An Example of teaching with GIS

Camden’s post about using technology to allow students to gather field data reminded me about an activity that my Field Ecology students and I completed this past January.  The objective was to use student cell phones, google docs forms, and Edgis to gather fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) leaf nest locations at an urban park close to our school.  The activity enabled my students to get outside and collect squirrel leaf nest (called dreys) locations using their cell phones.  The overall intent was to estimate the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) population from the number of leaf nests in the park.  This activity itself opened up a huge discussion about how accurate our estimate would be.   This discussion triggered quite a literature search by the students to determine what other researchers have found!  As a class we did end up using research literature to help us estimate the fox squirrel population in the park, along with squirrel density and average nest height.  I included the poster that explains the project below.

Squirrel Poster KAS 2014 2

Travel Award to attend NABT in Atlanta

Travel Award to attend NABT (National Association of Biology Teachers) Conference – Atlanta, GA (Nov. 20th – 23rd)

Motivated, energetic, enthusiastic science instructors at the high school and community college levels are invited to apply for travel awards to attend the 2013 Professional Development Conference of the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), to be held in Atlanta, GA from November 20th through 23rd.

The awards are sponsored by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) and the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, which will cover all expenses (transportation, lodging, food and meeting registration).

The goal of this program is to identify talented, enthusiastic instructors who are excited about evolution, provide them with the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and pedagogical skills at the NABT conference, and then have them share this with their students (through classroom activities) and colleagues (through professional development activities).

Applicants should be high school or community college instructors with a passion for learning about and teaching evolution.  They should have a proven track record of successfully covering evolution-related topics in their courses in innovative ways.  In addition, they should be able to demonstrate a long-standing commitment to instructor professional development – both their own, and that of their colleagues.

If you’re interested in becoming a NESCent/BEACON Evolution Scholar and helping to bring cutting edge evolutionary science to your institution, please visit http://www.nescent.org/eog/NABTtravelaward.php.

If you have questions, please contact Dr. Jory Weintraub at jory@nescent.org.

DEADLINE TO APPLY IS 8 PM EASTERN (5 PM PACIFIC) ON FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4th, 2013.  AWARD WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED BY FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11th.

Collaborative Learning with Plantingscience.org

As teachers we are always trying to provide “real” research opportunities for our students.  I have utilized a unique opportunity involving the study of plants in conjunction with providing students an actual on-line scientist to provide assistance and feedback concerning their own projects.  This website (http://www.plantingscience.org) provides teachers the opportunity to get their students matched up with a plant scientist to help guide them perform some project that the students design themselves.  Currently there are three major themes used: Germination and Seedling Growth Investigation, Photosynthesis and Respiration Investigation, and Traits, Variation, and Environment in Rapid Cycling Brassica.  If these topics fit into your biology curriculum I would strongly suggest that you check out the planting science website.  Your students design their own experiments, they upload their results and discussions to the plantingscience website.  The novel aspect of this website is that they provide ALL the pertinent background information that a student would need to design and carry out a real scientific experiment.  The students usually get an immense amount of collaborative feedback by working on-line with real scientists around the country.  I personally have used the Traits and Variation in Rapid Cycling Brassica with 40 students and they all “experienced” the real aspects of scientific research – which is sometimes hard to provide.  I have had students also perform experiments using the Germination unit and the Celery Challenge.  The website provides a window of about 6-8 weeks for the students to complete their research projects.  All of these units provide everything needed to enable your students to perform “real” research.  The website provides a real location for presenting student research results.  The plantingscience website is definitely a website that can provide your students with real research involving real researchers.  Below is the on-line help that the students get – all of this can be used even if you are not using the plantingscience.org website.

Investigating Plants Safely:

http://www.plantingscience.org/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=17&pid=24
Thinking Like a Scientist / Working like a Scientist
:

http://www.plantingscience.org/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=17&pid=29
Designing Experiments:

http://www.plantingscience.org/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=17&pid=31
Collecting Data:

http://www.plantingscience.org/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=17&pid=27
Guide to using Spreadsheets:

http://www.plantingscience.org/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=17&pid=13

Some research projects that students have completed.

http://www.plantingscience.org/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=searchextended&tid=2&searchname=searchextended
Keep in mind that even though a few of these projects seem to be very low-level, the actual pre- and post test results taken from these projects indicate that the students learned quite a bit about designing experiments and carrying them out.  Just as in real science we sometimes learn much more from bad experimental designs.

KABT 50th Anniversary Fall Conference at ESU

On Saturday, September 12, 2009 the annual KABT Fall Conference took place at Emporia State University. The conference had speakers give talks about H1N1 status, the new National Bioterrorism Agriculture Facility at KSU, Global Warming, Wind Energy, Nuclear Energy, Great Plains Nature Center, the Status of Biology Teachers in Kansas, and Collaboration in Biology Teaching. The agenda allowed for all to be able to listen to all of the topics that were presented. Another aspect that made this meeting special was that this was the 50th Anniversary of KABT! Some of the past members that have since retired were present and accounted for. The retirees added a special flair and it was a pleasure and honor to visit with previous members that built KABT into what it has become today. They were, in fact, the shoulders that biology teachers today stood on. There were quite a few Kansas biology teachers that attended the meeting and they are always given the opportunity to “freebies” from different area agencies.

If given the chance, and your schedule allows time, attending a KABT meeting provides an interaction among biology teachers that is hard to find in other gatherings. Listening to experienced teachers and young teachers allows a learning experience for all involved. Below are some photos from the conference.

KABT Free Give-aways

KABT lunchtime
KABT lunchtime
Bob Gress talking about the Great Plains Nature Center
Bob Gress talking about the Great Plains Nature Center
Dr. Jerry Jax discussing the NBAR facility
Dr. Jerry Jax discussing the NBAR facility
Registration for KABT conference
Registration for KABT conference
Eric Kessler and Stan Roth discussing biology
Eric Kessler and Stan Roth discussing biology

Spring Fieldtrip to Cheyenne Bottoms

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KABTers Birding
KABTers Birding
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Getting the perfect picture!

The KABT annual spring fieldtrip is simply an opportunity to learn and interact with fellow biology teachers.  I have learned more biology than you can imagine from simply being around and listening to others!  I cannot overemphasize the importance of learning with others.  You build up your expertise, you build up your fellow biology teachers expertise and that is the kind of experience that will impact your teaching.  The field trip is NOT a test of what you do and don’t know in the outdoors, rather it is an opportunity to absorb the knowledge of those that can identify (with maybe 90% accuracy?).  I am the first to admit that I cannot name, identify, or give an natural history of quite few flora and fauna, but I attend these trips to learn (and also make fun of some of the older guys). Although as most of you know, its not necessarily what you learn but how you learn that builds your lifelong memories.  I simply wish every biology teacher could experience just one of these special trips.  You talk about school, kids, technology, and everything else, but you really get to absorb the thoughts and opinions of your peers.  I know that I will always value the thoughts and opinions of my fellow biology teachers.  This past Saturday, June 6, 2009, we met at the Wetlands Education building at Cheyenne  Bottoms.  After a great tour of the education center that included various displays, a teaching classroom, and an auditorium we carpooled over to the lookout tower in Cheyenne Bottoms.  After eating we took a driving tour that included numerous stops along the way.  Although I do not have a comprehensive list of species we encountered I do know that I saw birds much closer than I have in the past, but beyond that I had an opportunity to commune with nature with some other nature lovers. By the way, it appears that there is an inverse relationship between the quality of a biology teachers’ joke and their years of experience (personal observation during this trip).  I hope all KABTers and any biology teachers that wish to will try to attend at lease one of these awe inspiring journeys around Kansas!

A couple of picts from Charlotte:KABTers

More KABTers

Yellow Headed Blackbird
Yellow Headed Blackbird
birdwatching
birdwatching
A view of Cheyenne Bottoms from Lookout Point
A view of Cheyenne Bottoms from Lookout Point
Observing Crayfish
Observing Crayfish