Our urban ecology education programs address the question: How can urban residents develop and use an understanding of the city they live in as an ecological system to improve the quality of their environment and their daily lives? Our urban ecology curriculum strives to bring hands-on outdoor science teaching and learning to educators and students in heavily urbanized areas.
Ecologists now realize that it is important to understand cities and suburbs, because about three quarters of the people in the United States live in metropolitan areas. More people are also moving to cities throughout the world. So ecologists want to know how organisms and environments in and around cities are affected by the buildings and paved surfaces, the things that people do, and the new environments that cities create. To do that ecologists have to work with other researchers who understand people. That means more than just knowing how many people there are in an area. Understanding the urban environment requires that we understand how people interact as groups and organizations that make decisions. What people do and build in and around cities affect the environment and the plants and animals for many miles around.
Urban Ecologists study how an urban area works as an ecological system. They want to know the ecological interactions in the whole range of habitats -- from the center city, out into the surrounding rural areas. They conduct research on the soil, the plants and animals on land and in the streams, the water quality, and condition of the air in and around cities. For that information to make sense, they also study how families, associations, organizations and political bodies make decisions that affect ecological processes. In other words, they treat the whole collection of urban, suburban and rural areas as an ecological system that includes people and their activities. This is a really unusual approach to ecology because it combines with social sciences, physical sciences, and education to understand a big metropolitan area as an ecological system.
Saying that an urban area is a system just means that we are concerned with how the interactions between wild and domestic organisms, people and their organizations, and the natural and built environment all affect one another. It is these relationships that determine the quality of the environment we experience in the places where we live, work and relax.
Our approach for urban ecology education is multi-faceted and includes:
- Working hand-in-hand with educational initiatives of formal and informal education systems;contributing to and learning from these collaborations
- Creating new programs, educational opportunities and resources for students, educators and citizens
- Conducting research about what people in Baltimore know about their city as an ecosystem, how they acquire this knowledge, and what strategies might be devised to improve and expand people's understanding in the future.
Where does teaching about urban ecology fit in? Everywhere in the curriculum!
For more information on urban ecology visit: www.beslter.org
Dr. Alan Berkowitz
Ms. Bess Caplan
Ms. Janie Gordon
Ms. Katherine Jagger
Ms. Vicki Fabiyi
Ms. Jenny Harvey
Mr. Martin Schmidt
Ms. Jessica Saven
Ms. Shannon Galbraith
Ms. Maryanne Butler
Ms. Emily Reisner
Mr. Richard Foot
Mr. Tom Keller
Ms. Carla Guarraia