GK-12: Exploring California Biodiversity
University of California Berkeley
Our program uses collections of animals and plants in the UC Berkeley Natural History Museums (UC BNHM), together with the institutionís remote field stations, as pedagogical tools for graduate and K-12 education. Graduate students guide the collective eyes of the K-12 community towards biodiversity and its assessment, thereby empowering K-12 students to make significant contributions to understanding the natural world. Middle- and high-school students collect plants, arthropods and other natural history objects (mammal scat, skulls, skins, etc) during surveys of their schoolyards and on field trips. The program has changed the universityís attitude about the role of graduate students in K-12 education as evidenced by a commitment to continue support for the program, and incorporate the GK-12 Graduate Fellow training program into departmental curricula. Participants develop skills for reaching audiences of varied backgrounds. Every fellow reports that their GK-12 experience has improved their teaching skills, forced them to rethink their assumptions about science, and helped clarify the significance of their own work. The project is a powerful means for bringing information in the BNHM collections to the community and has built new bridges between the university and a diverse K-12 student population. K-12 teachers have experienced significant increases in class enrollment and attendance. For K-12 students, results have shown the tremendous power of exploration in natural habitats for cultivating interest in science and inquiry in minority-dominated urban schools.