Ecological field techniques courses for
teachers are offered through montana
State University, Department
of Education. There are four separate courses, each corresponding to a specific season
and each containing ten ecological field technique activities. Each course contains
lessons focusing on practical skills which will be applied in further field studies. The
lessons focus on five main themes; landscape, botany, zoology, water ecology and
environmental monitoring. Some lessons are closely associated with the seasons and others
are more universal.
We consider the autumn field study course
to be the first in the series. Practical skills emphasize orientation to the study areas
and lessons focus on landscape, geology, soil and birds. These activities are the basis of
future course work. The first two complex studies of ecosystem status included in this
series are air pollution monitoring using lichens and assessment of human impact on an
The winter field study course includes
several typical winter investigations which take advantage of seasonal characteristics
including low temperatures and snow. These include; mammal behavior based on snow tracks,
snow strata study and chickadee territoriality. However, we have included some lessons
which are more universal and lab oriented taking into consideration that outside studies
can be more difficult in winter conditions. Lessons continue to develop and extend
previous skills related to mapping.
In the spring field study course there
are several activities that are best suited to spring conditions; spring flower ecology,
plant flowering, amphibians and vernal pools. We have included rock and mineral studies
because samples are more obvious after spring run-off. Environmental monitoring includes
success of young trees in a coniferous forest. Practical skills continue to be developed
and applied to new studies.
The summer field study course involves
the most complex studies and relies more extensively on knowledge from previous studies.
Many of these activities take advantage of summer conditions such as warmer water
temperatures. Practical skills are applied to complex environmental monitoring lessons
focusing on streams, rivers, grasslands and forests.
In each course there are extensive video and
text materials, many opportunities for participants to interact with colleagues and
student work is based on actually conducting field studies with students.
Materials for each
ecological field technique course includes supplementary teacher and student information.
Course materials include:
- 5-6 minute videos of teachers and students at Ecosystem Center for
Field Studies completing each of the lessons’ tasks,
- associated teacher background information in English and Russian language text files and
- specially designed forms to assist students with recording data and reporting results.
Interactions in the
ecological field study technique courses promote communication between teachers and
students from different parts of the world. Course interactions include:
- weekly on-line discussions of teaching methodologies and the results of each ecological
- direct email within the course structure,
- on-line chats with other teachers and students involved in the course,
- informal exchange of cultural information as it relates to understanding different
approaches to teaching and
- the exchange of electronic data and pictures of students and teachers working in the
Student work in the
ecological field technique courses focuses on the completion of the field studies and the
exchange of ecological information between course participants. Student work in each
- the creation of a student home page to share information about you and your students
with other participants in the course,
- weekly participation in course discussions,
- completion of a simple report for each ecological study completed,
- a final presentation for the other teachers and their students involved in the course
- the completion of a simple survey at the beginning, middle and end of each course to
provide feedback to the instructors about the course.