2019 Syllabus and Resources

2019 Investigating Ecosystems Through Field Work Syllabus and Resources


Robin Hopkins

Robin Hopkins teaches about floral morphology.

This institute focused on teaching the methodologies of fieldwork to primarily middle and high school teachers. Educators then used these techniques to examine and come to understand two distinct ecosystems. An important goal of the institute was to highlight simple procedures to collect data over time, and discuss many ways to integrate field work, ecology and issues of climate change into teachers’ established school curriculum.

Specific goals were as follows:

  1. Introduce teachers to fieldwork techniques that will enable them to investigate and understand two ecosystems – NE forest (Central Woods) and meadow/flood plain (Kent Field).
  2. Understand the term “ecosystem” and explore both biotic and abiotic factors that are at play in such systems. This includes nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, and water availability.
  3. Identify plants and animals that interact in each of these ecosystems and learn more about some of these specimens and how they relate to the ecosystem.
  4. Learn about citizen science projects, technology, and web resources that support lessons on climate change, and how to address these issues with middle and high school students.

The institute content addressed the following Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Essential Questions and engaged teachers in all the Practices of Science.

  1. Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems: How do organisms obtain and use energy they need to live and grow? How do matter and energy move through ecosystems?
  2. Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems: How do organisms interact with the living and non-living environment to obtain matter and energy?
    Assessing field site in the woods

    Teachers assess field site in the woods to determine location of plots.

  3. Structure and Function: How do the structures of organisms enable life’s functions?

Overall Structure

Teachers spent each morning, Monday through Thursday conducting field work on self-designated study plots in both the Central Woods and Kent Field. Working in teams of four or five, teachers collected data and identified plants and animals within their study plots. In the afternoons guest speakers shared their areas of expertise, both indoors and outdoors. On Friday, the day was spent learning about climate change and discussing curricula and strategies to tackle this subject with middle and high school students.



  1. Fieldwork Techniques[pdf]
  2. Role of Forest Ecosystems in Carbon Sequestration and Climate[pdf]
  3. Street Art and Climate Graphs[pdf]


  1. Ant Picnic citizen science project
  2. On Line Recommendations
  3. Adaptation Bangladesh Teacher’s Guide[pdf]
  4. Personal Choices and Climate Change[pdf]
  5. Can Humans Help Trees Outrun Climate Change[pdf]