FLI Curriculum Featured – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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FLI Curriculum Featured

An article in The Odessa File, News of Schuyler County features curriculum developed by HWS and Cornell University as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Crossing Boundaries Project that is being piloted by Watkins Glen eighth-graders.

According to the article, “The curriculum uses geospatial technology to study the impact of human activity on the environment and, more specifically, on other living creatures in a particular region.”

It quotes Jim Murphy, middle school science teacher at Watkins Glen, who participated in the GIT Ahead Project, an NSF-funded teacher professional development grant to HWS.

“We’re using technology to help them to see the importance of striking a balance between preserving natural resources and using them to sustain our lives,” he is quoted. “This project focuses on using geospatial technology to monitor changes in the environment and aid in decision making about environmental issues.”

Also featured in the article is Courtney Wilson ’08. While she was a William Smith College student, Wilson interned with the Finger Lakes Institute and with Jim MaKinster, associate professor of education, and a principle investigator for this grant project. She is currently a curriculum development specialist for the Crossing Boundaries Project and is based at Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology. There, she works with Crossing Boundaries Co-principal Investigator Nancy Trautmann.

MaKinster, who joined the faculty in 2002, holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University, his master’s from the University of Louisiana and a bachelor’s from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

The complete text of the article from The Odessa File follows.


The Odessa File, News of Schuyler County
Middle School pilots science curriculum

Special to The Odessa File • June 8, 2009

WATKINS GLEN, June 8 –Watkins Glen eighth-graders are the first to pilot a new technology-based science unit developed by specialists at Cornell University and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

The curriculum uses geospatial technology to study the impact of human activity on the environment and, more specifically, on other living creatures in a particular region.

“We’re using technology to help them to see the importance of striking a balance between preserving natural resources and using them to sustain our lives,” said Middle School Science Teacher Jim Murphy. “This project focuses on using geospatial technology to monitor changes in the environment and aid in decision making about environmental issues.”

According to Courtney Wilson, a curriculum development specialist from Cornell University, students began their study by looking at Google Earth images of Watkins Glen on the classroom interactive whiteboard. In making comparisons of satellite images over a 10-year time span, students discovered an increase in the amount of paved surfaces in the community. According to Murphy, this leads to a decrease in the ability of the land to hold water and filter it naturally, resulting in an increased chance of localized flooding and contaminants in the watershed.
Their next study was Las Vegas, a community that has grown exponentially in the past 20 years. From there, students will examine Brazil and its deforestation.

The curriculum uses ArcGIS, a satellite software mapping program. Using this software, students will be able to design a data preserve for the Brazilian government. The software allows students to incorporate a number of factors in their final project, including deforestation’s effects on rivers, temperatures and wildlife, Wilson said.

“We were able to be a part of this pilot because of the rich technology we have in our district and the support that is given to teachers to implement it,” Murphy said. “This project puts our students in the role of decision-makers who need to access relevant data and use it to make an informed choice. These are vital skills for people entering the job market of the future.”

The project is funded by a National Science Foundation Grant obtained by Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Wilson said.