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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Lessons from the MAPS 2018 Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute for high school biology teachers are making positive impacts in the classroom

Ms. Amy Hammett
Honors Biology and
Earth-Space Science Teacher
Maize High School
Maize KS

     Last summer, eleven high school Biology and Environmental Science teachers from across Kansas attended the MAPS 2018 Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute held at the University of Kansas Field Station. The summer institute is one of the educational outreach initiatives supported by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS) and is under the direction of  Dr. Peggy Schultz, Associate Specialist, Environmental Studies Program at the Kansas Biological Survey (KBS). The institute's objectives were to provide opportunities for teachers to create models and conduct research during the morning sessions and to work with other teachers in smaller focus groups to develop lessons and classroom activities during the afternoon sessions. Prior to attending the institute, teachers selected to participate in one of the three focus groups offered, Aquatics, Terrestrial or GIS. The focus groups provided the teachers with the opportunity to: 1) work with University of Kansas (KU) scientists in a small group setting, 2) develop lesson plans that connected their curriculum to the current MAPS research, and 3) create student activities reflecting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs).
     Ms. Amy Hammett, who teaches Honors Biology and Earth-Space Science at Maize High School in Maize, KS, attended last summer's institute and chose to participate in the Aquatics focus group led by Dr. Jerry DeNoyelles, Deputy Director and Senior Scientist at KBS and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at KU and Dr. Ted Harris , Assistant Research Professor at KBS. Using what she learned from her focus group experience, Ms. Hammett created two Problem Based Learning (PBL) lessons related to current water issues facing the state of Kansas. One lesson was titled Water Quality Monitoring of Kansas Surface Water and Computational Modeling of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). The objectives for this lesson involved students learning how to figure out “the human impacts of nutrient runoff, sedimentation, and global temperature changes on surface water supplies.” In order to meet these objectives, students participated in activities that included: "1) Algal Growth Experiments, 2) Water Quality Monitoring of Cheney Reservoir in collaboration with the University of Missouri's Reservoir Observer Student Scientists (ROSS) Project, and 3) R-Programming Analysis of Real-Time Limnology data using the EDDIE Modules. The second lesson was titled Water Quantity in the Ogallala Aquifer. The objectives for this lesson involved students learning how to figure out the long-term effects of water usage and conservation efforts, as well as design solutions and mitigate consequences of the over-usage of water. Activities for this lesson included: 1) Using math modeling to make a prediction on the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer and creating public education info-graphics, like this one, 2) attending the Governor's Water Conference in Manhattan in 2018, and 3) eight Maize High School students becoming Kansas Water Advocates.
Students learning more about becoming Kansas Water Advocates
     In addition, Ms Hammett arranged a class field trip to the Aquifer Storage Recovery facility in Burrton, KS, where her students were shown how the city of Wichita "purifies and treats excess water from the Arkansas River for long-term storage in a man-made aquifer.” She also invited, Mr. Matt Unruh, the Director of the Equus Walnut Region of the Kansas Water Office and Dr. Harris to visit her classes. Mr. Unruh discussed the “Kansas water supply and all the technologies under development or being deployed to conserve water,” and Dr. Harris taught her students how to access the Carey Lab at Virginia Tech and use post doc Kait Farrell's "R code creations." As a follow up to this lesson, her students entered and "won the $10,000 2018-19 Lexus EcoChallenge for our Kansas water quality work." Ms. Hammett added,"Winning this challenge also opens the opportunity for us to compete in the $30,000 Lexus Grand EcoChallenge." She plans to use the funds "to give scholarships to the participants and fund the expansion of their limnology studies."
Left Matt Unruh, the Director of the Equus Walnut Region of the Kansas Water Office visits Amy's classes
Right, Dr. Ted Harris, Assistant Research Professor with KBS explains R code creations

     When asked how her classes responded to the lessons, Ms. Hammett said her students were "excited about doing work that is locally relevant and meaningful.” One student told her she felt, "for the first time, like a 'colleague' - doing science to 'figure out' rather than just 'learn about.'" Ms. Hammett also shared that her students performed at 100% mastery on assessments related to the lessons, which she attributes to "the increased motivation the lessons' relevance brought” to the classroom. In addition, she said the lessons have become “anchoring phenomenon in both Biology and Earth-Space Science classes, and students have connected and extended the NGSS Science & Engineering Practices (SEPs) adopted in these projects to all new learning.” Ms. Hammett has continued her collaboration with her summer institute Aquatics focus group leader, Dr. Harris, and together, they have been working on “an R-programming model of harmful algal blooms (HABs) using the EDDIE Project's modules. (We are also considering extending this work to a CS for All RFP, but that collaborative project is still in the works.)”
    As for the impact the summer institute has had on her instruction, Ms. Hammett said “The Ecosystems across Kansas Summer Institute shaped my teaching this year” and added, “I will be working as a fellow with Concord Consortium this upcoming summer to continue to develop lessons based on the topics discussed at the institute.” Ms. Hammett highly recommends that teachers apply to the 2019 Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute because “it is PD like no other; you do science alongside scientists and there is no substitute for this type of experience for teachers. It enables us to replicate it in the K12 environment, i.e. to get kids to do science in science class.”

The 2019 Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute is now accepting applications:  Apply here 

Ms. Amy Hammett has been teaching for 13 years, starting her career in Louisiana (2006-2010) before moving to Kansas. Prior to teaching at Maize High School, Ms. Hammett taught at Campus High School, Northeast Magnet, and online for the Insight School of Kansas (ISKS) / Kansas Virtual School. Approximately 150 high school students will participate in her MAPS related lessons during the 2018-2019 school year. For more information about Ms. Hammett's lessons and how to contact her, go to the Kansas Association of Biology Teachers (KABT) Bio Blog Archives, PBL: Water Quantity and Water Quality

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: "Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas."  The grant's workforce development and educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.