Exploring the wonders of cephalopods: a week of discovery and collaboration

By Patricia Maragos, Science Department Coordinator

Last April, to celebrate Earth Week, the St PETER’S Science Department decided to create awareness about Cephalopods throughout the school, through collaborative investigations between the secondary and primary students. 

The idea of organizing a week dedicated to Cephalopods came from a popular Science podcast called Science Friday. Scientists who explore these magnificent creatures come together every year and share their knowledge with the audience. From defense mechanisms to being masters at shape shifting and camouflage, these are truly the super heroes of the marine environment. 

What are Cephalopods you may ask? Cephalopods means head foot in greek. These are marine animals who have a large head, a complex brain and multiple arms/tentacles that allow them to propel themselves forwards and capture prey. When one thinks of Cephalopods, the octopus, squid, cuttlefish and nautilus come to mind.

We started the week by inviting Dr. Fernández-Álvarez who spoke to our Y10 and Y11 students about how marine biologists use DNA analysis to study the diversity and evolutionary relationships between various cephalopods.

The Y8 and Y10 Biology students guided the Y1s and Y4s to observe the external and internal features of octopuses (not octopi for the language enthusiasts) and cuttlefish. External features included their eyes, beak, tentacles, streamlined shape, siphon and chromatophores. Some internal features included their gills, brains, multiple hearts, digestive tract, ink sac and the reproductive organs. In Biology, the relationship between form and function is a major one. The shape of the organ and/or organism dictates its functions. By making these connections, we hoped that students developed a deeper appreciation about the importance of protecting them. As a matter of fact, many parents commented to the teachers the following weeks about their children’s enthusiasm when sharing their new findings with them.  

From a Physical Science perspective, the Y9 students prepared hands-on experiments with the Y2s and Y5s about propulsion. These included bottle rockets powered by chemical reactions, catapults, balloon experiments to study motion, and navigating water mazes with magnetic forces among many others.

On the Chemistry side, the Y6 students taught the Y3s about bioluminescence, an effective mechanism that aids in reproduction and serves as an escape mechanism in many squid species. Throughout these experiments, students also learned the difference between hydrophobic and hydrophilic substances as well as chemical reactions when observing the inner workings of glow sticks. 

Overall, students developed a deeper understanding of these complex, highly intelligent marine animals through investigation, curiosity and collaboration. 

Raising awareness about how species’ form is crucial to their successful adaptation enables future generations to take a more respectful stand point regarding the environment and its natural resources, as humanity shifts its focus to protecting our seas and oceans from contamination.


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