Harvard Forest "Schoolyard" teacher honored with a State award

Network News Summer 2013, Vol. 26 No. 2

Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology teacher Lise LeTellier was honored in June at the Massachusetts State House with a first-place Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education.

Each year, LeTellier, a science teacher and head of the science department at Holyoke Catholic High School, leads 70-plus students in hands-on Schoolyard Ecology studies in collaboration with Harvard Forest ecologists John O’Keefe and David Orwig. In a wooded area near their campus, LeTellier's students collect field data on the timing of leaf drop in the fall and bud burst in the spring as part of Harvard Forest’s Buds, Leaves, and Global Warming study. They also monitor the spread of the invasive pest, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, as part of the Woolly Bully study.   Through these studies, students gain an intimate knowledge of an ecosystem in their community, while also learning to recognize and understand pressing environmental concerns, such as climate change, biodiversity, and invasive species.

LeTellier’s ecological work with her students does not end with long-term data collection. She also helps students tackle the challenging work of data analysis. Through a series of Harvard Forest Schoolyard workshops, LeTellier is mastering the skills of organizing, graphing, and interpreting ecological data, and bringing this knowledge to her students. The students have now graphed their own field data using Excel, online graphing tools, and hand graphing. They also must interpret the graphs, honing their skills in making meaning of scientific data.