Ecology Disrupted: Using Museum-based Science and Educational Technology to Link Real World Environmental Issues to Basic Ecological Principles

This project uses media such as Science Bulletin Snapshots to engage students with current research and to foster scientific understanding and civic engagement. Through environmental case studies, students learn to develop hypotheses, analyze scientific data, and make conclusions. To address the objectives, the project will create inquiry-based case studies to situate several central ecological principles, as determined by national and state standards, into the context of environmental issues.

Full Description

Our project asks whether media-rich curriculum materials that immerse middle school students in real, current scientific research can improve students' understanding of science content, and their understanding and appreciation of science as a way to learn about the natural world.  We are using Science Bulletins, digital media stories about current science produced by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City to develop middle and high school case study units on contemporary issues in ecology for students underserved in their connection to nature. We developed two problem-based modules that use current scientific data to link ecological principles to real-world environmental issues. Each unit is constructed around a question linking the ecological topic with human daily life. One unit asks the question, 'How do snowy and icy roads put the Baltimore area's water supply at risk?' The other asks the question, 'How does being able to drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in under five hours put the bighorn sheep at risk?' The students must use source material to develop hypotheses to address these questions. They then analyze real data to test their hypotheses. Finally, they watch and analyze Museum media to connect the questions that they investigated to broader ecological principles and issues. Additionally, students are asked at the beginning and the end of these units to self-assess their understanding of the science content, the nature of scientific inquiry, and their place in the natural world.


Project Materials

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