When I was in graduate school at the University of Wyoming, I discovered the world of insects. I had never encountered anything that could capture my attention so completely. They came in all shapes, forms and sizes and did every possible ecological job imaginable. They completely amazed and fascinated me. As I progressed in my academic career I realized that I had a deep desire to share my enthusiasm and passion for science and insects with others. So, my career took a right turn and I became a middle school science teacher.
During my tenure as a teacher I had the opportunity to participate in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program through the University of Wyoming. This experience gave me an opportunity to renew my interest in research and as a result directly impacted my teaching. Because I had participated in an ongoing research project and experienced research personally, I was able to create projects that would allow my students to do research. I began by designing an introductory unit, Nature and Practice of Science, and finished with each student creating, executing and reporting on a self-designed research project.
To expand on this the theme of experiential science and enrich my students classroom experiences I created The Biodiversity Project. My goal is to connect by students with other student researchers and scientists. Then, by collaborating with other students and research teams we can create opportunities for genuine student driven research and foster conversation around issues of biodiversity and conservation. This year’s project will span 6 states and three continents.
I am hoping that classrooms in other locations will join our efforts to get our students involved in research and help us expand the program. If you are interested in participating please contact me by using the contact link.
To encourage students and teachers to communicate and develop relationships with their peers from different cultures, nations and communities and create a foundation for future collaborations and partnerships outside of The Biodiversity Project experience.
To develop learning partnerships between students, teachers and researchers.
To foster conversation, learning and action around issues of biodiversity and conservation.
To foster deeper understanding of challenges and issues facing local communities in relation to issues of biodiversity and conservation.
To encourage teachers to develop authentic research experiences for their students.
There are 4 main components to the project: classroom participation, student created documentary, teacher research experience and participation of scientists to serve as experts and mentors.
Last year’s ( Spring 2014) biodiversity study included classroom participants in: Wyoming, Alaska, Ohio, New York, Florida, India and Australia. Each classroom surveyed the insect communities of three 3-meter radius plots. To survey the plots, photographs were taken of each insect found at each site. The project's website, www.thebiodiversityproject.org, was used as a forum to post student work, data, photos and ask questions of each other and the Ecuador based scientists. Each classroom was assigned a page on the website to post and share data.
Student Created Documentaries
Last year, we asked classrooms to create a short documentary about their experience.
Teacher Research Experience
Through the the generous funding of the National Science Foundation, The Biodiversity Project sends teachers to the Yanayacu Biological Research Station to gain research experience and work with scientists that are actively studying the biodiversity of the environment at the Yanayacu Biological research station on the Eastern Slopes of the Andes. The comprehensive biodiversity research project at the station is the Collaborative Research: Caterpillars and Parasitoids in the Eastern Andes of Ecuador research grant. (NSF grant # 0717458). The teachers also run the same experiments as the participating classrooms and videoconference with all of the participating students, sharing their findings and experiences at the station.
Each year The Biodiversity Project asks scientist to serve as experts and mentors to the students and teachers. We have been fortunate to have Dr. Scott Shaw and Dr. Nina Zitani participate.