Yale Bulletin and Calendar

August 30, 2002|Volume 31, Number 1|Two-Week Issue















Michel Slotman, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, shows a migrating monarch butterfly to (from left) Robin Lally of Nathan Hale School and graduate student interns Jennifer Collins (epidemiology and public health) and Larisa Grawe (School of Forestry and Environmental Studies).

In Focus: Biodiversity and Human Health Institute

Teachers become students of science in Peabody program

To prepare for their upcoming classes, 11 New Haven middle school teachers spent one day in August taking a hike.

While trekking in teams at the Peabody Museum of Natural History's coastal field station in Guilford, the teachers observed the various habitats and microhabitats of the Yale property, which is located off Leete's Island Road along Long Island Sound. Guided by scientists from the Peabody, they waded through a salt marsh, roved the upland woods and strolled along the rocky shore. Along the way, they paused to look at migrating Monarch butterflies, observed fiddler crabs in their natural habitats and surveyed plant biodiversity, among other activities.

The teachers were furthering their education about science and the natural world as participants in the Peabody Fellows Biodiversity and Human Health Institute, a professional development program for New Haven public school teachers offered by the Yale museum. In the 40-hour science literacy program, funded by a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the city teachers put aside textbooks to learn about science through real-world observation and hands-on laboratory investigation.

The Peabody Fellows Biodiversity and Human Health Institute is in its second year of fulfilling the four-year NIH initiative to teach New Haven educators and students about the critical links between human health and biodiversity (the wide variety of life forms on earth). The curriculum emphasizes biodiversity's myriad contributions to human health and well-being, such as traditional medicine and pharmaceuticals drawn from nature. (The teachers and their students discover, for example, that aspirin comes from willow bark and that the cancer drug tamoxifin is produced from the yew tree.) The institute's current program expands upon a partnership between the Peabody Museum and New Haven public schools established in 1998 when the institute was founded with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The summer institute is just the beginning of the teachers' full-year affiliation with the Peabody Museum, during which time they are called Peabody Fellows.

This summer's institute stressed teamwork, cooperative learning and laboratory work, as well as active learning strategies. In a course on "Big Mac Biodiversity," for example, Greg Watkins-Colwell, a museum assistant in invertebrate zoology at the Peabody Museum, led the teachers through an analysis of the more than 50 species plants and animals on which the fast-food icon relies. Teachers also learned about the role of such spices as cinnamon, garlic and curry in preventing food spoilage, and listened as guest lecturer Candy Zarr, a Connecticut beekeeper, described humans' reliance on bees for pollination. The teachers then simulated bee vision by examining flowers through different colored acetates.

Other activities included a slide presentation on recent discoveries in biodiversity by Michael Donoghue, the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and curator of botany at the Peabody Museum, who will become the new director of the museum in January. Terri Stern, the science educator and curriculum specialist for the Peabody Fellows Program, showed the teachers an NBC videotape of news coverage of the Great Famine Project's Road to Remember Walk commemorating the Irish potato famine of more than 150 years ago. The video, she explains, served as the "hook" to explore the importance of plants and the devastation to humans of such plant diseases as blight, which was responsible for the deaths of more than one million Irish people from starvation.

During their hike at the Peabody's coastal field station, the teachers were divided into four teams led by pairs of Yale scientists or Peabody Museum collection managers specializing in such fields as entomology (insects), botany (plants), ornithology (birds), herpetology (snakes and lizards), geology (rocks and soil) and marine biology. Yale graduate students in various science fields also accompanied the teachers on their hike. Watching actual scientists as they undertook their field work was an enlightening experience for many of the teachers, according to Laura Fawcett, director of the Peabody Fellows Program.

During a working lunch at the end of the hike, the city teachers pondered their new insights into biodiversity as they debated what could be removed from a habitat causing the least damage.

On their final day in the Biodiversity and Human Health Institute, each team of teachers demonstrated its new knowledge by creating and presenting a 10-minute skit to teach middle school students about the complex relationship between plants and humans.

In the fall, each of the Peabody Fellows will collaborate with museum staff to develop curriculum units on biodiversity and human health to implement in their classrooms. Then, in the spring, the Peabody Museum's BioAction Lab -- a "wagon train" of 10 carts filled with fossils, plants, animal skins, skeletons, a computer, microscopes and other laboratory equipment -- will visit each participating school to provide students with a hands-on, science learning experience. Accompanied by a team of museum staff and volunteers, the BioAction Lab stays in each school for several weeks.

"The Peabody Fellows Program has been one of the most exciting science curricular projects that the district has ever seen," says Marc Blosveren, the science curriculum supervisor for the New Haven Public Schools. "It is an integral part of the systematic reform effort for science in the New Haven school district."

According to Fawcett, the excitement the New Haven teachers gain through their summer experience of scientific inquiry is in turn generated to their students in the classroom.

"The program teaches children new ways to view their environment, strengthens their observational and investigative skills, and instills a respect for biodiversity," she explains. In addition, the participating teachers' access to the educational resources of the Peabody Museum also helps to enhance the students' learning experiences, she notes.


University to welcome Class of 2006

Yale will commemorate anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks with discussion, reflection

PepsiCo president Indra Nooyi elected to Yale Corporation

Astronomy students capture asteroid's close fly-by of Earth

Levin lauds Princeton president for her response to Web violation

Howe appointed William R. Kenan Professor

Ma is named Raymond John Wean Professor

Conference to 'put a human face' on the Vietnam War

In Focus: Biodiversity and Human Health Institute

Study: Positive images of old age conducive to long life

Library's debut of Voyager makes searches easier

Show celebrates industrial art turned creative art

Wooden artworks from collection given to Yale gallery on view

Two environmental leaders to teach at F&ES as visiting faculty

Junior faculty honored


School of Architecture hosting '3D City' exhibition

Sri Lankan artist Jayasuriya's paintings on display at ISM

Ethics of studies on children to be explored in fall program

Talk focuses on technology's effect on humans

Journalists to gain insight into legal affairs as Knight Fellows

Yale Club of New Haven supports students' work in community

Proper skin care reduces chance of bedsores, say YSN researchers

Books in Brief

Campus Notes

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