GK-12 Science and Society Fellows: Partnering with Rural Schools in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Montana State University
Our Fellows conduct original research projects that address the science underlying the complex trade-offs in managing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Since Yellowstone is the largest pristine ecosystem in the continental USA, it is a natural laboratory for the study of predator-prey interactions, invasive species, watershed processes and, increasingly, the impacts of exurban development on ecosystem processes. For the rural communities surrounding Yellowstone, environmental and natural resource issues occupy center stage. Fellows work with teachers and students to capitalize on studentsí interest in nature to promote and enhance STEM learning. For example, one of our Fellow-Teacher teams uses the controversial reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone as a basis for integrating biology and math. In analyzing the linked population dynamics of elk and wolves, students grasp statistical concepts while learning a more general lesson about the role of data in sorting through conflicting claims about highly politicized issues. Another team uses state-of-the-art watershed sampling and modeling techniques to explore the impacts of housing development on stream nitrogen levels. Students are involved in generating and testing hypotheses and participate in long-term, comprehensive stream sampling that directly relates to the questions posed by the class. It is anticipated that a lasting benefit to Fellows and students will be an enhanced ability to articulate scientific questions that underlie complex environmental issues.