Biocomplexity Breakout Session II

Questions for consideration:
  • How are we teaching biocomplexity in the geosciences today?
  • Where are the opportunities in geoscience courses and curricula to teach about biocomplexity?
  • What could we be teaching, what resources do we need, and what are the best practices?

Integrating Biocomplexity into a K-12 Curriculum

What do we want to achieve?

  • Identify flagship schools willing to approach science through a biocomplexity perspective. (Need grants)
  • Identify universities willing to collaborate with these schools


  • Develop informational packet in clear language
    • Email Lists
    • Web
    • Other
  • NSTA workshop to identify interested and appropriate parties
  • Consultants

Who will lead?

  • a) Carol—white paper contribution
  • b) Dan—develop pamphlet and investigate grants
  • c) Dave—NSTA connections
  • d) Molly—web design

Opportunities in geoscience courses and curricula to teach about biocomplexity


  • Teacher Ed
    • Familiarity with surroundings
    • Environmental processes
    • Make scientists
  • Students
    • Familiarity with surroundings
    • Cover science standards and link to social sciences

General Ed

  • Hazards
  • Climate change
  • Local geology and parks
  • History of life
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Human and earth interactions
  • Planetary geology
Co-join courses, web courses
Assessment mechanisms

Geology/geography majors

  • Climatology
  • Soils and biogeography
  • Oceanography
  • Geomorphology
  • Hydrology
  • Isotope geochemistry
  • Sedimentology
  • Biogeography
  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, evolution of life
  • Astrobiology
  • Senior research

Graduate students

  • Greater flexibility
  • Capstone/review courses
  • Inquiry-based, expanding linkages

Student needs

  • Limited time/schedule
  • Need to get a job
  • How best served?

System based approach

  1. System
  2. What are the questions?
    • Brainstorming questions (exploration of student background)
    • Add content and focus
    • Synthesis
      • Study linkages
      • Produce concept maps
      • Produce models
Emphasis on, and order of steps depends on audience knowledge level and size of audience.

How are we teaching biocomplexity?

  • What?
  • Who? (Students vs. external groups)
  • How? (Not easy!)

What: Examples of courses and programs

  • Scientific Foundation of Environmental Sciences (Grad level)
  • Holistic Thought and Management (Senior level)
  • Global Cycles (Junior level)
  • Earth System Science for Educators (Educators)
  • Residential Program at Yellowstone National Park (K-12)
These are taught at a variety of levels and in a variety of ways, but not as biocomplexity.


  • Concept vs. Content
  • Presentation Style
  • Relevance
  • Project Style
  • Critical thinking
  • Models as tools to understand complexity (knowledge to models)


  • Students, required courses or elective
  • Perceptions of other faculty
  • Taking risk, not traditional
  • Curriculum objectives
  • What do you want your students to know and do?
  • Employers
  • Graduate schools

Best Practices

  • Use what's outside your door, whether it's pristine or not
  • Use databases
  • Go out in the field!!!
  • Build models, such as simple Excel models
  • Collaborate!
  • Leverage other programs
  • Non-traditional sources
    • Video clips
    • Music
    • Poetry
  • Professional development—learning new disciplines

Political Resources

  • Administrative support
  • Use administrative language in proposals


  • Yellowstone Park Kids (K—16)
  • Plant ecology modeling
  • Service Learning