Tuesday, August 5, 2008 - 10:30 AM

COS 25-8: Rocking out with limestone glades: A comparison of field ecology and traditional class experiences on elementary student knowledge and attitude

Karen Metius-House, Middle Tennessee State University and Kim Cleary Sadler, Middle Tennessee State University.


The globally unique and fragile limestone cedar glade habitat found primarily in Middle Tennessee and a few other localities in the southeastern United States has been historically viewed as wasteland by local people. However, this unique limestone community supports highly specialized plant species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The Center for Cedar Glade Studies at Middle Tennessee State University collaborated with area schools to develop a regional curriculum that would generate awareness about cedar glades. To determine the effectiveness of the lessons a quasi experimental study was conducted at Middle Tennessee State University’s laboratory school. Two second grade and two fifth grade classes were introduced to the glades through engaging lectures and classroom activities conducted by their classroom teachers and invited science specialists; second and fifth graders also formed cross-age partnerships to work on inquiry-based lessons together.  To determine the impact of additional interactive field experiences beyond classroom inquiry, one second grade and fifth grade class visited the glades several times.  Student teams collected measurements for five plant species, two of which are endemic to glades: Nashville Breadroot (Pediomelum subacaulis - endemic), Nashville Mustard (Leavenworthia stylosa - endemic), Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium albidum), Shooting-Star (Dodecatheon meadia), and Star-Grass (Hypoxis hirsuta).  Using quadrat analysis and simple sampling instruments, abiotic parameters (temperature, soil depth, available sunlight, and soil moisture) were used to determine relationships between plant distribution and abiotic factors.  The classes that did not visit the glades did a research poster presentation about a specific plant of the glades.  

Results/Conclusions .  Student knowledge and attitudes about both the cedar glades and the scientific method were measured through pre and posttest design. Preliminary findings show a significant positive difference in knowledge for both experimental and control classes but no difference in attitude for either group.  With the pre and posttest specifically designed for this study, it appears that students learned as much about the cedar glades using the developed curriculum in the traditional class setting, as compared to students involved in an additional field experience.