The “Ponds in Peril!” Program and K-12 Education

I have been involved in the NSF GK-12 Program where I had the opportunity to teach science at a local elementary school. A science curriculum, which was developed by another PhD student, Phil Taylor, and myself emerged from that experience. The curriculum utilizes a long-term classroom experiment to teach students about ecology and global change. During the experiment, students constructed small-scale pond ecosystems within one-liter glass jars  (see images below). The experiment utilized four different treatments to allow students to assess the individual and combined impacts of nutrient pollution and nonnative snails on aquatic ecosystems. Students track the development of their ecosystems by collecting data on multiple response variables (e.g., food web structure, algal growth, concentrations of nutrients and oxygen). The students combined data from multiple classrooms, which they analyzed and interpreted to discover how their small-scale pond ecosystems were altered by two common forms of environmental change.

The "Ponds in Peril!" curriculum is particularly effective because alongside improving environmental education, it is highly amenable to the incorporation of teaching modules that encompass science standards at the elementary, middle and high school levels (e.g., the scientific method, food webs, adaptation, collecting and analyzing data, thinking critically and others). Over the course of three years, we have successfully implemented the project into six 4th grade classrooms and two 6th grade classrooms in the Boulder Valley School District. We are currently working towards integrating the curriculum into other classrooms and after-school science programs. If you have an interest in working with the “Ponds in Peril!” curriculum please contact us. We are very interested in extending the program to new places.