Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Teachers Share Ways of Extending the Learning From Field to Classroom


Here are ways some of the school groups who visited Harvard Forest this year integrated science themes between forest and school.

Hilltop  Montessori School

Harvard Forest Ecologist, David Orwig showed Hilltop Montessori students how scientists look at the forest, looking close up at the tiny Hemlock Woolly Adelgid using hand lenses.  Students were able to  try their hands at coring a tree  in order to determine its age with out cutting it down.

Right: Students were able to see how artist, David Buckley Borden, interpreted the impact of the Adelgid as they interacted with this art installation based in Harvard Forest this year.

 Students created projects that reflect their thoughts and feelings about how humans and climate are in conflict at this time.  See the assignment by teacher Nora Gordon, in our field trip resources at: Humans and Climate in Conflict-Gordon.pdf

St Mary's Parish School

 Teacher, Mary Reed, sent me the following photos from their  Schoolyard Field site where they monitor the growing season of their trees.  Students visited Harvard Forest to meet the project Ecologist, John O'Keefe, who leads their Schoolyard study.  Students prepared questions for the scientist in advance and were able to get them answered in person.

Students from Saint Mary's  Parish School
Collecting data for the Buds, Leaves and Global
Warming Schoolyard Ecology study.

St. Mary's students also participated in a "treasure hunt" outside in the forest seeking leaves and seeds from a variety of trees, as well as an inside scavenger hunt using the forest dioramas in the Fisher Museum.

In bringing the learning back to the classroom,  Mary shared notes on followup below:

 I gave each student credit for working on the scavenger hunt and then had them answer simple questions based on the hunt.  The students then chose one or two items from their bag to draw, color and identify if they could.


See : 5th Grade Diorama Followup Assignment.pdf to access Mary's Diorama reflection sheet. 

Leominster High School

Teacher, Danielle Montaruli shared the Field Trip review assignment she created for her High School level students.  See her assignment sheet at: 

Norfolk County Agricultural  High School

Teacher, Nicole Forsyth immersed her students in plant science before and after the field trip to Harvard Forest. She is kindly sharing with us 3 related labs she has successfully used with her students.  See her the write up for her labs at:  3 Labs _Forsythe-2017.pdf

Belchertown High School 

Belchertown High School students created these comic strips in response to teacher, Louise Levy's assignment to create either a 20 line dialog or 6 panel comic strip in order to communicate Mass. Forest History to a 10 year old.   See  Comic Strip Lesson andSamples-Levy-2018.pptx  for more on this assignment. 

Blackstone  Academy and Greenfield High School  

Field Trip Scholarship Participants

As part of the Our Changing Forests Field Trip Scholarship, students from Greenfield High School and Blackstone Academy participated in a field study using a series of demonstration plots in Harvard Forest.

After receiving a brief introduction to tree identification and measurement techniques,  students used field equipment to measure diameter at breast height (DBH) of study trees and record the data on a field sheet.  Students worked together using field guides to try to identify the species of each tree they measured as well.

                            Completed Field Data Sheet

Data in Online Database

Students worked together to complete a site survey of each plot in which they worked in order to describe the characteristics of the area.  To see the  complete field data for these plots  on our online  database, go to:  HF demonstrationplot data

Completed site surveys of Plot 1

 To see site survey data from these field trips  in our online database, go to:

Using the  Harvard Forest online graphing tool, one can make sense of what the data is saying visually.

Graphs of  Density of Stems by Species Data Collected by Field Trip Scholarship Groups

Graphs of  Carbon Biomass by Species Data Collected by Field Trip Scholarship Groups

To try graphing this data using these tools, go to graphing tool for HFR Our Changing Forests project

Thanks to the Highstead Foundation for providing these groups access to Harvard Forest.  

For more information about Field Trip Scholarships go to:

Applewild School :

Thank you so much for a wonderful field trip last week. Students returned to school full of knowledge and excited to learn more about the forest. We spent an entire class period the following day discussing and sharing what students had learned. They really valued, learned from, and enjoyed the trip.

Some highlights according to students :

"I learned about how to identify many new tree species and more ways in which climate change affects forests".

"I learned that the growing season in New England is increasing (by one month in the past twenty five years)"-  (Note that various studies at HF are showing a wide range of responses-this student was referring to data from Eddy Flux measurements).

"I learned why the colors of foliage change and why some falls are more colorful than others (because important elements are going to seeds and acorns)"

"I learned that space between branches of white pines shows how much they grew that year"

"I saw a striped maple tree, that undergoes photosynthesis in its bark and its leaves"

"I learned about the wooly adelgid and how they are affecting hemlock trees"

"I learned that one type of coniferous tree loses its needles every year"

"I learned about how the landscape in New England changed and that white pines dominated the land for about 40 years"

"I learned that needles are considered leaves"

"I learned about Neon and how they measure trees and forest health around the country"

"I learned how wildlife is observed through motion activated cameras "

"I learned what different types of rock walls tell you about the past landscape"

Clearly, they learned so much! We have a lot to talk about and connect all of this with our ecology and forest study.

Emily Chamas, Tally Lent, and the Applewild 8th Graders

Art from St. Mary's Parish School 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mass. Audubon Brings HF Schoolyard Ecology to Lowell

4-Way Partnership Brings Schoolyard Ecology to

 Lowell's Urban Schools 

Students Record Color Change and Leaf Drop of a Sugar Maple Tree  They Planted  in 2008 

Massachusetts Audubon  Society (MAS)  in partnership with Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust ( LP&CT) brings Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology into the Lowell Public Schools. 

MAS and LP&CT Educators engage city kids in a Harvard Forest's Buds, Leaves and Global Warming project through after-school Environmental Stewardship Programs in Lowell's public schools. 

John J. Shaughnessy School 

MAS Educator Martha Slone and Bora Poun from Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust lead Elementary aged children in recording and entering  leaf color and leaf drop data with her students.   They also work cooperatively on graphing their own data. 

Elementary students graphing data they collected in their schoolyard.

 Shaughnessey Elementary students  showing off their Leaf Drop Graphs. 

Bartlett Community Partnership School

MAS Educator, Susan St. John and  Kathleen Hirbour  of Lowell P&C lead children in collecting  temperature data at Bartlett Community Partnership School.  Here is the beginning of what they are seeing.  Data points will be added as data is collected in Feb., March, April and May.  Students are also working on school garden, and the decomposition process.  Susan expects to work with Bartlett Middle School Science  teacher,  Laura Schofield, to begin a Buds, Leaves and Global Warming project there.  Laura already involves her Bartlett students in Harvard's Schoolyard Ecology "Our Changing Forests" project.  

Robinson Middle 

MAS Educator, Sally Farrow  and  LP&CT  Educator, Bora Poun, lead one program per week for 5th, 6th , and 7th graders at the Robinson MS with the after school director, Sue McCloud.  Content includes learning about native animals and habitats and what students can do to support them. Each program includes an environmental stewardship project to help the habitats surrounding the school.

As part of the LP&CT Urban Forestry program the Robinson Middle School students planted a Sugar Maple tree in 2008.  Four  trees were originally planted by this partnership.  The city of Lowell was so inspired they later planted 47 more trees at the Robinson MS.  

Students  have been monitoring the Sugar maple for 8  years and have been entering  phenology data onto the Harvard Forest  Schoolyard Ecology, Buds, Leaves and Global Warming project  database since 2013. (RMB). 

Students recording  tree color and leaf drop data and finding lady bug larva on the tree.


Robinson MS Students observing lady bug larvae found on the Sugar Maples.

Lowell High School 

Katie Keefe directs the Environmental Adventures after school program as part of the Compass program  LHS Freshman Academy for students in 9th grade. MAS Educator Sally Farrow  and Emily McDermott of LP&CT help lead this group twice a week Tuesday and Thursday, focusing on native animals , plants and habitats;  Students decide which environmental stewardship projects they want to accomplish. Recent projects include: creation of a Zen  rain garden in the alley to gather storm water run-off, improving the alley soil and helping the trees, looking at improving the environmental health of the building as well as recording the timing of leaf color change and leaf drop (Phenology) of our tree as well as monitoring river habitat.

The students in the 10th-12th grades who want to continue environmental stewardship created their own group T.R.E.E.S  (Teens Representing Environmental Excellency and Stewardship) They meet once a week for 1 ½ hours.  This group has done a number of environmental stewardship projects while mentoring Freshman students.  Projects include: recycling, phenology,  river monitoring,  and a  Save the Earth, Visit a Park project. Last year they also created and ran the first Environmental Youth Conference (EYC) which they will run again this year. 

Also through  the LP&CT Urban Forestry program, HS students planted a red maple on arbor day 2015 to replace a Norway maple that had fallen. Students led by MAS Educator, Sally Farrow, have been following this tree (LWH) for about three years and entering the data with the Harvard  Forest Buds, Leaves and Global Warming project. They also calculated how much carbon the schoolyard's  alley trees  sequester. There are  7 Norway maples and one red maple in the High School's field site.  

Lowell HS  students made bird feeders and placed them on Sugar Maple trees to enhance bird habitat.

 Here is what the Lowell Schools' Buds, Leaves and Global Warming Data is showing as compared with  long term data from Overlook Middle School  and Drumlin Farm which are included for reference.  Note that  LWH is Lowell HS data, RBM is Robinson Middle School, DFA is Drumlin Farm, and OMS is for Overlook Middle School.  J. Shaughnessy School does not yet have enough data to show a full growing season and therefore not included in this graph.  We expect that the Bartlett Community Partnership school will also begin contributing data to this study next season.

We are wondering what makes Lowell HS data so different than the other sites.  MAS Educator, Sally Farrow is wondering if the following variables could explain the  difference:  altitude, north south, urban vs rural, age of tree, different tree species, masting year, drought conditions.

What do you think?

Thanks to all who have contributed to this Blog post including:  

Sally Farrow, Martha Slone, Susan St. John, Robin Stuart, Jennifer Feller of Mass. Audubon 

Leigh Cameron,  Emily McDermott, and Jane Calvin of Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust.  

Katie Keefe, Carolyn Rocheleau,Lowell  Public Schools After School program 

The Lowell partnership is supported by a variety of donors including  significant long term support from the 21st Century Community Learning Grant, Mass Cultural Council,  Fieldstone Foundation, and the Cummings Foundation.  

Related Links:

Email Pamela Snow for Information about Schoolyard Ecology at:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Seeing the Forest Through The Data

How Do Teachers help their students to 


Here's How One Teacher is Doing it...

Overlook Middle School Teacher, JoAnn Mossman continues to add layers of learning for her students eight years into Schoolyard Ecology study at Overlook Middle School.  

During the Looking at Data Workshop for Teachers at Harvard Forest on Dec. 8th,  JoAnn developed a series of resources to help students approach graphing their project data step by step. 

 Joanne's Data Goals :

I definitely want to have the kids do one graph by hand so I'm looking to see if there is an easier way to access the data using the online database for them to pull out the correct info. to graph. I also want them to learn to generate the graphs from the HF site like we can, maybe this would be appropriate for the more difficult graphs/data. They need both experiences. 

In this blog entry,  you will see how JoAnn breaks this down in a way students can understand and succeed in creating graphs of their own data.    She wants students students to learn to organize their data in such a way as to be able to represent the data visually in graphs that will help them to understand what story their data is telling. Each of the worksheets can be downloaded from our website for use in other classrooms.  Please see links at the bottom of this blog to access them. 

Step 1:

Students look at the growing season of all of our trees created with the HF graphing site. We have 2 years with particularly sharp drops in growing season. JoAnn left the graph up on the board the whole time. The class discusses what the Julian Day means and how it is easier to analyze data using that rather than a specific date.

The graph above, created using the online graphing tool, shows the Growing Season for all years based on the average 50% leaf fall date and average length of the growing season by year for Overlook MS.  

The graph  above, also created using the online graphing tool,  shows the selected variable as a function of date (one or more trees), day of the year (one tree), or year (one or more trees). The legend shows the ID number and species code for each tree.  Growing Season is the number of days between the 50% bud burst date and the 50% leaf fall date.

Step 2:

Teacher JoAnn Mossman,  passed out bud burst edited data and the graphing data worksheet as shown below.  She then  showed them how to find their tree and bud burst day. While they are working she walks around and tell them the Julian Day of their birthday so they get the idea. 

Note that this table would go on year by year to most recent data. In this case,  Overlook Middle School has data up through Fall 2017 to work with.  Full data for this site  is available on the database and as an Excel file in links below. 

Students  do the same with their leaf fall edited data packet.

Note that this table would also extend through most recent year's data. 

Step 3. Students  calculate the growing season each year for their tree. 

Students then use the growing season data sheet to check their math.

Step 4:  Students graph their tree's growing season. 

It should look like the one up on the board (from the HF website). If it doesn't look the same the class will talk about why and check their data and graphing.


Students  combined growing season for all trees on the graph above using Google Sheets

Note: Teachers can choose to have students generate a graph using Excel or Google Sheets, such as the one above;   hand graph;  or use other graphing programs as preferred.

Step 5. Students  will analyze their graphs and answer questions such as:

     Which year did your tree experience the longest (and shortest) growing season? What factors may have contributed to the length of that season?
     Do you see a trend in the number of days for your tree's growing season (going up or down)? What is the average number of days?

 Links to the worksheets used for this sequence of lesson plans:

Mossman.2017. Budburst Data Table.

Mossman.2017. Leaf Fall Data Table.

Mossman.2017. Growing Season Data Table.

Link to Student Graphs: 

Links to Database:

Download Data_list.php

HF Online Graphing Tools.php

Links to more lesson plans and activities

 by Buds, Leaves and Global Warming Teacher, JoAnn Mossman: 

Mossman. 2011. Graphing Activities.

Mossman. 2014. Connections to MA Frameworks and Next Generation Science Standards for HF Schoolyard Ecology Buds, Leaves and Global Warming Study.

Mossman, J. 2017. Striving for Good Data. Oral Presentation

Mossman, J. 2017. Outdoor Field Visit Rubric