In this project, we wanted to know: can students develop an understanding of the ecological nature of science that is useful and productive in environmental citizenship? To address this question we developed curriculum and support materials for teachers to use in the classroom and researched the efficacy of these materials.
Understanding how evidence is collected, evaluated and applied to address pressing problems is an essential component of NOS, something that every high school graduate should have.
Promoting students ability and desire to use scientific information outside of the classroom is an important goal in science education. Reaching this goal, however, requires not only a general understanding of scientific concepts, but also an understanding of how scientific data and claims are generated. Through this National Science Foundation supported DRK-12 project entitled: Ecosystems and Evidence we sought to better enable students to understand how ecological claims are generated and supported by evidence.
In our this DRK-12 project, we asked: Can students develop an understanding of the nature of science as it pertains to ecology in high school biology and environmental science classes in a way that is useful and productive in environmental citizenship? To address this question, we began by developing a conceptual framework which addressed questions regarding (1) explicit teacher instruction of the nature of science through ecology and (2) student understanding of the nature of science, ecological evidence and contemporary environmental issues. A team of master teachers, science educators, and ecologists collectively developed this framework for an ecology related nature of science (ENOS).
The ideas articulated in that framework set the context for testing four core hypotheses:
To test these hypotheses we worked with two Learning Communities (high school biology and environmental science teachers, ecologists and educators), one centered at the Cary Institute in the mid-Hudson Valley, NY, and the other at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. A Concept Development Team of 8 ecologists, educators and teachers helped us develop case studies and assessment tools that relate directly to ecological evidence.
The Reflections and Lesson Examples page contains fuller descriptions of what we have identified as key understandings we hope to achieve in teaching Ecology NOS. That page also contains teacher reflections along with synopses of lesson examples and links to resources. For more clarification, click on the teacher’s guide to understanding. In addition, you can provide your students a copy of the student’s guide to understanding. We also found it useful to hang a poster in our classrooms to remind students.