Cary Institute of Ecosystem  StudiesRutgers-Program in Science LearningNational Science Foundation

Ecosystems and Evidence: An NSF Supported DRK-12 Project

Ecology through the lens of the nature of science

Promoting students ability and desire to use scientific information outside of the classroom is an important goal in science education. Reaching this goal, however, requires not only a general understanding of scientific concepts, but also an understanding of how scientific data and claims are generated. Through this National Science Foundation supported DRK-12 project entitled: Ecosystems and Evidence we sought to better enable students to understand how ecological claims are generated and supported by evidence.

This website is intended to showcase the various projects that stemmed from the Ecosystems and Evidence project and to provide teachers with novel perspectives on teaching the nature of science through the lens of ecology. In general teachers focused their units on the following question: How do ecologists know what they know? Here we provide the general understandings targeted through this project. These understandings were developed around a series of misconceptions. We worked in two learning communities: one located in New Jersey and one in New York.


In our this DRK-12 project, we asked: Can students develop an understanding of the nature of science as it pertains to ecology in high school biology and environmental science classes in a way that is useful and productive in environmental citizenship? To address this question, we began by developing a conceptual framework which addressed questions regarding (1) explicit teacher instruction of the nature of science through ecology and (2) student understanding of the nature of science, ecological evidence and contemporary environmental issues. A team of master teachers, science educators, and ecologists collectively developed this framework for an ecology related nature of science (ENOS).

The ideas articulated in that framework set the context for testing four core hypotheses:

To test these hypotheses we worked with two Learning Communities (high school biology and environmental science teachers, ecologists and educators), one centered at the Cary Institute in the mid-Hudson Valley, NY, and the other at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. A Concept Development Team of 8 ecologists, educators and teachers helped us develop case studies and assessment tools that relate directly to ecological evidence.