Unifying Life: Placing Urban Tree Diversity in an Evolutionary Context

This 3-year project seeks to develop and test curricular resources built around handheld mobile technology to study how these materials foster urban middle school student engagement with and learning of local biodiversity and the patterns of evolution.

Full Description: 

City College of New York (CUNY) is conducting a 3-year exploratory project to develop and test curricular resources built around handheld mobile technology to study how these materials foster urban middle school student interest and engagement with local biodiversity and the patterns of evolution. The project aims to develop curricular resources for middle school students around Leafsnap, an iPhone tree identification app, through a co-design process; to pilot test curricular resources in the classrooms of three New York middle school teachers; to develop and revise assessment tools to measure student outcomes; and to field-test curricular resources in the classrooms of ten New York middle school teachers and analyze results to determine how the Leafsnap curriculum affects urban middle school student learning of biodiversity and the patterns of evolution. The results will be used to modify and disseminate curriculum online with the Leafsnap app.

During the project's first year, the curricular resources will be used in two East Harlem middle schools. In the second year, the resources will be used in the classrooms of ten New York City (NYC) public middle school teachers. In the third year, these resources will be integrated into a life science for middle school teachers course as part of CUNY's graduate program in secondary science education, a program specifically designed to prepare teacher candidates for careers in NYC public middle schools. Also, in the project's third year, the curricular resources will be disseminated through the Leafsnap website to a wider online audience.

The project advances understanding of underrepresented urban middle school student learning of local biodiversity in a historical evolutionary context by addressing the three major dimensions of the new Framework for K-12 Science Learning: core science content, the practice of science, and concepts that crosscut all scientific disciplines. Pre- and post-treatment clinical interviews with students will be conducted to provide qualitative insights into how use of the Leafsnap curriculum impacts students' understanding and motivation for identifying and organizing tree diversity.

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