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Ecological Field Study

Grade Level: High School
Discipline: Science
Language: English


The study is designed so that students uncover relationships between biomes, energy and climate. Their question was: “Knowing that going up 300 meters is like going 950 Kilometers north, can we learn anything about northern biomes by making observations as we walk up a slope?”

This High School Science study was collaboratively designed by:

The following characteristics of Discipline-based inquiry in a high school study are an intentional part of the study design. These are captured in the video below.

  • Authenticity
    • Study topic originates with the issues, problems and questions that ecological scientists engage in regularly
    • Students work in the environment under study
    • Students are required to present their research findings and conclusions to contribute to scientific knowledge
  • Academic Rigor
    • Time to observe and question an expert in climate research
    • Designing student tasks that require multiple perspectives and plan for multiple ways to engage with content and multiple ways to express understandings
    • Risk taking and exploration of new ideas, as do ecological scientists
    • Students use the scientific process to pose and test hypotheses
  • Assessment
    • Examining criteria of expert work, to develop their own criteria for assessment
    • Ongoing descriptive feedback through teacher observations and peer feedback to weave assessment throughout the inquiry process
  • Beyond the school
    • Study requires students to develop and enact organizational and self management skills including designing for their data collection and analysis
    • Teamwork and collaboration are required to complete their tasks
  • Appropriate uses of technology
    • Students use the same technologies used by the field station scientists including humidity and temperature instruments
    • Spreadsheets and data management software are required to organize and analyze date
  • Active Exploration
    • Field work is required
    • Students’ contributing their own data into the provincial data base for use by scientists
    • Intentional planning for increased student engagement
  • Connecting with expertise
    • Students were required to observe and interact with working scientists
    • The experts were integrally involved in the study design and implementation
  • Elaborated Communication
    • Students’ own ideas matter
    • Student and teacher reflections and feedback informs the study design and assessment
    • Student and teacher work is more transparent through documenting the study and data collection and presentation
    • Students design, test and adjust their own hypotheses