Tuesday, May 30, 2017

New Funding Opens Schoolyard Ecology Opportunities for New Groups

Students from Brockton High School and the African Community Education program from Worcester got a chance to participate in the Our Changing Forests Schoolyard Ecology project as part of a field trip activity at Harvard Forest. 

Highstead Foundation support allows lower income groups the chance to visit Harvard Forest and do some hands-on ecological science while they are here.  Applications for fall field trip scholarships are available at the link below.

Brockton High School students (right) collected baseline data for an Our Changing Forests demonstration plot at Harvard Forest.  Students measured and recorded diameter at breast height and tree identification.

African Community Education (ACE) High School students (below right) learned about Tree Identification from Harvard Forest volunteer, Bob Clark (Right).

ACE Middle School and High School students practiced tree identification, measurement and data collection in the Our Changing Forests Schoolyard Ecology project demonstration plots

See more about ACE*and its mission to support African refugees below.
      ACE photos provided by Tim O'Neil

Brockton High School students  collected data using field sheets and measurement equipment.

Harvard Forest Bullard Fellow, David
Buckley Borden shared his artistic
interpretations of HF ecological science
with Brockton H.S. students at his forest studio.

Brockton Environmental Science
students pose in front of the Fisher
Museum where they viewed the internationally acclaimed models (dioramas) portraying the history, of central New England forests.

What does the data look like?  


Stand Density by Tree Species in Plot 1

Basal Area by Tree Species in Plot 1

Carbon Biomass by Tree Species in Plot 1

After the field trip, data that students had collected on paper field sheets were entered onto the online database. 

Once the data manager uploaded the data, these graphs were created using the HF Schoolyard online graphing tools for this project.  This is a quick and easy way to see what the data are showing.  Notice that even though the stand density is dominated by Red Maple based on the number of red maple stems in the plot,  Red Oak is highest in basal area and carbon biomass.  That is because the red oaks present in the plot were among the largest individual trees in that plot.  Interestingly, there is only 1 Large Toothed Aspen in the plot, but because of its huge size, it ranks high in basal area and biomass.

It would be interesting to engage students in a discussion of what they notice about the data based on what they see in these graphs.  Do they understand the difference between what basal area and density are showing?  Can they see the connection between basal area and carbon storage?  What surprises them about what they see?  What questions do the graphs bring up for them

We also completed the field site description sheet. in the field and submitted the  field survey data to the online database.  Notice that we looked at site characteristics and looked for signs of pests, pathogens, wildlife, invasive species , human activity, etc. This information gives us a more complete picture of what our forest looks like right now.  As visiting groups continue to monitor these plots for DBH growth, or decline as well as site characteristics,  we will get a better picture of how Harvard Forest is changing over time.  This kind of plot study is quite commonly done by professional Ecologists at Harvard Forest and elsewhere to monitor change over time.  Schools can contribute to the overall picture of "Our Changing Forests" throughout the Northeast by contributing their data over time.

Plot Data on Online database

Field Site Survey data continued below: 

Many schools are able to set up plots in walking distance to their schools.  This way we can gather data from a wide geographical area.   This year schools from Mass, Connecticut and New Hampshire have contributed data.   Below is a map of field sites who have participated in the project in recent years:

We are seeking new school groups throughout New England to contribute to this study.  See the links below for information on registration for our introductory session this August for teachers to join this project.


ACE Worcester Website.

*"The mission of ACE is to assist African refugee and immigrant youth and families in achieving educational and social stability through access to academic support, leadership development, cultural expression, and community outreach in Worcester, MA. ACE aims to achieve this mission by providing academic and nonacademic programming during after-school and out-of-school time to children and families who come to the United States as refugees and immigrants from African countries and live in the Worcester area. Founded in 2006, ACE empowers youth to succeed academically and supports families through wraparound services."

More Photos of Brockton HS Field Trip:


Photos by Sarah Watt

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