K-12 Development – Current Programs

The Natural Resource Ecology Lab at Colorado State University has spent many years working with K-12 students, science teachers, graduate students, and adult communities to provide high quality immersion into the scientific practices through educational experiences. We seek to offer a diversity of opportunities to meet the learning needs of our audiences.

For more information about these program, contact the Education Coordinator, Amanda Morrison at Amanda.j.morrison@colostate.edu.

We believe that being immersed in current science research leads to greater understanding and increased knowledge of those who participate.

Comp Hydro

Comp Hydro fosters water and computational science literacy by integrating authentic, place- and data-based learning as high school students build and use physical, mathematical and conceptual models. Program objectives include; 1) development of instructional units for surface and groundwater, 2) engaging teachers as partners and agents of dissemination, 3) studying teacher and student learning, 4) exploring supports and constraints on teaching, and 5) building a platform for project R&D and dissemination. Teacher teams from CO, MT, AZ, and MD work with educators and scientists in a design-based research effort spanning two school years. Teams develop modules tailored to local environmental and school contexts, pilot test these in high school Earth and Environmental Science classes, and are partners in student and teacher learning research. Approximately 2,400 students nationwide are currently involved.

Yellowstone Sunset, Montana
Beetle-kill forest in  Wyoming

BANR (Bioenergy Alliance of the Northern Rockies)

BANR education activities include the development of middle and high school science units on bioenergy-related topics; professional development for K-12 teachers on the use of the units; research experiences for K-12 teachers and undergraduates; and regular instruction and on-line coursework and internships for undergraduates, graduate students, and K-12 teachers.

Teachers developed bioenergy teaching units and assessments in 3 states on the following topics:

  • Biofuels Production
  • Forest Monitoring
  • Biochar

To access BANR Teaching Resources, visit:   http://banr.nrel.colostate.edu/education/

Soil Ecology Science Enrichment

Soils are very fascinating ecosystems. Young students can learn and appreciate them by digging in with their hands or looking under a microscope to discover the creatures that live in soils.  The overall goal of this project is to provide an engaging, hands-on science lesson on the ecology of soil systems with a kit of equipment and curricular materials needed for the activities so that elementary students at local elementary schools can carry out scientific research about soils in their schoolyard and in their classrooms.

The science enrichment that we are developing will benefit students by exposing them to and engaging them in science practices, thus enhancing their understanding of the nature of science at an early age. By having researchers to model the practices of science, students are able to see that science is more than just the scientific method. Students are able to engage in authentic research which is aligned with current soil science research being done at Colorado State University.  Students and teachers are able to engage directly with researchers, in a setting where they can ask questions and work together to help solve a problem.  We hope that by participating in these learning activities, not only will students begin to think scientifically, but that their 

Graduate student help elementary students with soil experiment

 awareness of ecosystems is enhanced to include the largely ignored soil and the animals within.

Elementary teachers also benefit by partnering with researchers at CSU to increase their understanding of science concepts and practices, and by providing them support and resources to help them feel more comfortable teaching science.

Researcher taking note about tundra plants

Women and Minorities in Science

This USDA funded grant provides the NREL resources to offer science professional development opportunities for Colorado women and minority K-12 teachers in science. To date, funding has enabled teachers to participate in the Summer Soil Institute and Research Experiences for Teachers.

WCNR Alliance Earth Systems Course

We developed this annual one week high school enrichment course with additional WCNR departments to offer field and methods experiences in geology, ecology, geography, biology, and cultural history of Colorado. Participating students are selected based on their need as under-represented, first generation high school students from specific high schools in Colorado. Students live on campus while engaging in science activities throughout the week that align with Colorado State Science Standards for high school. An emphasis within this program is exposing students to opportunities that college provides and supports them as they make the transition from high school to college.

Students going to research site in the Pawnee bluffs