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Cross-pollination between educators and researchers at the 2019 APPL-RED workshop

Posted: July 24, 2019

The 2019 Authentic Plant Pollinator Landscape Research for Educators (APPL-RED) Workshop at Penn State attracted thirteen K-12 educators from across Pennsylvania and beyond (one educator is currently teaching in the Spangdahlem region in Germany). The workshop allowed educators to work closely with members of Penn State’s Center for Science and the Schools and Center for Pollinator Research.
CSATS STEM Education Outreach Specialist, Gabe Knowles, participating in the APPL-Red Pollen Microscopy workshop.

CSATS STEM Education Outreach Specialist, Gabe Knowles, participating in the APPL-Red Pollen Microscopy workshop.

“These concepts are so useful to help guide understanding about our natural world,” recalls one of the participating educators.

The weeklong workshop was packed with information and activities related to pollinator biology, ecology, and conservation. The participating educators conducted habitat assessments, evaluated the attractiveness of different flowering plants to pollinating insects, captured insects in the field and examined their pollen loads under microscopes, and worked with honey bee hives.  Teachers engaged in enthusiastic discussions of how these experiences and techniques could be used to teach a range of concepts from the elementary to high school level, including courses in biology, chemistry and physics.

The workshop provided an opportunity not only for educators to learn from researchers, but for researchers to learn from educators. The APPL-Red participants helped critique and refine pollinator-themed lesson plans developed by the researchers. “We are creating a set of resources for educators on the Center for Pollinator Research website, and it is very important for us to learn from the educators about the concepts and strategies that will be most effective in their classrooms,” says Christina Grozinger, director of the Center for Pollinator Research.

 2019 APPL-Red Participants observing pollinator visitation to plants.

2019 APPL-Red Participants observing pollinator visitation to plants.

The educators also learned from previous APPL-Red participants. Danielle Rosensteel, who participated in the 2017 APPL-Red workshop and is currently an educator for the State College Area School District, discussed how she integrated pollinators into her 9-12 grade curriculum. Rosensteel was able to weave plants, pollinators, and their interactions into her science classes to not only help students learn diverse biological concepts, but also to introduce them to the rigors of independent scientific research.

 APPL-Red 2019 participants using microscopes to determine pollen collected from pollinators and accompanying plant.

APPL-Red 2019 participants using microscopes to determine pollen collected from pollinators and accompanying plant.

At the end of the week-long workshop, educators shared their ideas about using concepts from plant-pollinator research in their own curricula through the use of a Modeling Authentic STEM Research (MASTER) Model, a multi-level systems-based framework used by CSATS to conceptualize classroom research projects. According to Kathy Hill, the director of the Center for Science and the Schools, “The MASTER Model supports teachers to design projects with multiple investigations that seek to answer a central research question while addressing numerous education standards. The teachers will use these curricular plans to implement the plant-pollinator research projects with their students.” Thus, the cross-pollination which started at the workshop will continue through the upcoming academic year, as K-12 students learn to study the fascinating world of pollinators. 
 
Funding for this workshop was provided by a USDA-NIFA-PD-STEP grant to the Penn State Center for Science and the Schools and Center for Pollinator Research.

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Tyler Jones