EcoScienceWorks: Exploring and Modeling Ecosystems Using Information Technology
Maine is a rural state with unequal access to computers and information technology. To remedy this, the Maine laptop program supplies iBooks to every seventh and eighth grade student in the state. The goal of EcoScienceWorks is to build on this program and develop, test and disseminate a middle school curriculum featuring computer modeling, simple programming and analysis of GIS data coupled with hands-on field experiences in ecology. The project will develop software, EcoBeaker: Maine Explorer, to stimulate student exploration of information technology by introducing teachers and students to simple computer modeling, applications of simulations in teaching and in science, and GIS data manipulation. This is a three-year, comprehensive project for 25 seventh and eighth grade teachers and their students. Teachers will receive 120 contact hours per year through workshops, summer sessions and classroom visits from environmental scientists. The teachers' classes will field test the EcoScienceWorks curriculum each year. The field tested project will be distributed throughout the Maine laptop program impacting 150 science teachers and 17,000 middle school students. EcoScienceWorks will provide middle school students with an understanding of how IT skills and tools can be used to identify, investigate and model possible solutions to scientific problems. EcoScienceWorks aligns with state and national science learning standards and integrates into the existing middle school ecology curriculum.