Lesson Introduction

This lesson, written by Ann Lyon, South Seneca High School, allows students to develop a hypothesis to be tested while on-board the William Scandling during a Science on Seneca field trip. Once the students have developed their hypothesis, they design an experiment, attend the Science on Seneca field trip and use the equipment that they will need to test the hypothesis on the research vessel.

Lesson Outcomes

At the end of this lesson students will:

  • Be able to state the general geology, biology, and chemistry of Seneca Lake.
  • Understand how to use scientific instruments on the research vessel.
  • Be able to explain how the data they gather will be used by scientists.
  • Develop hypothesis and design a research plan to test hypothesis.

MST Standards

  • Standard 1 Key 1, 2, 3
  • Standard 2 Key 1
  • Standard 4 Key 6
  • Standard 5, Key 3
  • Standard 6 Key 2

Lesson Objectives

In this lesson students learn background information about the geology, biology, and chemistry of Seneca Lake and the Science on Seneca program. Students split up into groups of 3-4 and conduct independent research on topics pertaining to Seneca Lake. Once they have conducted research they will be asked to brainstorm hypothesis that can be tested once onboard the William Scandling research vessel on Seneca Lake. This lesson is broken out into 10 sessions. Each session running the length of one hour except for the last two sessions which include student presentations. Once completed students should have:

  • One - three stated hypothesis
  • Results based on their analyzing the data collected while onboard the William Scandling
  • Presentations of the findings


Session 1
Introduction to program: Students will pick up permission forms to be signed by students and guardians to take the Science on Seneca field trip. The instructor gives a presentation and reference material about the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake and the pre-visit power point presentation to start a discussion on how to conduct a scientific experiment. Students then break up into groups of 3-4 and research the following topics about Seneca Lake:

  • Group 1 - biology - mussels and bivalves
  • Group 2 - biology - zooplankton, phytoplankton
  • Group 3 - biology - water clarity, temperature, dissolved oxygen (see DO lesson for ideas)
  • Group 4 - chemistry - pH, chloride (see acid rain lesson for ideas)
  • Group 5 - geology - sediments - (see SOS manual or acid rain lesson for ideas)

Examples of hypothesis from South Seneca High School:

  1. Would we find more zebra mussels in near shore sediments versus offshore sediments?
  2. How does pH change with depth?
  3. How does plankton density change water clarity?
  4. How does DO change with depth and or temp?

Session 2
Introduction to equipment: After sharing their research findings students discuss what topics they would like to explore in more detail. The instructor then explains to students the type of scientific equipment that can be used on the Science on Seneca field trip using either the pre-visit power point. Students then brainstorm hypothesis they would like to test.

Session 3
Refine hypothesis: The instructor or education outreach coordinator from the Finger Lakes Institute will explain how data collected onboard the William Scandling is used by scientists. The instructor or education outreach coordinator from FLI can assist students with the narrowing down of hypothesis posed. Students refine their hypothesis based on the information gained to narrow the hypothesis down to 2-3 questions that can be tested given the time and equipment constraints of the Science on Seneca field trip experience.

Session 4
Students design experiments: Students will be asked to vote on the hypothesis they want to test on the field trip. The top 1-3 will be selected depending on how they correlate to one another. Students then break into their groups and design procedures to test their hypothesis while on the field trip. The instructor facilitates a group discussion to finalize the design. The students and instructor make a list of materials and equipment they will need and use while onboard the William Scandling and relate that information to the education outreach coordinator.

Session 5
Field trip: Students and instructor travel to the research vessel, students break into their groups and collect data at different scientific stations pre-determined by the hypothesis. Afterwards students tour the campus, and have lunch at the cafeteria (optional and need to set up with outreach coordinator).

Session 6
Analyze the data: Students return to their groups they collected data with on the research vessel. The instructor or education outreach coordinator from the Finger Lakes Institute discuss options for analyzing their data and how to present the information to the rest of the class or public. At this point students should check that their data sheets are filled out properly. Students discuss ways to analyze and present their data in their group setting. The groups present their ideas to the larger group for feedback.

Session 7
Computer lab: Students are taken to the computer lab to work on their charts, graphs and power point presentations. The instructor provides a lesson on how to use these computer software tools for their final presentations. Students move into groups to work on their presentations.

Session 8
Computer Lab: Students should continue to work on their presentations and include introductory slides about Seneca Lake from resources on the Science on Seneca Student Center; decide on conclusion and acknowledgement slides and who will give what parts of the presentation.

Session 9
Practice presentation to classmates: Set up the digital projector and have students practice their presentations. Decide on what notes they should have on hand to give their presentations. The instructor provides some feedback.

Session 10
Community forum: Students present their findings to a larger audience made up of other students, teachers, and community members.