K-12 Development – Past 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 believe that being immersed in current science research leads to greater understanding and increased knowledge of those who participate.  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.




Fire Ecology

In 2012, a lightning caused fire started, burning 87,284 acres of forest just west of Fort Collins, Colorado.  This event, named the High Park Fire has provided CSU scientists an opportunity to study the recovery of an ecosystem after wildfire.  With support from NSF and NASA, NREL scientists worked with K-12 teachers and their students to study the effects of wildfire.

Among the many things being studied are the:

  • Impacts to watersheds (runoff, erosion, water quality)
  • Impacts on wildlife (habitat)
  • Impacts on plant recovery (invasive and non-invasive species, succession)
  • Impacts on pine bark beetle
  • Impacts on soils (biodiversity, quality

To access the Fire Ecology Module developed by high school teachers, visit:

Students collecting data at burn site
Collecting plant data and measuring biodiversity

From the Ground Up

In 2009, NSF funded research on teacher and student learning in what is known as the Pathways to Environmental Literacy project.  This multi-site project included teachers and students from 4 LTER sites:  Santa Barbara Coastal LTER, Shortgrass Steppe LTER, Kellogg Biological Station LTER, and Baltimore Ecosystem Studies LTER.  Each site provided professional development workshops and in-class support for teachers who used teaching modules focused around the topics of Carbon, Water, Biodiversity, and Citizenship. Teachers learned about and used Learning Progressions to assess student learning.

Northern Colorado teachers participated in summer and school-year workshops that connected them to local scientists and current research.  Teaching Experiments (units and lesson) can be found at: http://www.pathwaysproject.kbs.msu.edu

Northern Colorado Global Climate Change Education

In a project supported by the NASA Global Climate Change Education Project, a group of research scientists at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University worked with teachers and students at the Poudre and Greeley-Evans School Districts in Northern Colorado. We have created classroom modules that use NASA data sets that teachers may use to instruct students about climate change. We take a cross-scale approach, using local demonstrations of climate change effects to put in context regional and even global changes. While these modules have a local component, the content can easily be used by teachers from across the globe. 

Students collecting ground litter samples
K-12 Teachers learning how to analyze soils.

Teaching module topics available:

  • NASA Prequel: Introduction to Remote Sensing and Electromagnetic Energy
  • Earth’s Energy Budget
  • How Does Climate Change Impact the Earth’s Four Spheres?
  • Climate Change, Past and Present
  • Oceans, Ice, and Climate

Access Teaching Resources here: http://www.nrel.colostate.edu/projects/gcce/