For a long time, science (and math, and technology, and…) have been taught in a way that does not engage most students. A teacher presents an underlying scientific principle, often in a neat, abstract equation form, and then after students do some rote repetition of said formula, the teacher might present a few real-life examples in order to make it all seem “real.” However, those applications mentioned aren’t necessarily relevant to the students’ life, interests, or curiosities. They fail to engage.
The Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS) encourage teachers to flip this old regime on its head. Instead of beginning with an abstract scientific concept, lecture, and/or memorization, the NGSS recognizes that you—like any presenter or actor—must first engage your audience. The NGSS humanize students, respect their curiosity, and urge teachers to first tap into students’ interest in... Read More
Lightning cracks 360 degrees around us at the campground outside Gardiner, Montana. Inside the Ecology Project International van, EPI instructor Lila, Jess—a science teacher from the small town of Deer Lodge, Montana, six junior high school students, and I all huddle. Giant raindrops smack on the windows, then pebble-sized hail. In the white flashes, Electric Peak looms inside Yellowstone National Park.
EPI’s safety policies dictate that we’ll be in the van until instructors can count to ten after a lightning flash before hearing thunder. We’re at less than a second right now, thunder shaking the van. It’s our third time waiting out a storm in the van this week, and we’re all a bit slaphappy. We tell jokes, riddles, storm stories, and already wax nostalgic for moments we shared just earlier today in the Park.
I’ve joined... Read More
Last week, I experienced my first Ecology Project International course with an incredible group of middle school students from Deer Lodge, Montana. Deer Lodge is a typical rural Montana town—small, isolated, and consisting of a community who generally all know one another. Deer Lodge’s population is around 3,000 people, nearly a quarter of which live below the poverty line. The students on our course were no exception—most of them worked and fundraised for a year to pay for the already funder-supported local EPI course.
The major industry in Deer Lodge is the state prison, and being so isolated, a large variety of career paths are not always visible to students growing up there. EPI’s Yellowstone Wildlife Ecology program provided this group of students a chance to not only visit Yellowstone National Park, with which they share the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but ... Read More