Thursday, September 19, 2019

Schoolyard Ecology Teachers and Students Explore the New England Landscape Using NELF online Scenarios tool

Trying Out The New England Landscape Futures Explorer 

Day 2 Our Changing Forests Schoolyard Eco Summer Institute for Teachers 

Digging Deeper into engaging students in exploring possibilities of what our future landscape will look like

 Josh Plisinski from Harvard Forest's Future Scenarios Research team shared an overview

 of the New England Landscape Futures (NELF) online tool that allows users to see possible

 future change in our landscape based on four possible scenarios.

Three Our Changing Forests project teachers were awarded Schoolyard Ecology mini grants* to develop, pilot and present educational activities that integrate the NELF tool into classroom activities designed for Schoolyard Ecology students participating in the Changing Forests field activities led by Harvard Forest Ecology and Education teams.  

These presentations attracted a wide audience 
of both new and experienced Changing Forest teachers, who are considering what of this
educational content they might be able to use
 in their own classrooms.   

Educators in the audience had a chance to try out the new activities at the workshop. 


Links to New England Landscape Futures Resources:

Landscape Future-Scenarios Research at Harvard Forest

New teachers to the OCF project
were able to learn how to interpret
the laminated land cover change map series they were provided to help students see how the
landscape at their schools and towns changed
since 1985.

Harvard Forest staff were able to help mentor educators as they
played with the NELF tool to complete the teacher-developed

What Teachers Said was Most Valuable:

The NELF software and its functionalities was the greatest take away. The envirothon kids will be able to use this tool most effectively in the immediate school year. 

The NELF tool is very exciting. I hope to teach others in my field about it and use it to structure the way we think about conservation and education! 

exciting use of technology and application 

Using NELF Explorer to study landscape changes over time 

Being able to receive the lessons to edit ourselves. 

As my first time diving into NELF, I see how to use this with my classes ... Teacher lessons! 

How to specifically use the NELFS with my 7th graders to graph and visualize possible scenarios for influencing their future 

different approaches to using known tools and introduction of new tools 

Networking with like-minded teachers and having the chance to brainstorm how to implement this tool- and others! 

New resources, NELF, ArcGIS, Tableau See teacher presentations using this information 

How to use NELF explorer in the context of the classroom, how to use data to show how forests are changing 

Links to Teacher-Developed Education Activities using NELF Explorer: 

Lesson Plan and Related Documents by Joe Scanio, Choate-Rosemary Hall School:


Lesson Plan by Jeff Sautter, Athol-Royalston Middle School 

Lesson Plan and Handouts by Tara Alcorn, Greater Lowell Technical High School 

Changing Forests Land Cover Change Maps: 

* Funding for the Our Changing Forests Mini Grants for Teachers was provided by the Highstead Foundation

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Welcome New Schoolyard Teachers!

Harvard Forest Summer Institute 2019

Our Changing Forests Project Coach, Fiona Jevon, led a new group of teachers in practicing field site setup and data collection

Teachers got a chance to try out measuring and marking out 10x10 meter study plots. 

Belchertown High School Teacher, Louise Levy, shared her experience leading the Our Changing Forests project with teachers trying out this project for the first time.

Harvard Forest Ecologist, David Orwig, provided background information indoors, and brought teachers out to see the impact the tiny Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is having on Hemlock trees, one of Massachusetts forests'  foundation  species. 

Woolly Bully and the Hemlock, Project Teachers explored a large forest stand of Hemlock trees that is in decline due to the Woolly Adelgid infestation that is impacting much of the eastern U.S. forests.

J.R. Briggs Elementary Teacher, Kate Bennett, shared her 15 years of Woolly Bully project experience with new Schoolyard Teachers.

Buds, Leaves and Global Warming Project Ecologist, John O'Keefe, showed long term trends of the timing of budburst and leaf drop, in order to help teachers understand how warming temperatures are impacting the length of the growing season.

 Dr. O'Keefe shared graphs of his 29 year study at Harvard Forest.

Teachers practiced labelling trees for field study that they will set up at their school sites.
Overlook Middle School Teacher, JoAnn Mossman, left and above, mentored teachers who will be starting this project in September.
Hanover High School (NH), Maryann Postans also helped mentor new teachers in the field above.

Harvard Forest Information Manager, Emery Boose, worked with a small group of experienced Schoolyard Eco. teachers to support management of Schoolyard Eco. data.

Survey Says....

Teachers said....

Not only do I feel that I thoroughly learned the protocol, but I also got some excellent suggestions for classroom implementation.

Ecological background knowledge for me is key. I learned a lot from Orwig and others.

This time I was focused on techniques and strategies to improve the process.

I did not know much about trees, I learned a lot!

My ecology background was rusty, and this workshop got me up to speed.

My educational focus has been earth science. I learned a lot about trees and the interaction between the atmosphere and biosphere. So much more to learn!

Outstanding job explaining the science and classroom application of the lessons.
Wonderfully flexible, finding time and space for me to upload my school's data. 

I'm confident that I can set up a plot. 

This has improved so much over the years! 

Today's itinerary seemed like it worked a lot better for getting in sharing between individuals/small groups 

This is the only time my students are outside during their school day.

The buds study relates to their noticing of everyday life

 doesn't last just one class period. I think the longevity of this study is eye-opening.

That the information is being reported to "real scientists" means that students more fully buy in

They (students)will actually be doing the practices (scientific practices as outlined in NGSS and Mass. Frameworks), rather than talking about them in class.

We will be able to set up study sites at Wildlands struts properties and engage students in environmental learning for years to come.

Emery helped me realize why some graphs have dots and why some have lines. John O'Keefe answered a lot of questions from red/black oak to why a graph of growing season might be varied. 

I  told teachers from other schools about this workshop but they were unable to attend because they had already started school. Maybe have the workshop a little earlier. 

I think the date of which the workshop is offered may be challenging for teachers to attend (more and more schools are starting earlier) but I understand why it needs to be where it is. 

I loved every minute of this training. I hope to work out the logistics to get it off the ground.

What did Teachers Value Most? 

How to identify a hemlock tree, how to implement the study in a more complete manner and practical suggestions from a teacher in the field for its implementation.

Learning about the big picture - interaction between the atmosphere and biosphere. Identifying trees and how they change over the course of the year. Adapting the program to support elementary students. (Thanks Joann!)

Having more confidence for downloading and graphing the data. It was helpful to have the lessons being done at Belchertown High School as a model for what I can do with my students at my site

Getting an opportunity to work with an ecologist and ask questions

Links to Ecologists' and Mentor Teacher presentations

  • Review of Day 2 of the Our Changing Forests Summer Institute

Thanks to Clarisse Hart for her excellent photo documentation of this workshop! 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Some views and comments from teachers who participated in past years  HF-LTER Schoolyard Ecology Summer Institute for Teachers 

Hoping you will spread the word to some new folks to join us this summer on Aug. 22nd at Harvard Forest. Share the link to this blog with any teachers who might be interested in getting their kids involved this coming year.

Please share this HF schooleco blog link with teachers who might consider joining a Schoolyard project this summer.  

Register by downloading the flyer and registration form from our website at: 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Inspirational Spring Workshop for Teachers 2019

Spring Workshop 2019

Project Ecologist, John O'Keefe teaches tree ID and how to record stages of Budburst using  "forced"  branches.

 Teachers practice identifying trees and the stages of Budburst using help of experienced Mentor teachers, staff and tree field guides.

Buds, Leaves and Global Warming Group explored the stages of
 Budburst outdoors as well. 
 Looking more closely at buds, above and below.  Red Maples were one of the only
 species they found that had begun flowering this year.

Harvard Forest Senior Ecologist and Site Manager, Audrey Barker-Plotkin, led both the
Our Changing Forest group and the Woolly Bully group on a field walk to Hemlock
Hollow and the Hemlock Eddy Flux Tower.

Teachers saw both high tech and low
 tech ways that professional Ecologists
 study the forest. The laundry basket
 above was used to catch leaf litter
 which was later analyzed in the lab.
 Audrey taught teachers about what scientists at Harvard Forest have learned about changes in the forest up to 10,000 years ago using Paleo-Ecology to look at pollen grains in wetlands like the vernal pool pictured above.

Teacher comments about Project Breakout Sessions and Field Walks:

  • John was so informative and the veteran teachers had some great suggestions
  • I can teach about the Hemlock’s role in carbon storage.
  • Great to be able to see specimens and ask questions about the development of the buds
  • Helpful to see woolly bully to help with my identification. Helpful to walk with other teachers and discuss how they are using these projects to teach
  • Awesome part of the day! There is nothing better than getting out and seeing and hearing things directly--thank you!
  • As a newcomer, I felt like I was able to get some understanding of how to lead students in counting buds, and which buds. I also have the context of the work to share with students.
  • Seeing all the nuances on real trees allowed for lots of questions & clarification
  • It is wonderful to hear John talk about his project and how things have changed over the last year.
  • I really liked listening to the other teachers share their stories
  • I learn so much every time I listen to John present - I filled up 2 pages with notes and ideas to bring with me. It's always enlightening to look at branches that are being forced, challenging my ability to identify and notice details
  • John gives a renewed energy for the spring with his experience and expertise
  • The walk with Audrey was fabulous. It was so good to have a chance to listen to Audrey share her knowledge and have a chance to ask questions. 

Lightning Round Slides  

 What Schoolyard Ecology looks like 
1 Slide in 1 Minute per project at each site

Teacher Recognition


5 Year Award:  Melanie McCracken
 10 Year Awards:  

JoAnn Mossman, Katherine Bennett, Louise Levy, Nora Murphy, Debra Kimball

Teacher Presentations


Teachers,Mary Reed and Joe Scanio, presented the ways in which 
they integrate project themes into classroom curriculum.

Teacher Comments on Presentations:  

  • I loved hearing what other teachers are doing--I can't wait to re work some curriculum for next year.
  • Mary's scaffolding set off "bing!" moments for ways I can make the study come alive for my students.
  • I enjoyed learning more about graphing possibilities with the data. Maybe we could make a location map for our trees with pop outs for each. Mary’s presentation was very helpful in how you can organize and implement the Buds program with Elementary students.
  • The GIS presentation makes me think about getting the coding teacher to help out with the data we collect and have students to create maps related to this project
  • Graphing literacy is becoming more and more important on the MCAS, good to have this information
  • great to hear about how Mr. Scanio is working with data visualization
  • Joe's work was something I might be able to scale down for middle school and Mary's was something I might try to scale up.
  • Mary did an amazing presentation! I really appreciate seeing how this project's data is being used to expand understanding at the elementary level. I loved the chance to see all the ways to use this project in student's learning.a of putting together a book for the students to see their work over the course of a school year.

 New this Year:  Student Work/ Poster Session 

Teacher Emilie Cushing  Shared an activity that students completed related to  GIS Land
Cover Change Maps. These maps were provided by Harvard Forest as a tool for connecting
the Our Changing Forest project to larger trends in landscape change over time.

 Teacher, JoAnn Mossman from Overlook Middle School in Ashburnham, shared student created graphs of Buds, Leaves and Global Warming data.  Most students created hand graphs they decorated in ways that made the graphs visually appealing.  One student created a computer generated graph showing all trees over 8 years of the study. The student used a graphing tool from the HF online database to create that graph.

St. Mary's Parish School Teacher, Mary Reed, above left and below, shared samples of tree booklets created by her 4th grade students.  Mary was able to show how she approached a series of lessons that contributed to that project in a PowerPoint presentation followed by the informal student work session.  

Belchertown, H.S. Teacher, Louise Levy shared binders that serve as organizational tools for students to store and keep track of all of their data sheets and information about each of the study trees at their school field site.  Next year's students will add their data sheets to the same binder in order to keep track of the tree over time, in one place.

Teacher Comments on Student Work/Poster Session:

  • It is great to see what other teachers are doing with their students to bring ecology into the classroom.
  • chance to see all the ways to use this project in student's learning.
  • I loved this! This also gave a time for more information conversation that was very helpful.
  • Seeing samples of work and getting ideas to improve direction-giving and organization
  • I love the book project! Student samples showed a pride and ownership of work

Survey Says....

  • The walk and having the chance to meet and talk with the staff and the teachers always extends my knowledge and renews my passion.
  • The entire day was fantastic. I loved getting ideas from other teachers. I am so impressed with the good work everyone is doing and I got lots of good ideas.
  • I liked the lightning round to see all the varied work people are doing .
  • Having the chance to meet and hear from other teachers who are inspired to take on such interesting work with students is helpful.
  • I learned more about the woolly bully and OCF and what other teachers are doing. I love the opportunity to network with other teachers and learn what they are doing across the state.
  • Every time I attend a workshop I feel a little more educated and comfortable with the content and ability to relay information to my students.
  • Re-invigorating, re-dedicating myself to helping my students make meaning of the work. 
  • It was wonderful to have people say that my work is valuable.
  •  I look forward to sharing paleo-ecology techniques and findings with my students.

  • It was great to hear about the research projects and new learnings at Harvard Forest. I am interested in potentially adding another HF LTER study to my curriculum next year. I am deciding between buds or our changing forests.
  • Learning about ancient pollen! This workshop always helps me remember why I am doing this work--to get kids out and learn to love what is around them.

Action!  What is actually being done at school/site level with students this year? 

Links to Explore More: