Middle school

Populations, ecosystems, resource availability

Last Updated Dec 1, 2020

This unit will introduce students to the ethical and environmental issues created by the shark finning industry.  Students will develop questions about the industry while looking at a photo of shark fins removed from living sharks. Throughout the unit, students will analyze pieces of evidence to answer their questions and eventually come to understand the environmental effects of shark finning.


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Learning Objectives

Students will know

  • Population dynamics
  • Function of predator/prey relationship

Students will understand

  • How changes in populations lead to unbalanced ecosystems
  • Predator extinction can lead to extinction of other species lower down the food chain

Students will be able to

  • Investigate the effects of shark finning
  • Simulate population and ecosystem dynamics
  • Analyze data about the population dynamics to understand connections between predator, prey, and producers.
Standards Alignments + Connections

Next Generation Science Standards Connections

MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Connections

7.10B: describe how biodiversity contributes to the sustainability of an ecosystem

8.11A: investigate how organisms and populations in an ecosystem depend on and may compete for biotic factors such as food and abiotic factors such as quantity of light, water, range of temperatures, or soil composition

8.11C: recognize human dependence on ocean systems and explain how human activities such as runoff, artificial reefs, or use of resources have modified these systems


Italics denote aspects of the standard not covered in the activity bundle.


Introductory Phenomenon

Students are introduced to the issue of shark finning via the image below and develop initial questions.

Questions may include:

What types of fins are those?

What types of sharks did these come from?

What are the fins used for?

How often do these sharks get killed?

How does killing sharks affect the rest of the ocean?

Activities to Gather Evidence

Shark Finning Industry

Students watch National Geographic’s Shark Fin Soup and the Smithsonian’s What if There Were No Sharks?.  They then apply their knowledge of food chain effects to a visual model.

Population Dynamics

Students use a simulation to conduct experiments and collect population data about a given ecosystem.

Real World Data

Students analyze real-world research to investigate the relationship between sharks, sea turtles, and seagrass.

Shark Conservation

Students research a shark species and design a campaign poster in favor of its conservation.

Conclusion Assessment

Students must construct a claim backed up by evidence and reasoning to answer the following question: