Biodiversity: What and Why and How

Course Number: EDU 5627 C14
Instructor: Dr. Elizabeth Sherman and Christine Ferris-Hubbard
Location: Bennington College & Merck Forest and Farmland Center
Dates and Times: June 26-30, 2017 8 am -4 pm and additional half day* (July 1, 2017 or September 9, 2017) *individual choice
Credits: 3 credits
Tuition: $950

Note: Please register directly with Christine Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director at Merck Forest & Farmland Center via email or phone at (802) 394-7836. Christine Ferris-Hubbard will give you the link to Castleton's online registration. Tuition should be made payable to Merck.

Course Description

Part 1:

Days 1 & 2 of the course will be instructed by Dr. Elizabeth Sherman at Bennington College. The extraordinary diversity of life on the planet has captured the attention of scientists and non-scientists alike for centuries. In this class we will try to make sense of the diversity by describing and organizing it, measuring it, and experimenting with it. While the diversity of life on this planet is always changing, the rate of that change has accelerated in the last two centuries due to one species: humans. How we make decisions about the diversity of life on earth has incalculable consequences for the generations to come.

Part 2:

Days 3-5 will be led by Christine Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director, at Merck Forest and Farmland Center (MFFC). Participants will focus on the use of NGSS science practices in lessons for grades 5-8 students relating to decomposition and cycling of matter, biodiversity, availability of resources, and native/non-native species. These lessons have been used successfully with students from local schools for the past two years. The field experiences at MFFC will enable teachers to duplicate the NGSS work with their students. **Cabin available (no charge) for overnight stay.**

We will use different field sites at Bennington College campus and MFFC (e.g. meadow, pond, forest), as our laboratories to engage the following questions:

  1. What accounts for the diversity of life?
  2. How do we organize and measure the diversity of life so that we can communicate about it and test our ideas? 3-What are the relationships among the different organisms on the planet (e.g. decomposers, primary producers, herbivores, carnivores)? How are energy and materials used and transferred among the organisms? 4-What is natural? What is invasive? Why should we care?

The unifying conceptual themes of the course align with the following NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change, Scale Proportion and Quantity, Cause and Effect, and Patterns.

The NGSS Science and Engineering Practices used: make observations, collect and analyze data to use as evidence to answer questions, develop and use models, and represent data in diagrams/maps, tables and graphs.

The course content aligns with the following NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas:

LS2.A Interdependent relationships in ecosystems

  • Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as “decomposers.” Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil. (5-LS2-1)
  • A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem. (5-LS2-1)
  • Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors. (MS-LS2-1)
  • In any ecosystem, organisms and populations with similar requirements for food, water, oxygen, or other resources may compete with each other for limited resources, access to which consequently constrains their growth and reproduction. (MS-LS2-1)

LS2.B Cycles of matter and energy transfer in ecosystems

  • Transfers of matter into and out of the physical environment occur at every level. Decomposers recycle nutrients from dead plant or animal matter back to the soil in terrestrial environments or to the water in aquatic environments. (MS-LS2-3)

Course Objectives

  1. Participants will learn how organisms interact with their environment, biotic and abiotic.
  2. Participants will learn what variables and effects can be measured in ecosystems.
  3. Participants will design and conduct ecosystem studies, and collect and analyze data.
  4. Develop ideas for application of concepts related to ecosystems in your science teaching.

Participants will design a storyline of learning experiences (using an assigned template) that helps students to develop these “big ideas” related to ecosystems.

Course Expectations

  • Attend all six sessions.
  • Participate in all inquiry investigations, field experiences, and discussions.
  • Complete readings as assigned.
  • Use science notebooks to document scientific inquiry, take notes, and reflect upon experiences.
  • Participants will design a storyline of learning experiences (using an assigned template) that helps students to develop these “big ideas” related to ecosystems.
  • Storylines will be introduced and started at the half day session and completed on the participant’s own time.

For additional course and registration information

Christine Ferris-Hubbard
(802) 394-7836

Please register directly with Christine Ferris-Hubbard, Education Director at Merck Forest & Farmland Center via email or phone at (802) 394-7836.