Harvard Forest sets up Summer Institute for Teachers

Network News Fall 2004, Vol. 17 No. 2

Harvard Forest (HFR) LTER hosted 20 teachers in a newly created Ecology Research in the Schoolyard Summer Institute for Teachers. The institute, which is funded by the National Science Foundation’s EdEn Venture and in part by Green Leaf Foundation, got an enthusiastic response from participants. Participating teachers met the Harvard Forest ecologists who developed the research protocols that Schoolyard Coordinator, Pam Snow, adapted for use by elementary and middle school students. Scientists led indoor introduction sessions followed by outdoor sessions in the forest to try out the field projects while teachers asked questions and tried their hands at field research.

The summer institute was created jointly by Harvard Forest, the Millers River Environmental Center (MREC), and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment (HC) as part of a yearlong science teacher professional development project in central Massachusetts.

The teachers spent their afternoons in outdoor and indoor activities modeled for use with K-12 classes. They explored HFR’s Fisher Museum and learned forest history from museum coordinator, John O’Keefe.

Participating teachers received notebooks containing protocols, data sheets, background information, supplementary activities, related Harvard Forest Research abstracts, and resource lists, and were allowed to select additional materials appropriate for their respective students’ academic levels. Later, they formed groups and worked with each other to plan how to adapt HFR’s curriculum to meet the needs of their particular students and districts.

The teachers were also assigned forest ecology project “coaches” to support them in training and throughout the school year. Project coaches visit individual teachers at their schools to plan and flag field sites for learning activities, and to help them introduce this exciting new project to their students.

The core group of teachers that were trained this summer and their coaches are set again to gather at Harvard Forest in November 2004 for the first of three academic year seminars to supplement their field ecology training. Topics such as data analysis, assessment, and community outreach will be addressed in more detail during the seminars. By spring 2005 HFR expects to have a model for LTER schoolyard education to share with the rest of the network.

For more information please contact Pamela Snow psnow@fas.harvard.edu with any ideas or questions.