Innovative Education Projects

The Cary Institute Education Program has been leading and participating in a wide range of education projects for over three decades, focusing on the best practices for teaching ecology. Many of these efforts include research on how students and teachers think about ecology topics, curriculum products, and professional development resources. Active and previous projects are listed below.  

Changing Hudson Project

Project curriculum was developed by scientists and educators at Cary to help students understand how the Hudson River changes over time. By collaborating with area teachers, scientists, and management agencies, the curriculum has grown to include a wide range of topics that engage students with visualizations, readings, investigations, and actual scientific data.

Data Explorations in Ecology Project

The Data Explorations in Ecology Project supports students and teachers in gaining proficiency with data exploration practices. The project included curriculum development and a professional development (PD) effort designed to address students' data literacy issues.

Integrating Chemistry and Earth Science

The Integrating Chemistry and Earth science (ICE) team is developing a new unit for Baltimore City high schools that brings Earth science into the chemistry curriculum. ICE includes concepts, datasets and protocols in and about Baltimore, addressing the question, "How does chemistry shape my world?" The ICE model may find application in other places around the country.

Comp Hydro

The Comp Hydro project addresses one of the most daunting challenges to developing scientific literacy in students: integrating teaching and learning of key ideas and practices of place-based environmental science with computational and quantitative science in authentic, innovative and effective ways.

Pathways to Environmental Science Literacy

This project focuses on coupled human-ecosystem interactions in the context of socio-ecological systems as a framework to promote place based learning and environmental literacy. It seeks to increase students understanding of global water and carbon cycling, as well as biodiversity.

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.  

Teaching the Ecology Nature of Science

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.  

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.

Small Watershed Ecology Assessment Project

Watersheds, the land area draining into a single body of water, can be considered a basic unit of the landscape that determines water availability, movement, and quality. This curriculum project created materials for students to explore how the biotic and abiotic components of their small watershed compared with others nearby.  


Biocomplexity and the Habitable Planet

Engaging students in understanding biocomplexity, this project explores the complex fabric of relationships between humans and the environment. The curriculum consists of inquiry-based investigations designed around cases in urban, agricultural, tropical and polar systems.

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. 

Earthworms & Ecosystems

All earthworms in the Northeast are invasive, a fact that is not common knowledge among people of all ages. Their presence has significant consequences for the health of our forest ecosystems. However, worms are charismatic and easy for students to investigate, making them perfect schoolyard ambassadors.  


An ecology curriculum for middle school grades developed by Dr. Kathleen Hogan, a former Associate Scientist at the Cary Institute. Using guided inquiry, students act as investigators to understand more about food webs, decomposition, and nutrient cycling.  

Tidal Marsh Project

The Hudson River's freshwater tidal wetlands are a unique ecosystem which not only provide habitat for a rich diversity of organisms but also remove water pollutants. Through field investigations, teachers learned about this ecosystem and created lesson plans for their students.

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