Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

From Cambridge to the Amazon in a Few Simple Steps

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

From Cambridge to the Amazon in a Few Simple Steps

Article excerpt


In March 2009, ten students and two science teachers trekked from Massachusetts to an ecological research station in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Here, we describe the research station, what it took to get the group from their school to the rainforest, and how the group got the most from their walk in the woods. Our school, the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, is a private school in Cambridge that has an extensive history of student travel. In the field of foreign language study, there is evidence that students who participate in semester-away and language-immersion programs improve their language proficiency and confidence in their ability with the language (Carroll, 1967). Additionally, short-term study-abroad programs have been found to motivate students to continue studying foreign language at more advanced levels (Davidson, 2007). The Buckingham Browne & Nichols School sponsors numerous student exchange and travel programs that support the study of world languages, and science students have often undertaken summer programs independently that incorporate a laboratory component to further their science study, but the 2009 trip to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station ( marked the schools first foray into travel in support of science education. Science-based field experiences carry unique potential and risks. "Just being there" is great motivation for travel, but effective science trips allow students to apply their tools and training, to see the universality of natural laws, and to build skills and appreciation for observation and data collection as enrichment to both travel and life in general.

* Description & History of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station

The Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS) was established in 1994 through the collaborative efforts and funding of Boston University (BU) and La Universidad de San Francisco in Quito (USFQ). Since its establishment, TBS has served as a research station and training facility for students at universities throughout the Americas. Built beside the Tiputini River, TBS was hailed as "the most extraordinary place" among many diverse places visited for a series of articles on the state of biodiversity (Morell & Lanting, 1999). More recently, Bass et al. (2010) described Tiputini as the most biodiverse place on earth. Eyewitnesses have spotted harpy eagles, jaguars, and howler monkeys, among hundreds of other species of vertebrates (Figure 1), within ~650 ha of land and water through which TBS visitors hike, paddle, and mark transects for surveys and experimentation. During the past 5 years, a research project that remotely monitors Tiputini lands through a system of motion- and heat-sensitive cameras has captured about 30,000 images of terrestrial mammals and birds, including five species of felines, two species of wild dogs, two species of peccaries, two species of deer, tapirs, giant armadillos, giant anteaters, curassows, and trumpeters. The station's campus includes an air-conditioned library and laboratory, canopy towers and walkways, and housing and dining accommodations for 50 people. The station is staffed by guides who are experts in the history, culture, flora, and fauna of the region. Over 500 university students visit the station per year. In its 16 years of operation, TBS has, to date, hosted students from more than 100 colleges and universities and dozens of high schools, representing more than 100 countries.


* How Visiting the Tiputini Station Supports Science Education at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

Buckingham Browne & Nichols (BB&N) is a pre-K-12 independent school located in Cambridge. In order to graduate from BB&N, students must complete two full-year science courses-biology plus a physical science (typically physics or chemistry). The majority of our students complete 3 years of science study, and many study science throughout their 4 years of high school. …

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