Alan Berkowitz

Professional Title
Head of Education
About Me (Bio)
I have been Head of Education at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY since 1985. I received my Bachelors of Arts degree in Environmental Studies from Antioch College in 1976, and a doctorate in Plant Ecology from Cornell University in 1986. My ecological research delves into the ways that plants interact with each other and the physical environment, with an emphasis on physiological ecology and hydrology. My primary work at the Cary Institute has been in advancing the field of ecology education. I develop curricula for elementary, middle and high school classrooms, lead professional development programs for teachers in sites across the nation, and carry out research into how students and adults learn ecology. I am the Education Team Leader for the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER)project studying and teaching about Baltimore as an ecosystem, and a co-PI of the Pathways to Enviromental Science Literacy MSP Project taking place at 4 LTER sites across the country. I have directed the Institute’s REU program in independent research for undergraduate students for the past 25 years, and serve on the Biology REU Sites Leadership Council. I am PI for two exploratory DRK-12 projects: Ecosystems and Evidence (with Rebecca Jordan at Rutgers and Jackie DeLisi at EDC) and Data Explorations in Ecology Project (with David Strayer and Stuart Findlay from Cary Institute). I also am co-PI for the BioComplexity and a Changeable Planet DRK-12 project with Gilly Puttick and Brian Drayton from TERC. I was the first Vice President for Education and Human Resources of the Ecological Society of America (ESA, 1995-2000) and received the Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education from ESA in 2003.
Citations of DRK-12 or Related Work (DRK-12 work is denoted by *)
  • Klemow, K., Berkowitz, A., Cid, C., & Middendorf, G. (2019). Improving ecological education through a four‐dimensional framework. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 17(2), 71.*
  • Harris, C., Berkowitz, A., & Alvarado, A. (2012).  Data Explorations in Ecology: Salt Pollution as a Case Study for Teaching Data Literacy. American Biology Teacher, 74(7), 479-484.*
  • Berkowitz, A. R., Ford, M. E., & Brewer, C. A. (2005). A framework for integrating ecological literacy, civics literacy and environmental citizenship in environmental education. Pages 227-266 In: Johnson, E.A. and M.J. Mappin (Editors). Environmental Education and Advocacy: Changing Perspectives of Ecology and Education. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.*     
  • Esposito, R. M. M, Harris, C., Berkowitz, A. R., & Pregnal, M. (2019). The joys of teaching ecology in K-12 and informal settings. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 17(9), 538-539.*
  • Berkowitz, A. R., Caplan, B., Blunck, S., Coffey, J. & Gordon, J. L. (2019). Chapter 17: Teaching and Learning the Baltimore Ecosystem. Pages 339-370. In S.T.A. Pickett, J.M. Grove, E.G. Irwin, E.J. Rosi, and C.M. Swan, editors. Science for the Sustainable City: Empirical Insights from the Baltimore School of Urban Ecology. Yale University Press. New Haven.*
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

EarthX is a design-based research project that supports the integration of Earth science into high school biology, chemistry, and physics courses in Baltimore City Public Schools, while also supporting the district’s transition to three-dimensional (3D), ambitious and equitable science teaching aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). EarthX builds on the success of the Integrating Chemistry and Earth Science (ICE) DRK-12 project, which developed innovative chemistry course curriculum materials and PD strategies, to support Earth science integration into biology and physics course curriculum development and 3D teaching. EarthX will develop, test, and refine embedded and unit assessments for all three courses, along with providing an online system for assessment administration; real-time reporting to teachers and students; and provision of data to PD leaders, administrators, and researchers for multiple purposes. Assessments will be 3D, featuring core concepts from both Earth science and the course discipline combined with a science or engineering practice and a crosscutting concept.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

This project is developing a set of instructional materials that engages students, teachers, and their parents in the science of coupled natural human (CNH) systems. Teacher guides, a website and family/community materials accompany the four student modules (which focus on an urban watershed, an urban/agricultural system, Amazonia and a polar system).

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

This project evaluates the benefits of using different types of place-based ecological data in high school science classrooms. This project will assess the use of first-hand (collected by students) and real-time second-hand data in teaching science and critical thinking skills. The guiding question for the project is "Does using place-based, first-hand ecological evidence, and relating that to place-based, second-hand data, improve students' environmental science literacy, nature of science understanding, and knowledge of ecological concepts?"

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Rutgers University (RU), Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)

This exploratory research and development project addresses the question, "Can students develop an understanding of the ecological nature of science (ENOS) in high school biology and environmental science classes that is useful and productive in environmental citizenship?" To address this question, the project will identify the essential elements of ENOS, investigate how these can be taught and learned, and explore how ENOS skills and understandings are used to enhance environmental citizenship.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

This project will design, develop, and test a new curriculum unit for high school chemistry courses that is organized around the question, "How does chemistry shape where I live?" The new unit will integrate relevant Earth science data, scientific practices, and key urban environmental research findings with the chemistry curriculum to gain insights into factors that support the approach to teaching and learning advocated by current science curriculum standards.