Harvard Forest’s schoolyard workshop trains teachers to graph and interpret long-term data

Network News Spring 2012, Vol. 25 No. 1

In January 2012, six experienced teachers from the Harvard Forest (HFR) Schoolyard Ecology Program took part in a pilot Advanced Graphing Workshop at the Forest. HFR ecologists Betsy Colburn and John O’Keefe, along with HFR Information Manager Emery Boose and Outreach and Education Manager Clarisse Hart, provided one-on-one mentorship for the teachers as they each graphed long-term trends in data obtained from their “Schoolyard” programs.

Participating teachers had already mastered the Forest’s beginner and intermediate Data Workshops, which focus on Excel data input and basic graphing. The day-long Advanced Graphing workshop began with the teachers briefly presenting their graphing goals to the group—a process that revealed several common questions and goals, which were then addressed by HFR staff mentors. Teachers spent most of the remaining workshop time pursuing their graphing goals with support from their peers and HFR staff. Teacher goals included trend analysis in 3- to 7-year datasets, data comparison across Schoolyard sites, and template development for students to do their own Schoolyard data graphing in class.

Evaluation surveys reflected a unanimous positive influence on teacher confidence in the graphing process. One teacher concluded, “This is a very supportive and interesting environment to learn in. I get a lot of ideas from the other teachers and the Harvard Forest staff, and it is very helpful having the time to discuss and try out ideas.” All the teachers reported that most or all of their data analysis goals had been met by the workshop.

The Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology Program annually engages more than 3,000 students from over 50 schools. To learn more, visit harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/schoolyard-lter-program.