MaKinster Published on Science Education – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

MaKinster Published on Science Education

A newly published book co-authored by Professor of Education Jim MaKinster and Director of Education at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Nancy Trautmann is linking digital technologies, data resources and the natural world, advancing the way in which middle and high school students can enrich their understanding of key concepts in science.

Supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Crossing Boundaries project, “Birds Without Borders: Investigating Populations, Habitats and Conservation of Birds in the U.S. and Abroad,” gives students the opportunity to use quantitative analysis, and critical-thinking and reading skills, while investigating environmental issues through the lens of bird populations in North and South America. The book and its corresponding resources guide teachers and students through a data-driven curriculum that explores topics ranging from tracking bird populations and understanding trends, to planning for conservation.

“Our philosophy is to support teachers and students using a variety of emerging technologies, especially GIS (geographic information systems), while aiming to use the simplest tool possible for whatever they are trying to accomplish,” MaKinster says. “The focus is on getting students to address productive questions using real data and powerful geospatial technologies analogous to those used by professionals.”

MaKinster says that thanks to digital learning tools and data-rich sources on bird populations, “Birds Without Borders” is helping students to better understand important concepts and topics related to bird migration and conservation. As digital natives, they quickly adapt to the technology and can focus on using these tools for scientific inquiry.

Published by Carte Diem Press, “Birds Without Borders” is a product of the Crossing Boundaries project a collaborative effort between HWS and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The NSF-funded project seeks to engage students in using new technologies and data resources as learning tools for investigating issues related to biodiversity.

“Birds Without Borders” was developed in collaboration with 60 teachers and more than 3,690 secondary students who spent about 76,200 classroom hours engaging in these investigations. Using geospatial and other information technologies, the teachers pioneered new uses of technology in their classrooms and provided input regarding student engagement and various types of assessment. Throughout their work, MaKinster and Trautmann have provided more than 900 hours of face-to-face professional development workshops over the past eight years.

As a continuation of the Crossing Boundaries project, MaKinster anticipates that “Birds Without Borders” will be the first in a series of four to examine biodiversity using geospatial and other technologies.

“Birds Without Borders: Investigating Populations, Habitats and Conservation of Birds in the U.S. and Abroad” can be purchased at: Two of the investigations are available as free downloads at

Carte Diem Press is the publishing division of Critical Think Inc. and works in concert with the consulting division, GIS Educational Technology Consultants (GISetc). “Birds Without Borders” joins a growing, academically broad collection and regardless of experience level, Carte Diem Press has an educationally sound geospatial technology solution.

MaKinster joined the HWS faculty in 2002 after earning his Ph.D. from Indiana University, M.S. from University of Louisiana and B.S. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

At the Colleges, MaKinster teaches a variety of courses focusing on the intersection of education, research, science and technology. He has published 18 journal articles, five teacher journal articles, eight book chapters, and four books including his most recent, titled, “Teaching Science and Investigating Environmental Issues with Geospatial Technology: Designing Effective Professional Development for Teachers” (2014).

He has received more than $3 million in grant funding for his scholarship, which focuses on how to design and implement teacher professional development opportunities, develop curricular materials, and engage students in ways that increase their interests in science and technology. In addition, he is the director of the Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute at HWS, the Dean of Faculty at the St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy in Geneva, and one of the founders of Discovery’s Playground, an afterschool academic enrichment program on campus.