Ecology Disrupted: Using Real Scientific Data About Daily Life to Link Environmental Issues to Ecological Processes in Secondary School Science Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Wyner)

We developed and tested two ecology case study units for urban high school students underserved in their connection to nature. The case studies, based on digital media stories about current science produced by the American Museum of Natural History, use current scientific data to link ecological principles to daily life and environmental issues. Preliminary testing results show that treatment students made significantly higher gains than the control students on the project's major learning goals.

Full Description: 

We have refined and tested wo case study units on contemporary issues in ecology for urban middle and high school students underserved in their connection to nature. The case studies are based on two Science Bulletins, digital media stories about current science produced by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), which use current scientific data to link ecological principles to real-world environmental issues, and to link issues to human daily life. One unit asks the question, ‘How might snowy and icy roads affect Baltimore’s water supply?’ The other asks the question, ’How might being able to drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in just four hours put local bighorn sheep at risk?’ The units provide source material and real data for students to investigate these questions, video profiles of scientists that engage students in the science and the research, and the Museum Science Bulletins media for students to analyze and connect the questions to broader ecological principles and issues. We are using these modules to research the question, “Can curricular units that link environmental issues to ecological principles through analysis of real data from published research on the environmental impacts of familiar everyday activities improve student learning of ecological principles, personal and human environmental impacts and the nature of scientific activity?” 

 

Randomized control trials in the classrooms of 40 ninth grade NYC public school teachers are being used to evaluate the efficacy of the modules.  Assessment items from New York State Regents exams were reviewed and new assessment items were developed, field tested, and analyzed for validity and reliability. Students in the experimental and control classrooms were pre- and post-tested using the assessments.  In addition, teachers completed pre-post surveys, and stratified samples of teachers were observed and interviewed. To evaluate the effects of the intervention on student achievement and on instructional practices, descriptive and inferential statistics, including analysis of variance (ANOVA) models are being employed to addressing the core research question about student achievement. ANOVA models are also being used to measure main effects and interactions between the intervention and other variables as they relate to student achievement. Preliminary analysis indicates that treatments students showed signficantly higher gains than control students on learning of three major project learning goals: 1. Understanding of ecological principles in the context of human impact 2. Understanding daily life in the context of human impact 3. Understanding the nature of scientific evidence.

 

Finally, we will apply our evaluation findings from testing the modules to develop a summative module on oyster fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. Also, in order to disseminate the materials online to a national audience, we will develop an online “kit of parts” of module components to enable teachers to create customized modules that target their students' specific instructional needs.

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