Central Region

One-Week Institute for Grades 3-8 Educators

Parts and Purpose: Using Inquiry to Explore Structure and Function in Nature’s Laboratory

Did you know that easy-to-access science laboratories are right outside your door? This summer, our Central Region Institute participants learned how to take advantage of these resources for teaching science skills and instilling inquiry in your classroom. We explored pond, woodland, and field habitats for common organisms that can be used to teach about adaptations and the structures of ecological communities. We compared functional anatomy in seeds, insects and birds to examine how animals and plants move through habitats, and how evolution and natural selection play a role. Teachers created models to explore the interplay between structure and function. We measured community structure in habitats, explore structures in animals and plants that help them prosper and reproduce in their environment, and analyzed resource flow among trophic levels.

Other activities included quantitatively sampling aquatic, soil, and meadow invertebrates, and safely exploring adaptations of bees to learn what makes them such good pollinators. Participants then turned that question around to investigate how flowers attract bees and other pollinators. We took a look at pollinator ecosystem health and diversity with Bee-cology, a citizen science program you can bring to your students to monitor pollinator health throughout the school year. Teachers built on their experience using outdoor spaces to create inquiry exercises for their own classrooms.
Partners:Mass Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary (Lead Institution), Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Mass Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

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Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

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Tower Hill Botanic Garden

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute