Place and Local Ecosystems

It is known that grounding educational practice in a local ecosystem provides students with the ability to see the relevance and context of what they are learning, and to become more engaged in the learning process (Powers, 2004; Bransford & Schwartz, 1999).  We have developed a number of our curriculum and professional development projects with these ideas in mind, producing place based, data rich curricula that provide teachers with the necessary materials to conduct local and relevant investigations in their classrooms.

As students spend increasing amounts of time in front of electronic screens, and less time in the natural environment, a number of researchers have advocated for increasing outdoor, place-based education as a way of improving concentration, reducing obesity and attention deficit disorder, and improving environmental awareness (Louv, 2005; Taylor, 2001; Taylor, 2009; Tennessen & Cimprich, 1995).  Yet, teachers are constrained by federal mandates and standardized tests, reducing opportunities for conducting place-based education (Gruenewald, 2003).

It is known that grounding educational practice in a local ecosystem provides students with the ability to see the relevance and context of what they are learning, and to become more engaged in the learning process (Powers, 2004; Bransford & Schwartz, 1999).  We have developed a number of our curriculum and professional development projects with these ideas in mind, producing place based, data rich curricula that provide teachers with the necessary materials to conduct local and relevant investigations in their classrooms.

Our many years of experience in ecology education has shown that visiting any ecosystem in order to answer an inquiry research question will improve student learning, even if that ecosystem is the small stream behind the school.  

 

Related Projects

Baltimore Partnership for Environmental Science Literacy

The Baltimore Ecosystem Study is the founding partner in the Baltimore Partnership for Environmental Science Literacy. Our focus is to nurture collaborations (both formal and informal) to increase environmental science literacy in the Baltimore region and beyond. 

School Woodlands Ecosystem Study Project

In this project, we focus on big ideas that can help students in understanding that diversity matters, not just because ‘more diversity is better’ but because different trees have traits that translate into different functions. A set of curriculum materials were developed to help teachers use their schoolyard trees as a method for exploring these big ideas in ecology.  

Hudson River Eel Project Evaluation

Over the course of two years, the Cary Institute evaluated the impacts of the Hudson River's Eel Watch citizen science monitoring program. We were particularly interested in whether the program fostered interest and engagement in STEM courses and careers in minority participants.  

Schoolyard Ecology for Elementary School Students (SYEFEST)

Schoolyards present a wealth of opportunities for exploring ecological concepts, and the Cary Institute has long been a pioneer in helping teachers develop authentic and worthwhile investigations for students. This) project created a number protocols and lessons, most of them inquiry-based, for outdoor study.

Ecology Summer Camp

The Cary Institute's annual summer camp for students entering grades 2-7 allows us to explore cutting edge ecology curriculum with engaged and eager students.  

EcoInitiative

Over the course of several years, we worked with the Rhinebeck Central School District to help students use their school and schoolyard as an ecosystem - exploring the inputs and outputs of water, waste, energy, and biodiversity.  

Schoolyard Research

Do schoolyards reflect the ecology and/or sociology of the neighborhoods they occur in? If so, they might contain a similar mix of land covers and thus serve as an accessible microcosm for students to study that still reflects their larger environment. 

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

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