep. Some cytokines also aid in the function of sleep so that your immune system can more efficiently protect you from illnesses. Without sufficient sleep, your immune system can’t protect you properly, making you more susceptible to sickness and giving you longer recovery times. Sleep deprivation can also harm hormone production, increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases, and contribute to psychological illnesses!

Module 3: CreATe Network

Module Anchor Phenomenon: The weather changes, which means there can be different weather conditions on different days. It can be sunny, cloudy, or foggy. On some days there might be rain or snow. The air can be still, or there might be strong winds. These winds can blow from different directions.

Did you know? Harnessing the power of the weather has helped to reduce our global reliance on fossil fuels in recent decades. Today, approximately 28% of the world’s electrical energy is generated by renewable energy sources. But did you know that we’ve been harnessing the power of wind for much longer? We have, of course, been using wind for sailboats since time immemorial. As early as 200 BCE, simple wind-powered water pumps were used in China, while windmills with blades constructed of woven reed were used to grind grain in Persia and the Middle East. The very first wind turbine for the production of electricity was invented by Professor James Blythe of the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, in 1887—but the public turned down his offer to light the main street of Marykirk because they thought that electricity was “the work of the devil!”

Module 3: Model Earth

Module Anchor Phenomenon: Climates vary from region to region around the world. 

Did you know? Climate and weather are, of course, not the same, but they are intrinsically linked. Climate tends to refer to the long-term phenomena of weather, but not exclusively! For example, have you ever heard of El Niño or La Niña? These are short-term changes in climate, dictated by the wind, wherein the trade winds weaken or change direction and warm water accumulates on the surface of the pacific ocean. Under normal climate conditions, upwelling pushes cold, nutrient-rich water from the depths of the ocean to the surface, but during El Niño, upwelling weakens or even stops completely. A lack of nutrients from the ocean’s depths means there are fewer phytoplankton off the coast, affecting fish and those further up the food chain that eat them—including us! La Niña is the reverse phenomena, bringing stronger trade winds and pushing warmer water toward Asia, prompting greater upwelling across the west coast of the Americas, and providing optimal conditions for marine life and attracting cold-water species of fish including squid and salmon.

Module 5: Life Through a Lens

Module Anchor Phenomenon: Animals that live in hot environments have different habits, traits, and features than animals that live in cold environments. In hot environments, many animals spend their time underground or sheltering in burrows or caves during the day. Many desert reptiles can be found basking on rocks or river banks. In cold environments, many of the animals have thick fur or feathers, and a layer of blubber under their skin. There are no reptiles or amphibians in cold environments in our data sample.

Did you know? The world around us is full of countless incredible creatures that have evolved to perfectly adapt to their environment. You probably don’t need to think too hard to come up with animals like hummingbirds, chameleons, or arctic ground squirrels—but have you ever heard of the desert kangaroo rat? These cute little critters are found in the south-west desert areas of North America, living in burrow systems underground and sleeping in dens that are sealed during the hottest parts of the day. The reason why the kangaroo rat is so interesting is to do with its ability to metabolize water from its food—if it had to, it could go its whole life without ever drinking a drop of water. Instead, it is able to choose seeds with the highest nutritional content and hydrate with their macronutrients, going as long as a month at a time without finding other water sources.

Module 7: North Island Rescue

Module Anchor Phenomenon: Many of the species found in New Zealand can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. These animals and plants interact with each other and the environment as part of an ecosystem. Different plant and animal species have unique traits that help them to thrive in the environments in which they live. Within every plant and animal species we can also observe differences in these traits. 

Did you know? Bats are actually the only land mammals that are native to New Zealand, and the two species—the long-tailed bat and the lesser short-tailed bat—are classified as critically endangered. Known as pekpeka in Māori, they are culturally associated with a mythical bird that flies in the dead of night called Hokioi, who foretells death or disaster. Weighing as little as 8–12g, the life expectancy of the species is actually unknown, and both their body temperature and metabolism vary wildly. Observation has shown that they can live beyond a decade and that reproduction can begin from the age about two or three years old, but there’s still lots we don’t know for certain! The species (specifically the long-tailed bat) was named New Zealand’s bird of the year in 2021—despite, of course, not being a bird!

Module 9: Emergency Hydration

Module Anchor Phenomenon: Access to clean water can be affected by natural disasters. It may only be possible to access contaminated water which is unsafe to drink.

Did you know? Obstacles preventing communities in developing nations around the world from accessing clean, potable drinking water is a huge social justice issue. Access to clean water is something that many of us don’t even think about, depending on where we live, but 2.2 billion people worldwide don’t have adequate access to safe, clean water. The United Nations reports that there are at least 5 key reasons why potable water is crucial for people to thrive beyond the basic need of hydration. These include sustainable development, socio-economic development, energy and food security, healthy ecosystems, and health and sanitation. One of the most efficient ways of filtering water in developing nations is through membrane separation, which uses high pressure to push water through a porous barrier, effectively separating nearly any contaminants—including pathogens, bacteria, and arsenic—and requires little maintenance, with a long lifespan.

Module 10: The Resource Race

Module Anchor Phenomenon: Access to clean water can be affected by natural disasters. It may only be possible to access contaminated water which is unsafe to drink.Comparing electric and gas-powered cars shows that they require some different natural resources. Gas powered cars require gasoline, lead, and platinum, which electric cars do not need. Electric cars require lithium, cobalt, and nickel, which gas powered cars do not need. The number and proportion of electric powered cars is predicted to rise, and the number and proportion of gas powered cars is predicted to fall, which changes how much of these natural resources are required. 

Did you know? Hybrid cars produce as much as 90% less pollutants than their conventional counterparts? There are now more than 90 million electric cars worldwide, with the global sale of electric cars increasing by 160% in 2021. That 90 million represents only 0.7% of all cars worldwide, but this statistic is set to explode by 2030, with the percentage reaching as much as 7%. With the development and mass market adoption of electric and hybrid cars still in its infancy, you might be surprised to learn that the very first electric car was invented in 1884 by the English inventor Thomas Parker, while the first in the US was produced by William Morrison in 1890. Capable of carrying six people and reaching an average speed of 14mph, the cars quickly fell out of fashion when the gasoline engine and its cheaper running costs appeared.

Module 11: The Plastic Tide

Module Anchor Phenomenon: It’s estimated that by 2050, there will be a greater mass of plastic in the ocean than fish. How can we reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean?

Did you know? It’s horrifying but true: by 2050 it is projected we’ll have more microplastic in our oceans than fish, and this disruption in our ecosystem is already having far-reaching and detrimental effects. It is now estimated that humans may be consuming anywhere between 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year—adding up to around 22kg (44lb) across an individual’s lifetime. In fact, the amount of plastic currently present in our oceans is already a staggering 269,000 tonnes—roughly the same weight as 1,345 adult blue whales—so it’s no wonder that scientists believe 96% of all biodiversity ingests microplastics in our oceans. When you consider that a single plastic bottle (a macroplastic) will break down into more than 10,000 microplastics when it disintegrates, you begin to understand the role that we all play as individuals. The best thing we can do to save our oceans is to cut down our consumption of single-use plastics and recycle any plastics we do use safely and responsibly. 

Module 13: Dinosaur Trail

Module Anchor Phenomenon: There are many different kinds of fossils: for example, dinosaurs, fish, shellfish, plants, footprints, and even coprolites. They are found at the Earth’s surface all around the world in rocks that make up cliffs, canyons, and other rocky outcrops.

Did you know? Mary Anning was one of the most prolific paleontologists of her time and responsible for a constellation of firsts in the field. Male scientists—who would buy the fossils Mary had discovered, cleaned, and identified—usually did not credit her in their academic papers on the finds, and the Geological Society of London also refused to admit her, or even any women until 1904! Mary is perhaps most famous for her discovery of the Plesiosaurus fossil (meaning “near to reptile”) in 1823, as it was the first complete skeleton of its kind. Not only did her status as a woman mean that people were quick to discredit her, but the study of the Holocene epoch was still in its infancy. Georges Cuvier—known as the father of paleontology—had only just introduced his theory of extinction, and Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was still roughly four decades away.

Module 28: The Bees’ Needs

Module Anchor Phenomenon: Monitoring animals in the wild is a challenging but important task. Scientists use a range of different technologies to gather and store information about animals in order to learn about their behaviors. The number of honeybee colonies in the United States declined from around 3,500,000 in the 1990s, to a low of 2,500,000 in 2010. The current number of colonies is around 2,800,000.

Did you know? Have you ever heard that scientists don’t understand how bees are able to fly? Well, that’s actually a myth! In fact, we know that bees beat their wings approximately 11,400 times per minute, creating miniature hurricane-like winds that propel them through the air. If you ever see a sleepy little bee that doesn’t look like it’s moving, you need to know that it isn’t dying—it has just miscalculated how long its flight home is. Having flown miles upon miles, all they need is a little boost of energy to help them get home. If you mix up some sugar water for them and pour it into a little dish, a bottle cap, or even just a teaspoon, they’ll be good to go in no time! Cumulatively, hives will fly more than 55,000 miles just to create a single pound of honey, so it’s more than understandable that these busy little bees will need a break from time to time. As honeybee colonies continue to be volatile and the future of pollination hangs in the balance, it’s important that we help where we can!

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