Revitalizing Natural History Education by Design

Matthew Kolan and Walter PolemanDownload PDF | Volume 3, 2009

We are wired to learn. Anthropologists (Hall 1977, Wells 2004) remind us that learning is one of our most basic evolutionary survival mechanisms (we don’t jump particularly high or run very fast). Over the last 60,000 years, humans have inhabited every continent and thousands of different ecosystems – from desert to arctic. Yet our biological make-up has changed very little in this time (Glantz and Pearce 1989). Humans have learned to survive in these extreme environments – creating knowledge, stories, myths, languages, and ways of life deeply connected to and reflective of the unique features of a given place. [full article]

Natural History From the Ground Up: developing a college-level natural history program in the new millennium

David GilliganDownload PDF | Volume 3, 2009

In their Autumn 2001 issue, Orion magazine listed a scant nine institutions of higher education with programs in natural history. That same year I had recently completed my graduate work in Natural History and Ecology and was teaching field courses for Prescott College in Arizona, one of the listed institutions. Around this time, I began my own search for college-level programs with roots in natural history, convinced that there had to be more than had made the pages of Orion. It was a tricky search because, as many of us know, at most colleges and universities natural history lies hidden at the foundation of a variety of disciplines, mostly in the natural sciences, but seldom manifests as a degree track, a professorial position, or even in a course title. [full article]

A Bird in the Hand: a place-based, hands-on curriculum in ornithology

Stephen C. TrombulakDownload PDF | Volume 3, 2009

One of the most widely appreciated branches of the Tree of Life is that of the birds. It is almost certainly no exaggeration to say that we know more about the natural history of birds—including their distribution, ecology, behavior, and taxonomy—than of any other group of animals. Part of the reason for this that they are so easy to study; they are numerous, morphologically diverse, colorful, primarily day-active, and large enough to see with the naked, or slightly aided, eye. These same characteristics have led birds to be among the most popular of organisms for study in natural history classes; in general, students get far more excited about the natural world when they are given the opportunity to encounter animals that are easy to see, beautiful, and readily identifiable to species. [full article]

Teaching Natural History and the Spirit of Place

Fred Taylor and John TallmadgeDownload PDF | Volume 3, 2009

We gather at sunset on a rocky promontory that juts into Low Lake, at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, near the town of Ely in Northern Minnesota. We’re here for a six-day seminar, “Stalking the Spirit of Place,” with doctoral students from the Union Institute, a non-traditional university for mid-career adult learners. Unlike traditional doctoral courses, Union’s seminars are designed to model interdisciplinary inquiry, engage multiple intelligences, and demonstrate how to create a learning community where scholarly knowledge is integrated with individual life experience. [full article]

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