Wednesday, August 6, 2008 - 3:40 PM

OOS 17-7: Teachers on the prairie: Models of schoolyard adaptations of ecological research

John C. Moore and Kimberly Melville-Smith. Colorado State University

Background/Question/Methods Incorporating ecological research into K-12 teacher professional development and classroom instruction, in ways that enhance both teachers and students, can be challenging. The education team at the NSF-funded Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research site has developed a partnership with four other LTER sites (Andrews LTER, Jornada Basin LTER, Central Arizona Phoenix LTER, and Luquillo LTER) to meet this challenge. The Teachers on the Prairie program evolved from the Teachers in the Woods program developed at the Andrews LTER and has elements of lessons learned through the broader partnership. Three key lessons have emerged. First, our program is based on a long-term partnership between higher education (academic and research), regional school districts and the State Department of Education that is based on a clear set of goals and objectives. Teachers on the Prairie included Colorado State University, The University of Northern Colorado, several regional school districts, and the Colorado Department of Education. Our goals are to: 1) provide interdisciplinary instruction, research experiences and professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers and students, 2) promote interactions between higher education and K-12 through instruction, research experiences and professional development, and 3) increase the participation of groups under-represented in STEM disciplines. Second, the partnership balanced traditional professional development workshops for teachers with the development of graduate degrees and programs that focused on science content, and pedagogical content knowledge. Third, the partnership engaged K-12 teachers directly in ecological research by providing summer and academic year research internships, and engaging faculty and graduate students in K-12 instruction using the NSF GK-12 model. Results/Conclusions From this approach, three models of transference of ecological research have evolved. The first involved developing long-term schoolyard ecological research projects on school grounds that emulated research in the field. Examples include traditional plot-based manipulations to local data collections that contribution to a broader efforts (e.g., monitoring of invasive species). The second model developed dedicated long-term data collection at remote sites. The third model involved the development of research sites at regional science and education centers. For each model teachers, graduate students, and faculty collaboratively develop modules in English and Spanish for use in the K-12 classroom. These models have significantly increased K-12 teacher content knowledge as measured by gains on standardized assessments and increased student test scores on the annual state standardize tests.