Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

The Distant Exploration of Wolves

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

The Distant Exploration of Wolves

Article excerpt

Byline: Todd Campbell

Radio telemetry data available via the internet are used to facilitate long-term inquiry projects. Through these projects, students gain a deeper understanding of scientific inquiry and the nature of science, while developing their own questions and procedures and carrying out those procedures before sharing their findings with peers.

Over the course of human history, people have developed many interconnected and validated ideas about the physical, biological, psychological, and social worlds . . . The means used to develop these ideas are particular ways of observing, thinking, experimenting, and validating (AAAS 1993, p. 1).

Today's college students enter science classrooms having little to no experience with putting into practice the "particular ways of observing, thinking, experimenting, and validating" described by the AAAS (1993) and highlighted by McComas (2005) as central components of the nature of science (NOS). Windschitl (2003) went so far as to argue the following:

For a science student, developing one's own question and the means to resolve the question suggests an inquiry experience that is profoundly different from the far more common tasks of science schooling that consists of answering questions prescribed in the curriculum using methods also preordained in the curriculum or by the classroom teacher (p. 114).

If students are to leave classrooms ready to assume the roles of individuals in a scientifically literate society as envisioned in Science for All Americans (AAAS 1989), experiences that promote students' understanding of the tenets of the NOS must be provided within the secondary and post-secondary science classrooms. When introducing the key ideas relevant to understanding the NOS, there are two important factors:

Science demands and relies on empirical evidence.

Science is a highly creative endeavor (McComas 2004).

As a university science educator working with instructional technologist graduate students in a class focused on integrating technology into science instruction, I, like many other college science faculty members, made teaching the NOS a priority. I also accepted the charge to facilitate instructional technologists' integration of technology into science instruction in a manner consistent with calls from standards documents.

The National Science Education Standards (NSES) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) both emphasize student inquiry as a central strategy for science instruction in the classroom (AAAS 1993; NRC 1996). In determining how to best teach about student inquiry and the NOS, I chose to provide opportunities for the instructional technologists to conduct their own open inquiries and to focus on linking these experiences to their own methods for integrating technology into science instruction. This decision mirrors decisions made by science methods instructors in preservice teacher education programs (Windschitl 2003).

This article details our journey in an effort to offer ideas for adaptation, not adoption, of this project into undergraduate college science courses for science or nonscience majors, so that these students learn more about the scientific enterprise and the NOS.

Method

This project began at the beginning of the semester when students were told that they needed to complete a long-term, ongoing inquiry project. All students were asked to purchase a map of the Superior National Forest from the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota at www.wolf.org/wolves/experience/telemsearch/mapinfo.asp. During the second week of the semester students were introduced to the International Wolf Center website at www.wolf.org/wolves/experience/telemsearch/vtelem/telem_intro.asp. This site offers information about wolves ranging from wolf basics to scientific information and abstracts. It also offers specific information about the approximately 170 wolves inhabiting the Superior National Forest, including each wolf's sex, age, weight, pack associations, and the current status of the wolf, as well as radio telemetry tracking data dating back to 1971. …

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