Ecology course for educators a success for CDR

Network News Fall 2013, Vol. 26 No. 3
Site News

The busy summer season at the Cedar Creek (CDR) Long Term Ecological Research site was punctuated by the second running of a master’s level ecology course designed specifically for teachers of grades 6-12. Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics (EESD) attracted seven master’s level students from the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Design (CEHD). Working alongside Jeff Corney and Mary Spivey were professors from CEHD who provided the instruction techniques, making EESD a true cross-disciplinary collaboration. 

The one week course included daily presentations and discussions on ecology topics ranging from energy flow to global change, interspersed with field visits and lab exercises designed to stretch the teachers’ skills and minds, and provide activities to use in their classrooms.  CDR’s ecology research was included via field trips to the actual sites followed by interpretation of datasets from the experiments visited. 

EESD was originally developed to provide teachers in-depth ecology instruction to enable them to respond to the complex situations and questions that arise during an ecology course.  One student in a previous CDR course, an earth science teacher, commented several times about the remarkable links between ecology and the topics she taught, such as the water cycle, soils, and nutrient cycling.  Her comments got course creator Corney thinking about the scope of the program and led to the no-bones-about-it approach to ecology and earth systems that is reflected in the course title.  In addition, EESD is based on both Minnesota State Science standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.  While Minnesota won’t adopt the NGSS until 2017, proactively preparing teachers in their use before implementation is beneficial.