The Diack Ecology Education Program
A Program of the Oregon Science Teachers Association
Sample Projects Funded by Diack
Chapman Hill Elementary
Students in Maureen Foelkl’s 3rd and 4th grade class collected data from a stream, Glenn Creek, and the surrounding riparian zone near their school. The students identified macroinvertebrates and signs of wildlife that rely upon the water source. They removed litter at the location and reported findings to the City of Salem. Students then measured and recorded the temperature of Glen Creek each month to document seasonal change. Using inquiry-based researching skills, they began a unit of study by asking questions about salmon habitat. From the list of questions they generated investigations at Glen Creek and at the North Santiam site. Students researched and collected data to provide evidence of their inquiry.
Students from the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School are working with the Oregon Zoo and the University of Utah on a study of pika survival and recolonization in three talus slope sites on Mt. Hood following the Dollar Lake forest fire of 2011. Students monitor pika occupancy and density, vegetation abundance and diversity, and the severity of fire damage. These data will contribute to a larger study on pika population dynamics being undertaken by the Oregon Zoo, USFWS and the University of Utah. The study started in 2012 and will continue through 2017.
Over the past two years, generous funding from the Diack Ecology Education Program has greatly enhanced the quality of high school science education at Northwest Academy. Receiving an educator grant (2014-2015), as well as a student grant (2015-2016) catalyzed opportunities for student-directed experiential learning, fostered scientific thinking skills, and encouraged students to develop connections with the scientific community. With the purchase of Vernier sensors, digital probes, and LabQuest2 devices, our students have been immersed in laboratory investigations that foster collaboration, quantitative analysis, and mathematical literacy. Students are now able to collect data in real-time, investigating scientific theory in the lab. From these experiences, our students have developed a more nuanced understanding of key environmental science topics, including nutrient cycling, stream health, and the use of organisms as biological indicators of water quality. The equipment purchased from Diack funding has created a lasting legacy for science education at our school.
During the 2015-2016 school year, funding from Diack enabled me to create a Science Research Program for high school students at Northwest Academy. This year long independent study course allows motivated students to pursue research in the sciences. This year’s projects included studying the health of a Willamette River tributary, and investigating the efficacy of diatoms as a biological indicator of water quality. In the field, students learned how to record qualitative and quantitative data, test stream water, and assess field sites and habitat characteristics for suitable data collection. Funding from Diack helped students develop a working laboratory at our school: we purchased a centrifuge, vortex mixer, Falcon tubes, Motic camera, weigh boats, E.coli bacterial test kit, rain gauge, field bag, waders, and an ipad for data collection. It was rewarding to watch students’ ideas develop into testable research questions and to observe the shift in their thinking. They started referring to our classroom as the NWA lab. They created research posters, papers, and presentations. In the process, students demonstrated academic autonomy, developed strong verbal skills, and learned how to write a scientific paper.
Through a partnership with The Wetlands Conservancy, students adopted a data collection methodology to develop a “scorecard” system to rate the health of each stream using biological and chemical metrics. Students developed confidence in their work as they shared their findings with the larger community at the Oregon Youth Environmental Science Summit, and at regional and state science fairs. In 2015-2016, Jared Kerman, who received the Diack grant, and his lab partner, Sarah Hatcher, won the Oregon state nomination for the Stockholm Junior Water Prize. As they eagerly await the national competition this June, we would like to acknowledge the support of Diack. Your program fosters creative thinking and encourages students to assume the role of researchers.