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Discovering Science Connections

Lesson Plans

“Slithering Serpents” Lesson
Snake Locomotion Lab

Anne Salow, David Reavill, Veronica Vaca, Elena Skjerping, Laura Westervelt, Steve Wagner, Robert Weaver. Gear-Up: Science Connections Team.  Central Washington University, Ellensburg WA 98926.
Targets and Assessment Lesson Parameters
WA Science Standards Addressed:
• 9-12 INQA- Scientists generate and evaluate questions to investigate the natural world.
• 9-12 INQB - Scientific progress requires the use of various methods appropriate for answering different kinds of research questions, a thoughtful plan for gathering data needed to answer the question, and care in collecting, analyzing, and displaying the data.
• 9-12 INQC- Conclusions must be logical, based on evidence, and consistent with prior established knowledge.
Content Area: Biology
Overview: Students will gain experience in designing experiments, testing hypotheses, and presenting data.
Grade Level: 9-12
    Students will be assessed on their ability to:
 Design an experiment that tests a given research question.
 Analyzing data.
 Draw conclusions.
 Present data to peers.
 Turn in worksheet with a table. Suggested Time: 1:45 minute period.

Special Materials: Rotate materials through groups of 3-4 students.
• 0.5m x 0.5m carpet
• 0.25m x 1.5m box with sand
• 0.5m x 0.5 board with rocks glued on
• Smooth surface such as a table or plexiglas
• Live snakes: Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis), Common Boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), Rubber boa (Charina bottae), Gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer)

Learning Outcomes
Knowledge: Students will learn about snake biology, taxonomy, habitats, and locomotion   behavior. The will learn how to design an experiment to test a hypothesis. Students will be  introduced to different species of snakes and the habitats in which they live. In addition they will  be introduced to types of locomotion behavior snakes employ. Then they will make hypotheses  and design an experiment with the materials provided regarding the locomotion behavior of  specific species based on the habitats they occupy.
              Skills: In this lesson students gain exposure in:
o Taxonomic identification and species relationships.
o Analyzing habitat and morphological relationships of species.
o Designing experiments that test a research question.
o Analyzing data.
o Presenting data to their peers.

Teacher Instructions
At each of the 3 stations we will have 2 reptiles and one surface.  After talking as a group about reptiles, kids break into 3 groups, go to stations, identify snakes using guides, and talk about each species characteristics.  After each group has been to each station, we re-group and talk about movement as a class.  Then they return to the stations to do the surface experiments. After each group has been to each station we re-group and talk about their predictions, what surprised them, etc. and collect the last feedback page of their packet.
1. Introduce ourselves, say what we are going to do today, brief camp plug
a. Questions for whole group: what is a reptile, examples, etc
b. Snakes, no legs?

2. Break up into 3 small groups, identify snakes and lizards at stations using field guides, talk about species characteristics (size, color, habitat, diet, predators)

3. Introduce each type of movement
a. Questions for whole group: Why do different snakes move differently? How does the surface affect movement?
b. Which surfaces will snakes move faster/slower across?
c. How do you think movement will change for each surface or snake species?

4. Break up into 3 small groups:  Smooth station (carpet and table top),  sand station, peg board station. Each group should test ONE snake on each of the surfaces.
a. Do handout predictions and hypothesis before testing

5. Have each group record their data in a Table on the board. Talk as a group about last section on handout and the comparisons of each snake. What predictions did you have? What surprised you? What other snake experiments would you like to try? Collect feedback page from group.
“Slithering Serpents”
Snake Locomotion Lab Handout

Snakes are a diverse (3500+ species) and widely distributed group of vertebrates (animals with a backbone).  Snakes are found around the world and live in a wide range of habitats.  One very obvious feature of snakes is that they lack both front and hind-limbs.  This, at first, may seem to be a bad thing, however the goal of this exercise to show just how well, and easily snakes move across a variety of surfaces.
Materials: rock substrate board, “sand-track”, carpet, and a slick, smooth surface.
Snake to be tested:
Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
Common Boa constrictor (Boa constrictor)
Rubber boa (Charina bottae)
Gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer)
Snakes move in 3-4 basic ways, concertina, serpentine (side-pushing), sidewinding, and rectilinear (see below figure).  The type of movement used depends largely on the size and shape of the snake as well as the surface it is crawling across.
Today you will test each of the four snake species on each of the surfaces.  Based upon what you can observe about the snake, you will formulate hypotheses and predications about what type of movement the snake will use, and how fast it will crawl across a given surface

Surface 1: Rocky Surface
Snake tested:



Surface 2: Sand-track
Snake tested:


Surface 3: Carpet
Snake tested:


Surface 4: Smooth

Snake tested:




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