Ecologists, Educators and Schools (ECOS): Partners in GK-12 Education
University of Montana
ECOS Fellows show K-12 students and their teachers how to use an ecological lens for viewing their schoolyard. Instead of a playground, they learn to see an ecological laboratory filled with organisms with interesting adaptations and interactions. The ECOS teams model what ecologists do by immersing themselves in ecological investigations in their schoolyard and classroom laboratories, ensuring “no child is left indoors”. Our fellows and collaborators have developed innovative tools, such as the “Guide to the Ecology of the Northern Rockies” (www.bioed.org/ECOS). Fellows are working with students and teachers to make ECOS sustainable well into the future by developing ecology teaching demonstration sites on the school grounds. K-12 students use these outdoor laboratories to ask questions, test hypotheses and collect data to better understand the world around them. Teams have done a controlled burn, restored degraded habitat, and created schoolyard natural areas for their studies. Fellows report that ECOS is “greatly strengthening my communication and interpersonal skills” and making their research better by “being able to take questions and explain them at levels that [students] can understand”. This program has given them a “competitive advantages for [their] future career paths” by teaching them how to connect research, teaching, and learning.