Masters Thesis

An integrative secondary life science curriculum using select ecological topics pertaining to forest ecosystems of north coast California

Place-based education is an instructional approach that engages students with their local environment, which can enrich the educational experience and improve scientific literacy. This project is a place-based secondary-level life science curriculum incorporating important ecological concepts using select forest types of the North Coast of California, USA. The North Coast has a rich natural history and many schools are situated near forests. This curriculum is multidimensional and includes structured units for middle school and high school students presented in three thematic modules: general forest ecology, coast redwoods, and oak woodlands. Units are preceded by a companion piece for each module that embeds some of the latest scientific research intended to broaden a teachers’ previous knowledge. Information is approached from different spatial and temporal scales and designed for flexibility in order to fit the needs of local educators. Information was routinely sourced from primary scientific literature and professional reports, which often can be difficult to obtain and comprehend by the non-specialist. Components include figures and select data, which are integrated into student lessons that offer a unique conduit between scientists, science teachers, and science students. Evidence reveals students learn best when actively engaged and presented with relevant information. By developing a challenging place-based curriculum aligned to new standards that incorporate scientific skills and interdisciplinary connections, both formal and informal science educators will have a useful, informative resource pertaining to local forest types that can enrich the learning experience of their students while connecting them to the place in which they live.