top of page


​Find past newsletter articles, press releases, and other media showcasing local agriculture, placed-based education, and conservation of natural resources in Sullivan County.

A New Species?

Ever wonder what happens when a new species is found? Well, I guess that depends on who notices it first. Most likely it will be a naturalist or scientist studying an ecosystem or group of organisms. It will definitely be a good observer. In September, Dawn worked with Leslie Peabody, a science teacher at Stevens High School, to introduce her biology students to thinking and learning using scientific practices. The students were told that a new species was found at nearby Monadnock Park. Their help was needed to study the new species to learn as much as possible about it. Students were asked to spend time observing the new species independently and writing down what they noticed and any questions that came up. As you can imagine, the students responded in many different ways. When we observe we can't help but make inferences based on our own experiences in life, knowledge base, and perspective. I may have learned more about the students by what they recorded and shared than they learned about the new species that day. Here are a few of the observations and inferences that were made and shared with me. (The new species looked a lot like tiny bears.) "I think the single bears, the ones not paired up, are lonely." "I think the bears are at war with one another...some are lying on their backs, so they must be dead. The ones that are sitting up are alive and they probably killed the other ones." "I think the bears are racist...they pair up with the same color bear most of the time. I didn't see many pairs that are multi-colored." "This is dumb. They aren't real bears. Why are we doing this?" I listened, asked questions, and responded to each of these observations. Here is what I learned about the students: Students want to know how what they are learning is relevant. They want it to be real. I explained that this was a warm up to using scientific practices. A fun way to learn skills we would be using on real organisms throughout the year. I learned that some students interpreted being alone as being lonely. It made me wonder how many of the students felt like they were alone and/or lonely. I also wondered if any of them viewed alone and lonely as different from one another. I learned that students want their ideas and thought validated by others. I needed to meet the students where they were at in their thinking, ask them more questions to understand why they thought things, while at the same time help them to use scientific practices and think like a scientist. Ecosystems are not all warm and fuzzy. There is war and competition in natural communities. I tried to help the student that inferred that the bears were at war realize that he was making an assumption that the bears that were lying down were dead and the ones that were sitting up were alive. And that the ones that were sitting up had killed the ones that were lying down. He continued his study of the bears acknowledging that he was starting with many assumption that others may not hold to. Many students also realized that their claims needed to be backed up by evidence. A few students understood how to think like a scientist, but most need much more practice. Many needed practice thinking critically and for themselves period. As much as this could have been discouraging, instead I felt encouraged that their time in biology with Mrs. Peabody and their outings with me might actually empower them this year.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook
bottom of page