In this project, we focus on big ideas that can help teachers support students in understanding that diversity matters, not just because ‘more diversity is better’, but because different trees have traits that translate into different functions.
To illustrate a key concept, we explored the idea of tradeoffs in plant ecology, such as how some trees have smaller, numerous seeds to aid in traveling a long distance, while others have larger, heavier seeds to support seedling growth. Similarly, we investigated the differences in leaf area, thickness, transpiration rates, and stomatal density among sun and shade leaves and between species.
Setting up litter bags and culturing the microbes and fungi present on decomposing leaves allowed us to study how and why decomposition varies between species, and our final topic focused on herbivory rates and the chemistry of different tree species’ leaves.
Teachers collected real data during each of these topical explorations, and learned practical ways to bring these tools back into their classrooms. A set of curriculum materials were developed to help teachers use their schoolyard trees as a method for exploring these big ideas in ecology.
Alan Berkowitz, Project Director
Cornelia Harris, Project Coordinator
Colleen Bucci, FDR High School, Hyde Park, NY
Josie Cain, Harrison High School, Harrison, NY
Laura Murawski, Cohoes High School, Cohoes, NY
Tom Tokarski, Woodland High School, White Plains NY
Samuel Washington, Woodland High School, White Plains NY
Cheryl Patty, Westmoreland School
Lorie Scheinwald, Farmingdale High School
Lisa Gizzarelli, UnionVale Middle School
Andrea Victor, FDR High School
Rob Borowski, Patchogue-Medford High School
Melissa Shumer, Young Women's Leadership School of Queens
Tom Hall, Westlake Middle School
Alyse Dietrich, Saugerties High School