Understanding Ecology Teaching & Learning

Past Projects

Past Projects


Developing Ecology Curriculum



An ecology curriculum for grades 5-8 developed by Dr. Kathleen Hogan, a former Associate Scientist, helps teachers transform their classrooms into centers of ecological research. Students learn about the flow of matter in ecosystems as the practices of science are demystified and made engaging. Over 5,000 copies of the 400-page teacher's guide have been sold. For a copy, contact the publisher, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company ($34.95 plus shipping, call: 800-228-0810). Two Eco-Inquiry supplements also are available from Kendall/Hunt: Rita - a book for children, and Promoting Student Thinking - A Teachers' Guide to Linking Science and Literature Through Rita.

Worm Worlds

An activity guide developed by Drs. Berkowitz and Patrick Bohlen (a Cary Institute post doc at the time) for the North American Association for Environmental Education. It was used throughout the country in the Volunteer-Led Investigations of Neighborhood Ecology (VINE) program.

Small Watershed Ecology Assessment Project (SWEAP) handbooks

Produced with Program Specialist Ana Ruesink to guide local teachers in comparing three small watersheds, all easily accessible to their school. Four school district received handbooks and an accompanying set of maps and airphotos unique to their watersheds.


Teaching About Schoolyards


In the Schoolyard Ecology for Elementary School Teachers (SYEFEST) project, our "students" were elementary teachers. This program, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, addressed the question, "What kinds of experiences, resources and support do teachers need in order to teach ecology 1) outdoors and 2) using student-centered, inquiry-based methods?"

The scientist/teacher teams that ran professional development programs at 17 sites around the country as part of SYEFEST were highly successful, showing that a combination of authentic research in schoolyards by teachers, reflection on teaching and learning, creation of practical teaching plans, and ongoing support were effective at stimulating outdoor teaching and fostering some growth in inquiry-based teaching.

Some of the incredible wealth of ideas, insights, strategies and resources from SYEFEST have been brought together into a first draft of a Schoolyard Ecology Leader's Handbook. Our research into teacher outcomes at 5 intensively studied sites revealed interesting syndromes of teacher practice and change as a result of SYEFEST, while also highlighting considerable constraints on outdoor, inquiry-based teaching (Hogan and Berkowitz 2000).

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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