iPhone App for School Data Collection and Critical Thinking About Ecology and Biodiversity

Nancy Songer
Meeting Materials

The 2012 Science Standards will place an emphasis on data collection and explanations. This session will provide a free iPhone app that supports grades 4–12 students in data collection and explanation building about biodiversity in schoolyards in the Great Lakes region. The session will provide inquiry activities and Web resources that guide students to construct explanations to questions such as, What habitats are in my schoolyard? and Which zone in the schoolyard is the most diverse?

The activities and apps presented in this session were developed by educators, scientists and curriculum developers associated with the Center for Essential Science, (www.essentialscience.umich.edu), a group based at the University of Michigan committed to developing and evaluating educational materials focused on some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, such as biodiversity, climate change, and the impacts of global climate change on organisms. Our 6- to 14-week curriculum units address inquiry, life (ecology and biodiversity), and atmospheric science (climate change) standards through exploration of local biodiversity; collection of animal species; and the investigation of individual animals and how animals interact with one another. Through these activities, students gain a clearer understanding of how organisms meet their basic needs and the role the environment plays in supporting a variety of organisms. In our programs, students use technology in a variety of ways, including the BioKIDS app, an animal-tracking program that runs on iPhones, iPads, or Androids to log animal sightings seen in their schoolyard. Students then analyze the data for class and team experiments. Another salient feature of the curriculum is the Critter Catalog, an online animal species database developed by the team. Students use this as the main resource when they write species accounts and conduct research on individual animals.

Documented Results
Over the past 12 years, we have developed and implemented 6- to 14-week curriculum units with accompanying technologies and professional development resources in schools in the Detroit metro region, with a particular emphasis on the Detroit Public Schools. Learning results consistently show strong pre-post achievement gains on science inquiry and content as measured by standardized state tests (MEAP). In addition, students show very strong achievement gains on tests measuring explanation building around focal content. One sample study and results will be briefly presented.

Potential Applications
Our curriculum and technology resources have been scaled to over 80,000 students and teachers in the past 15 years. We welcome schools or individuals who are interested in using any of our materials.

For More Information
Please contact Nancy Songer (songer@umich.edu) or Vanessa Peters (vlpeters@umich.edu) for more information on resources or participation in our pilot studies of upcoming curriculum units and technologies.